Every year children are seriously hurt or killed unintentionally in “accidents”. As our work health and safety students know, there is no such thing as an accident. Many of these injuries and deaths are completely predictable and preventable with better safety precautions.
As a concerned parent or childcare professional, it is worth knowing at least the most common dangers found in homes or experienced in every day activities. Learning how to prevent them or remove the hazard entirely is essential to ensuring the safety of your children and the children in your care.
10 Biggest Risks for Kids
1. Car Accidents
Car accidents are seriously dangerous for anyone, let alone kids. Children have small, delicate bodies that are more susceptible to damage. Unfortunately many of the safety features installed in cars, such as air bags, are designed for grown adults and in some cases can actually be dangerous for children. Taking some basic precautions can significantly reduce the risk of injury in the event of a car accident.
- Ensure you have proper child restraints and they are fitted and installed correctly
- Use the child restraints on every trip – no matter how long or short
- Children that are not placed in restraints are up to five times more likely to be killed or injured
Water is such a commonplace substance that we forget how dangerous it can be. We have water piped into our homes, have pools in our backyards, install ponds in our gardens, and play in and around water for recreation. It is also the biggest single threat to the lives of children under the age of five and is one of the leading causes of death of children in general. Children can drown in as little as 5cm (2 inches) of water.
- Child proof fencing should be installed around swimming pools
- Children should be watched at all times when near water, not only in pools but also baths and other activities around water (for example when playing in a garden with a pond)
- Teaching children to swim is a valuable life skill and can give them the tools they need to save their own lives if they do happen to fall into a pool when not being watched.
A normal household is packed full of poisonous and hazardous substances. As adults, we can read and understand warning signs, have developed caution and can recognise many poisonous substance by their appearance or smell. Children have not yet developed those abilities. Household chemicals are often packaged in bright and unusual colours, similar to the beverages marketed at children, and are appealing to children. Similarly, pills and other medicines look similar to common lollies children have had before, but can be dangerous. Even many gardens contain plants that have been chosen for their appearance, but produce poisonous fruits that children will try to eat.
- Never store chemicals near food as they can be confused by children.
- Keep chemicals, medicines, household cleaning products etc out of sight and in a child-restraint cupboard or locked container or cupboard.
- If you have fruiting plants in your garden and you’re not sure what they are, it could be worth talking to a professional gardener or botanist.
4. Getting Hit By A Car
Road safety is normally instinctive by adulthood. Children have not yet developed those instincts and take time to learn and develop a sense of the road and safety rules. Young children under the age of 8 are most at risk around roads.
- Teach and reinforce safe behaviour on and around roads.
- Provide places to play away from roads and traffic.
- When around large vehicles like school buses, make sure children are aware drivers have limited field of view and often can’t see children just in front or behind the vehicle.
Fires are seriously dangerous for people of all ages. A house fire can start suddenly and rapidly destroy a residence. Even adults can panic and succumb to the smoke and heat, children often have less experience and knowledge of how to react. Children and babies can easily be overcome by smoke or lack the physical ability to escape from a fire themselves.
- Teach your child what to do in the event of a fire
- Have fire alarms installed and active – check batteries regularly, even weekly.
6. Boiling Water
Boiling water is serious dangerous and is a common cause of long term damage to children. Most homes have hot water on tap in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry. Children can turn on these taps accidentally and scald themselves in seconds. Hot drinks like tea and coffee are another common hazard, as children can pull the vessel off tables and benches and spill it over themselves. Likewise, pulling pots off the stove is a regular cause of scalds.
- Keep hot drinks such as tea and coffee out of reach of children.
- Always monitor pots and pans heating on the stove, turn handles away from the front of stoves where children can reach them.
- Turn down water heaters or talk to a plumber about installing a thermostat to control water temperature coming out of taps.
7. ‘Heavy Item’ Accidents
‘Heavy items’ refers to normal household items like furniture. A child has very different perspective on the world due to their stature, and can find dangers that adults simply would notice in a home. Poorly made furniture often has sharp corners, ragged edges and gaps where children can insert and pinch their fingers. Children also climb, swing and push over furniture around the house. This can place unusual strains on items that they’re not designed to cope with, causing them to fail. Such accidents are one of the leading causes of injuries to children under 2.
- Look for sturdy furniture with the Australian Standards sticker
- Check your household furniture and look for heavy items on benches and tables that children could pull down on themselves.
- Use a safety harness when appropriate – these are sometimes provided with furniture for children or purchase one separately if it isn’t.
8. Dog Bites
Dogs are a common feature in Australian homes. Yet every day children are taken to hospital every day with bites from dogs. The majority of the time, children are bitten by dogs that belong to family or friends.
- Caution children about petting dogs that are unfamiliar and new to them.
- Teach children how to safely approach dogs and introduce children to pets when visiting family and friends.
9. Play Equipment and Toys
Learning to ride and getting a bike is a right of passage as a child. Many kids also have toys and equipment like skateboards and scooters. These give children much greater freedom and mobility to travel around the neighbourhood, but they also have inherent risks. Falls, crashes and other accidents are part of learning and participating in these activities.
- Many injuries occur from falls off skateboards and bikes.
- Always wear a helmet – they reduce the risk of brain injury by 90%.
- Pads and other appropriate safety equipment can prevent scrapes and cuts.
- Teach children how to stop and start safely.
- Find safe places where they can practice and set limits for where they can ride or skate.
Many people enjoy living in an elevated home. Even if not a true multi-storey building, many homes are at least raised. While this small height might not seem significant, it is potentially dangerous for children. Within the home, children can climb up furniture and other household options and fall from a height. Falls are the largest cause of injury to children.
- Steps, stairs and balconies are dangerous and should have safety rails or guards installed.
- Play equipment should have ‘soft’ fall material installed underneath.Children can be small enough to squeeze through balcony railings.
- Babies and small children should be supervised when using baby furniture.
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