The spring season marks the beginning of times for families to enjoy some of America’s traditional outdoor pastimes – barbecues, pool parties and backyard gatherings. However, family festivities could be interrupted by a trip to the emergency room if you don’t follow simple steps to safeguard your family and friends against outdoor hazards. The Home Safety Council recommends following these guidelines to keep your family safe:
Spring Cleaning the Safe Way
Chores like re-organizing closets and tackling a thorough spring cleaning can put families at even greater risk for falls and poisoning – the two leading causes of home injury in America. The Home Safety Council urges families to keep safe practices top of mind while cleaning up and cleaning out your home, garage and yard.
- When cleaning out closets or re-organizing, always keep stairs, steps, landings and all floors clear.
- Carry loads you can see over, and keep one hand free to hold banisters and railings.
- Five gallon buckets are often used while cleaning and present a serious drowning danger to young children. Never leave a bucket or any standing water unattended and store buckets empty and upside-down.
- Follow safety recommendations when using harsh products, such as wearing gloves and masks. Do not mix products together because their contents could react with dangerous results.
- Never use gasoline as a cleaning solvent and never use or store gasoline in your home, even in tiny quantities. Because its vapors can readily ignite, it is too dangerous to use gasoline for any purpose other than as a motor fuel.
- When cleaning out cabinets, separate dangerous products and medications and lock them up, out of reach of young children.
- Remember to reduce clutter and safely tuck away telephone and electrical cords out of walkways. In homes with children, make sure toys and other items are always safely put away when not in use.
- If you need to climb, use a stepladder or ladder. When using a ladder, stand at or below the highest safe standing level. For a stepladder, the safe standing level is the second rung from the top, and for an extension ladder, it's the fourth rung from the top. Before using, make sure the rungs are dry.
Outdoor Chemicals & Poison Hazards
According to the State of Home Safety in America, "In 2002, household chemicals caused more than 45,000 emergency room visits in a single year." Many families store chemicals and cleaning supplies in a garage or basement, and while those may not be high traffic areas for family members, it is important to store and handle chemicals correctly, wherever they are. The Home Safety Council recommends the following guidelines when storing and handling dangerous products, including gasoline, pool chemicals and pesticides:
- Use child-resistant caps on dangerous products, including those stored in the garage, such as pesticides, automotive fluids, charcoal lighter, paint thinner, antifreeze, and turpentine. Ideally, hazardous products should be stored in a locking cabinet.
- Store all products in their original containers and in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- • When using harsh products follow safety recommendations, such as wearing gloves and masks. Do not mix products together because their contents could react together with dangerous results.
- Never transfer poisonous or caustic products to drinking glasses, pop bottles, or other food containers, which could be mistaken and the contents consumed.
- Make sure all chemicals are stored in their original containers according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Store only a small amount of gasoline, in a garage or shed, and always in an approved, vented container designed and labeled for gasoline. Because of its highly volatile flammable vapors, gasoline must never be brought indoors.
- Read the use and storage directions before using products. Original labels on product containers often give important first-aid information.
- Pesticides are extremely hazardous – consider substituting non-poisonous insecticides whenever possible.
- Mix insect sprays outdoors, away from areas used by your family and pets.
- Store and use pool chemicals according to the manufacturer’s directions, always in tightly covered original containers, in a dry place. Keep these away from other chemicals and products.
According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), there were nearly 47,000 injuries on home playgrounds to children under age 15 in the latest year studied. The report also finds that over a ten-year period, more deaths to children occurred on backyard playgrounds than on public playgrounds. Adopt the following safety guidelines with playground equipment in your home, and also use the following guidelines to inspect any equipment in your neighborhood or school before your child plays there:
- Cover areas under and around play equipment with soft materials such as hardwood chips, mulch, pea gravel and sand (materials should be nine to 12 inches deep and extend six feet from all sides of play equipment).
- Do not suspend more than two swing seats in the same section of a swing support structure.
- Check equipment for signs of deterioration or corrosion, including rust, chipped paint, splitting or cracked plastic components or loose splinters.
- Avoid putting play equipment close together. For example, stationary climbing equipment should have an uncluttered fall zone of at least six feet in all directions of equipment.
- Slides and platforms for climbing equipment should not exceed heights of six feet for school-age children or four feet for pre-school children.
- Beware of entrapment or entanglement hazards. A child's head can be trapped in openings between 3.5 and nine inches wide.
- Avoid elevated platforms, walkways, or ramps that lack adequate guardrails or other barriers (to help prevent children from falling).
- Watch for possible tripping hazards such as rocks and roots. Clear this debris from your child's play area.
- Pull out drawstrings in children’s clothes. Make sure your child takes off any necklaces, purses, bicycle helmets and scarves before they play.
- Always supervise children when they are using playground equipment.
Lawn mowing and landscaping top the list of household chores when it comes to preparing for backyard parties and barbecues. The simple act of yard work can be riddled with opportunities for injuries if you’re not careful. The Home Safety Council recommends the following tips to make sure your backyard doesn’t become an injury trap:
- Wear protective goggles and ear protection while using outdoor machinery to prevent sight and hearing-loss injuries.
- All garden equipment and tools should be kept where children cannot reach them. Store all sharp tools pointing downward.
- Use gasoline only as a fuel for motors.
- Store gasoline in a container designed just for gasoline in a shed or garage with a lock.
- Gasoline must never be brought indoors, even in small amounts.
- Use gasoline only outside. The vapors (fumes) are very dangerous if you bring gasoline inside a building.
- Fill mowers and gasoline-powered tools outside, before starting the job. Re-fuel only after the tool has completely cooled down.
- Start the mower outdoors to avoid raising carbon monoxide levels inside the home or garage.
- Chemicals, fuels (such as gasoline), car fluids (such as anti-freeze), pesticides (such as bug killers), and lawn and garden products (such as fertilizer) are poison.
- Store pesticides in their original containers.
- Close the lid on all dangerous products and put them away after using them.
- Store them in a safe place with a lock.
- Store them where children cannot see or touch them.
- Clear sidewalks and pathways of any toys and clutter to avoid slips and falls.
- Cover the ground under playground equipment with a thick layer (9-12 inches) of mulch, wood chips or other safety material.
According to the NFPA, gas and charcoal grills caused an average of 1,500 structure fires and 4,800 outdoor fires in or on home properties in 1999. To make sure your next barbecue doesn't go up in flames, the Home Safety Council recommends the following safety tips:
- Designate the grilling area a “No Play Zone” keeping kids and pets well away until grill equipment is completely cool.
- Before using, put your grill at least 3 feet away from other objects, including the house and any shrubs or bushes.
- Only use starter fluid made for barbecue grills when starting a fire in a charcoal grill.
- Before using a gas grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line to be sure it is working properly and not leaking.
- Never use a match to check for leaks. If you detect a leak, immediately turn off the gas and don't attempt to light the grill again until the leak is fixed.
- Never bring a barbecue grill indoors, or into any unventilated space. This is both a fire and carbon monoxide poisoning hazard.
Swimming Safety and Pool Security
Many drowning incidents involve swimming pools and spas. Drowning is a silent and sudden event, and Home Safety Council research found that many drowning deaths at home are related to swimming pools. Adopt the following guidelines from the Home Safety Council to help keep your pool area safe:
- Drowning can happen very fast.
- Most of the time you will not hear someone drowning.
- Drowning can happen in any standing water, such as a swimming pool, a pond or a ditch.
- Learn how to swim.
- Have rescue equipment by the pool.
- Take a class to learn First Aid and CPR.
- Have CPR instructions posted by the pool.
- Have a cordless phone in the pool area.
- Have emergency phone numbers by the phone.
Protect Young Children
- A swimming pool should have a fence that goes all the way around it.
- The fence should have a gate that closes by itself.
- Children who cannot swim well should wear a life jacket
- Adults should keep their eyes on children every second they are near water.
- Stay awake and sober when watching children in or near water.
- Only adults can safely take care of children in or near water.
- Don’t ask children to baby-sit younger children around water.
- Children who cannot swim well should wear a life jacket.
- Have bright lights outdoors at night.
- Put away pool cleaning equipment after use.
- Wipe up spills as soon as they happen.
- Keep the area around the pool clean. Pick up toys and other things that you can trip over.
Safety with Pool Chemicals
- Keep pool chemicals locked away in a dry place.
- Store pool chemicals as directed on the label.
- Keep chemicals in a cool, dry and safety place.
- Keep pool chemicals in containers they came in, with labels on.