Child Safety Week is an annual campaign run by the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) and runs this week 3rd – 9th June. Whether you’re planning to stay at home or venture outside for some explorative play, it’s worth spending time talking to your children about the risks and how to cope with them.
Where is my child most at risk of an accident?
It is a sad fact that accidental injuries are the most common cause of death in children over the age of one, with more than one million children under the age of 15 involved in an accident in and around the home every year. Those most at risk from a home accident are 0-4 year olds.
Why? Well, it is during these early years that babies begin to develop and grow more adventurous and inquisitive as they try to make sense of the world around them. Crawling develops into walking, walking leads to climbing, and all of a sudden everyday household objects can become potential hazards. This is why parental supervision is important, along with accident prevention measures such as increased awareness, greater product safety and improvements in the home environment.
The most severe injuries to children in the home are often a result of heat-related accidents and falls from height, including the stairs, and threats to breathing, including choking, suffocation and strangulation.
What can be done to help minimise the risks in the home?
We suggest looking around your home from a child’s point of view to help identify hazards and then you can take steps to reduce or remove the risk.
Babies aged up to six months should not be left on raised surfaces. This is because they begin to wriggle and kick and could easily fall. It is from the age of six months to a year onwards, when small objects, hot drinks and dangerous substances should be kept out of reach as babies begin to stand, crawl and put things in their mouth. At two to three years of age, children are stronger and prone to copying their parents. Therefore, matches and lighters, sharp kitchen implements and tools should be kept hidden and out of reach. At three to four years, children begin to understand instructions and become more adventurous. Parents are advised to implement rules and continue to train their children about safety.
These types of safety equipment are worth investing in to help keep your children safe at home:
- Lockable cupboards for the safe storage of medicines and household chemicals
- Safety gates fitted at the top and bottom of stairs; fixed gates are best, while pressure-mounted gates, which can be easily moved, are more suited to fencing off particular rooms, such as kitchens, where there are multiple hazards
- Window restrictors are also a valuable investment, but be aware of the importance of having the means of escape in an emergency, enough space for ventilation, and ease of access for cleaning and maintenance
- When it comes to the prevention of burns and scalds, fireguards, securely fixed to the wall can keep young children away from the fire. Thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) help regulate the temperature of bath water, and can prevent bathroom scalds.
Above all, it is important to remember that no home can be completely “child-proof”. But parental supervision and a commitment to make the home “as safe as necessary” can help to keep a child out of harm’s way. This can include introducing various items of safety equipment at different stages of a child’s life, but having the right safety gate, for example, should not become a substitute for this.
Did you know there have been a number of deaths as a result of children being strangled by blind cords in the home in recent years? RoSPA’s own research shows that there have been at least 26 deaths across the UK since 1999 (13 of which have occurred since the start of 2010). It is important to make sure that blind cords are tied up well out of the way of young children and secured using cleats or blind cord shortheners.
Research indicates that most accidental deaths involving blind cords happen in the bedroom to children aged between 16 months and 36 months, with the majority (more than half) happening at about 23 months.
As with drowning, toddlers can be strangled quickly and quietly by looped cords with carers in close proximity, potentially unaware of what is happening.
You can find out more about RoSPA’s blind cord safety campaign Make it safe! by visiting the website www.rospa.com/blindcords/.
Outdoor play and water safety
Water can hold a particular fascination for young children. Small children can drown in just a few inches of water, whether it be the shallowest garden pond, temporary paddling pool or in the bath. Uncovered bowls or buckets of water should not be left around the home or garden as they too can pose a drowning hazard.
Most drownings affecting children occur when they are between the ages of 18 months and two-and-a-half years. It is at this time that they become increasingly more mobile and adventurous. It is not until a child reaches the age of three and above that they can begin to pull themselves out of water and heed warnings given to them. When a child becomes submerged under water, a rescuer has less than a minute to get them out.
Children should be constantly supervised when they are in or near water. If a child goes missing it is really important to check water features first, including any outdoor containers which may be carrying water. Sadly, in 2011, 12 under-fours drowned in the UK, of whom two drowned in baths, four in swimming pools, two in ponds and one in a water container. It is best to cover over ponds and always remember to empty a paddling pool as soon as you are finished with it.
Other common accidents involving children outdoors have involved jumping on a trampoline. Not all gardens will be suitable for a trampoline, and it’s always best to consider the safety implications before making an expensive purchase. The risk of injury can further be reduced by ensuring that the trampoline is clear from hazards such as fences, tree branches, washing lines etc, with some form of safety netting or crash matting in place to break a child’s fall. It is also important to check the placement and condition of covers over any springs and to not use trampolines which may have become torn, ripped or worn over the winter. Ideally, only one child will be on a trampoline at any one time, but separating older children from younger ones will also reduce the likelihood of injury.
The LASER Alliance, hosted by RoSPA, has long campaigned for high quality practical safety education (HQPSE) to support reconnecting children with nature, making the most of challenges that life will bring and what to do if things do go wrong, for example, making a 999 call.
The Alliance is committed to helping children and young people learn about safety by experiencing risk. It achieves this through partnership work involving individuals and members from across the UK who help teach children and young people how to avoid injury by managing risk. Organisations working with children and young people that are interested in joining, should phone Cassius Francis on 0121 248 2025 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
RoSPA has produced a video introducing four families whose lives have been changed forever by a fatal accident. For details – and to watch the “Too Young to Die” video – visit www.rospa.com/fundraising/donations/.
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