Accident Prevention and Tips

Life cannot be free of risks but your house and yard can be made safe and hazard-free in many ways.

A household safety checklist is useful in the prevention of many common accidents that often happen to the youngest or oldest members of the household. The list shown here will help you identify and eliminate potential hazards in different areas of your home.

Additional safety tips specifically for households with infants, toddlers and children are presented here. Topics include the prevention of choking, drowning, poisoning, burns, strangulation, suffocation and electric shock. Pool safety, another major concern for parents and property owners, is covered here.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Falls are by far the most common cause of accidental death and serious injury in the home. They are a particular problem for the elderly. About a third of the 28,400 accidental deaths that occurred in U.S. homes in 1997 resulted from falls, according to the most recent available National Safety Council figures. Each year 200,000 people older than 65 wind up in the hospital with broken hips suffered in falls.

  • Stairways are a good place to start if you want to reduce the risks of falls. Stairs should
    • Have sturdy handrails at the appropriate height - a minimum of 32 inches above the stair treads, with 36 inches a better choice
    • Be evenly spaced and of a consistent height.
    • Be well lighted and be free of toys and other things that could trip someone.
  • Loose rugs are another major problem. Use non-slip mats under rugs to prevent tripping or sliding.

Childhood Accidents

A house is an exciting place for infants and small children who love to explore but aren't aware of the potential dangers. Protecting your child from household dangers is your job - and it's a job that will always be evolving to keep up with your child's growing mobility and curiosity. Even before your baby comes home from the hospital, you will need to think carefully about his safety at home. And as he grows older, your job becomes more difficult as he touches, tastes, and climbs his way through the world.

Around the House:

  • Attach protective padding or other specially designed covers to corners of coffee tables, furniture, and countertops with sharp edges.
  • Install hardware-mounted safety gates at the top and bottom of every stairway (pressure-mounted gates are not as secure). Avoid accordion gates, which can trap a child's head.
  • Clean up any spills around the home immediately.
  • Keep stairways clear.
  • Make sure there are no loose rugs on the floor. Put specially designed pads under rugs to hold them securely to the floor's surface.
  • Apply nonskid strips to the bottoms of bathtubs.
  • Fireplaces and wood stoves must be screened.
  • Radiators and electric baseboard heaters may need to be screened as well. 


  • Never leave a baby unattended in the bath. If you must answer the telephone or door, don't rely on an older sibling to watch the baby; wrap your baby in a towel and bring him with you.
  • Stand guard over a bathtub that is filling with water.
  • Don't use a bathtub seat with suction cups. The seat can overturn and flip a baby head first into the water.
  • Install a toilet-lid locking device.
  • Never leave a small child unattended near a bucket filled with any amount of water or other liquid.
  • Set the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120 degrees F or lower. A child can be scalded in 30 seconds if the temperature is only 5 degrees higher. If you are unable to control the water temperature (for example, you live in an apartment), install an anti-scald device. This will slow water from tub spouts to a trickle if it reaches a certain temperature.

Kitchen/Dining Room:

  • When cooking, always turn pot handles toward the back of the stove.
  • Don't hold a baby or small child while cooking.
  • Block access to the stove as much as possible.
  • If you have to walk with hot liquid in the kitchen (like a pot of soup or cup of coffee), make sure you know where your child is, so you don't trip over him.
  • Never drink hot beverages or soup with a child sitting on your lap.
  • Avoid using tablecloths or large place mats. A small child can pull on them and overturn a hot drink or plate of food.
  • Never warm baby bottles full of milk in the microwave oven. The liquid may heat unevenly, resulting in pockets of milk that can scald your baby's mouth.

Bedrooms: Cribs/Beds:

  • Keep side rails up on cribs.
  • Never leave a baby unattended on a changing table or bed. When choosing a changing table, opt for one with 2-inch guardrails.
  • Always secure safety belts on changing tables, strollers, carriages, and high chairs. Be sure to strap a small child securely into the seat of a supermarket shopping cart.
  • Do not put a child under age 6 on the top bunk of a bunk bed. Attach guardrails to the side of the top bunk.


  • Install safety bars on upper-story windows. These bars must be childproof but easy for adults to open in case of fire.
  • If you don't have safety bars on your windows, close and lock windows when children are present. For ventilation, open windows from the top, and provide adult supervision.
  • Keep furniture away from windows to prevent children from climbing onto sills.
  • Don't rely on window screens to keep children from falling out of windows.


  • Store all tools, including those used for gardening, automotive, and lawn care, in a locked container.
  • If you recycle glass and metal in your home, keep the recycling containers far from reach.


  • Be sure outdoor playground equipment is safe, with no loose parts or rust.
  • Playground surfaces should be soft to absorb the shock of falls. Good surface materials include sand and wood chips; avoid playgrounds with concrete and packed dirt.
  • Never allow a child to play on a trampoline, even with adult supervision



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