Safety first in the home

FAMILY homes can be perilous places with plenty of pitfalls for children who are just starting to find their feet.

The frightening fact for parents is, the more active their children become the more potential dangers they face. When little ones start to toddle, staircases and kitchens can suddenly seem like accidents waiting to happen.

Parents' common sense and experience is usually enough to ensure they provide a safe haven for their little ones, but the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is also on hand with some useful advice.

The organisation stresses it is impossible to make any home completely "childproof" and totally safe, because a child's natural curiosity can render even the most carefully thought out safety

measures ineffective.

However, there are a number of simple steps which can be taken to make your home as safe as possible.

Elizabeth Lumsden, RoSPA community safety manager for Scotland, said: "Accidents will happen, you can't change that, but if you think ahead you can prevent more serious accidents.

"Supervision is key, but you can't watch your child 24 hours a day.

''It's just about having a look around your house for things which

could be potentially hazardous - have a look around your house from a child's point of view.

"We don't want anyone to wrap their child up in cotton wool, but at the same time we don't want them getting seriously hurt."

In a child's early months most accidents occur in the living room. But, as they become more mobile, the scenes of accidents change. Around 58,000 children have accidents on staircases every year.

"Falls are the most common accidents in houses," said Elizabeth. "They can be more serious if a child stumbles and lands on something – a glass coffee table for instance.

''Parents need to think about the position of their furniture and the type of furniture they have and, if something does contain glass, then makes sure it's safety glass which, if it breaks, shatters into tiny pieces.

"Serious falls happen on stairs so we always advise people to fit safety gates.

''However, after a child reaches 24 months they do start to try to climb over the gate, so it is better to take them down at this point and continue to teach the child how to crawl up and down the stairs safely."

Every year over 67,000 children experience an accident in the kitchen.

Elizabeth said: "In kitchens children can be burned or scalded by hot water.

''Of course they can be burned anywhere in the house. Some people, for instance, continue to ignore advice and drink cups of tea and coffee when they are holding a baby."

Over 28,000 children receive treatment for poisoning accidents every year, so parents are always advised to keep medicines and chemicals out of sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked cupboard and, wherever possible, buy products in child resistant containers.

Hair straighteners, which have become popular in recent years, are another potential danger for children, who can grab the hot tongs if they are left within reach and badly burn their hands.

Trampolines have also become a major cause of trips to casualty departments for breaks and sprains – the biggest danger being when more than one child uses the popular piece of play equipment or an over-enthusiastic – and much heavier – parent joins in at the same time their youngster is enjoying a bounce.

Elizabeth said: "It's not until you hear about things – the tragedy in Menstrie when a toddler died after becoming entangled in loop blind cords for instance – that you realise the potential dangers.

''No one would have thought blind cords were dangerous – it's just about getting the message out to parents.

"Sometimes people are lulled into a false sense of security by safety equipment they think will be a good addition to their home.

''Cooker guards may stop children reaching for pots and pans but they can also catch parents' sleeves as they lift pans and cause accidents that way."