Home Safety

​Due to the COVID19 pandemic, Home Safety Check visits have been suspended for now. However, please email email homesafety@ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk if you have any queries and someone will get back to you. Please include a telephone number.

Safe Home, Happy Home: Home Safety Check Scheme

  • Do you have a child under the age of 5?
  • Are you over 65? 
  • Does someone in your household have a disability / vulnerability?

If ‘yes’ then you could benefit from a FREE & CONFIDENTIAL Home Safety Check

What is a Home Safety Check?

The Home Safety Officers in the Council will arrange a date and time to visit you in your home. The Home Safety Check will be carried out in a friendly and informal manner providing you with a range of information and helpful tips appropriate to you to help protect you from accidents in the home.

Equipment is available where the criteria has been met and onward referrals to other agencies can be carried out on your behalf taking the stress of filling in forms and seems to decrease waiting times.

For further information on the scheme contact the Home Safety Officer on 0300 013 3333 ext 40336 or email homesafety@ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk

In the list below we have outlined some of the top risks in the home to young children (Under 5s) and older people, as well as some general safety advice that applies to everyone. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Home Safety Officer if youhave any questions.

Additional information about safety in the home can be found at the following websites:

www.rospa.com
www.capt.org.uk
www.ageuk.org.uk

The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) runs the annual Child Safety Week, encouraging conversations about risk to children and how to protect them from dangers, particularly in the home: CAPT has produced this Parent Pack which can be printed off for reference (PDF)

Advice for keeping safe at home

Advice for Under 5s: Choking and Suffocation

 Babies naturally grasp anything and out it in their mouths but choking is a safety risk as they explore their world.

Choking

Any items smaller than a 50p piece such as buttons, beads, grapes or balloons can cause a child to choke.

Food is responsible for over half of all fatal choking accidents, with grapes the third most common cause of death in food-related incidents. Doctors have warned that young children can choke to death on whole grapes, describing three cases of children who needed emergency treatment:  

  •  A five-year-old boy choked while eating grapes at an after-school club. Despite first aid, the grape could not be dislodged and the child had a heart attack and died.
  •  A 17-month-old boy choked while eating grapes with his family at home. Paramedics were called and the grape was eventually removed but the little boy still died.
  •  A two-year-old choked while snacking on grapes in the park. He suffered two seizures and spent five days in intensive care before thankfully making a full recovery.

(Source: Child Accident Prevention Trust)

Why are grapes so dangerous?

The size and shape of grapes means they can completely plug a child’s airway. And the tight seal produced by the grape’s smooth surface makes them difficult to dislodge with standard first aid techniques.

Young children are particularly vulnerable to choking on grapes because:

  • They don’t have a full set of teeth and are still learning to chew properly.
  • Their swallow reflex is still developing.
  • Their airway is very small.

It’s why we advise that grapes should be chopped in half lengthways and ideally in quarters.

Think long and thin

  • Narrow batons are best for vegetables like cucumber, carrots or celery.
  • Hot dogs are big culprits so cut them in half and lengthways (really narrow). L
  • Lumps of meat or cheese need to be cut as narrow as you can.

Save the hard stuff for later 

  • Things like boiled sweets, ice cubes or coughsweets are too big and slippery for young children so avoid them
  • Nuts, popcorn and other similar snacks are bestkept until children are a bit older and more competent eaters

Encourage good eating habits

  • t’s never too soon to start teaching children to sit still when theyeat. This reduces the risk of choking significantly.
  • Remind children to chew what they have in their mouths beforeputting more in ... little, by little

 

The choking risk from toys

  • Accidents happen when young toddlers and babies play with older chidren’s toys as they may contain small parts which can break off when children place them in their mouths.
  • Babies under 1 year old should not be given toys with long hair or fur as this can cause choking.

Parents should pay attention to the toy packaging ensuring the toy is CE marked. The packaging will recommend the age of child as many toys are not suitable for children under 3 years old.

 

The Risk of Suffocation

Changing bags contain a number of items which are dangerous to children such as creams, medicines and nappy sacs. Nappy sacs have been known to be inhaled by children and this causes suffocation and choking.

Advice for Under 5s: Burns / Scalds

 A child’s skin is 15 times thinner than an adults and will burn or scald much more easily.

  • Do not drink hot beverages while holding your baby or child as a hot drink can scald up to 20 minutes after it has been made.
  • Test bath water with your elbow and run cold water first and remember taps will remain hot.
  • Switch off hair straighteners immediately and put out of reach of children. Ensure children cannot grab hold of trailing cables. Straighteners can cause severe burns and take 40 minutes to cool down completely.
  • Cooking – young children don’t automatically pull away from something that’s burning them. They may forget the rules about not touching hot things. Push kettles to the back of the worktop and use the back rings of the cooker first.  If you’re able to keep children out of the kitchen when you’re cooking, great. Or try to keep them in a highchair or away from the cooker if not.
  • Button batteries – if a child swallows a lithium coin cell battery (the round silver battery like a 5p coin) and it gets stuck in their food pipe, it can burn a hole and cause internal bleeding and even death. Keep any loose batteries out of reach and dispose of ‘flat’ batteries quickly and safely. Keep objects out of reach if they have button batteries your child can get to.
  • Fires and heaters – a risk to small children. Move cots away from radiators. Then your baby can’t get their arm or leg trapped against the heat. Fit fireguards around fires and heaters.

Download the Child Action Prevention Trust factsheet about Burns and Scalds here

If your child receives a burn, remember these three steps: COOL / CALL / COVER

  • Cool - Run lots of cool water over the burn for up to 20 minutes
  • Call - Call your GP surgery for advice or diall 999 
  • Cover - Cover the burn with loose strips of cling film or a clean non-fluffy material to stop it getting infected.
Advice for Under 5s: Button Batteries

Why are button batteries dangerous? 

Button batteries are small, round, silver-coloured batteries that come in many different sizes and types. They power many of our devices at home to make our lives more convenient. 

Most button batteries pass through the body without a problem. But if a lithium coin cell battery gets stuck in the food pipe, energy from the battery reacts with saliva to create caustic soda. This is the same chemical used to unblock drains. It can burn through the food pipe, to the main artery and lead to catastrophic internal bleeding and death.

This chemical reaction can happen in as little as two hours. However, sometimes it takes days or even weeks. 

Lithium coin cell batteries can also cause life-changing injuries. There is a risk that the food pipe is too badly damaged for a child to eat normally again or the vocal cords are too badly damaged for a child to speak normally again. 

Top tips for keeping children safe from button batteries:

  • Look round your home for lithium coin cell batteries –in products as well as spare and ‘flat’ batteries.
  • Keep products well out of children’s reach if the battery compartment isn’t secured.
  • Store spare button batteries in a sealed container in a high cupboard.
  • Remember that ‘flat’ or ‘dead’ batteries still hold enough power to badly hurt a child. So put them out of children’s reach straight away and recycle them safely and as quickly as possible.
  • Take care when buying toys from markets, discount stores or temporary shops as they may not conform to safety regulations. Similarly, toys bought online or from overseas may not meet UK safety standards.
  • Teach older children that button batteries are dangerous and not to play with them or give them to younger brothers and sisters.

IF YOU SUSPECT YOUR CHILD HAS SWALLOWED A BUTTON BATTERY, ACT FAST

  • Take them straight to the A&E department at your local hospital or dial 999 for an ambulance.
  • Tell the doctor there that you think your child has swallowed a button battery.
  • If you have the battery packaging or the product powered by the battery, take it with you. This will help the doctor identify the type of battery and make treatment easier.
  • Do not let your child eat or drink.
  • Do not make them sick.
  • Trust your instincts and act fast – do not wait to see if any symptoms develop.

Unfortunately it is not obvious when a button battery is stuck in a child’s food pipe. There are no specific symptoms associated with this.  However, the child may:

  • cough, gag or drool a lot
  • appear to have a stomach upset or a virus
  • be sick
  • point to their throat or tummy
  • have a pain in their tummy, chest or throat
  • be tired or lethargic
  • be quieter or more clingy than usual or otherwise ‘not themselves’
  • lose their appetite or have a reduced appetite
  • not want to eat solid food / be unable to eat solid food.

But these sorts of symptoms vary. Plus, the symptoms may fluctuate, with the pain increasing and then subsiding.

This is why it is really important to trust your instincts and act fast if you if you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery, taking them to A&E or dialling 999 for an ambulance. One thing specific to button battery ingestion is vomiting fresh (bright red) blood. If the child does this then seek immediate medical help.

Visit the Child Accident Prevention Trust’s Button Battery Hub www.capt.org.uk/button-battery-safety for more information

Advice for Under 5s: Falls

Falls are the most common type of accident for all age groups.

Parents are advised to fit window locks/restrictors to windows, fit stairgates, to refrain from placing car seats and bouncy chairs on worktops and to always use a 5 point harness supplied with high chairs.

Change your baby’s nappy on the floor to prevent falls from beds, sofas or changing tables.

Advice for Under 5s: Poison

Toddlers like putting things in their mouths to see what they taste like.

  • Keep all medicines up out of reach and sight or locked away from young children.
  • Remove all poisonous substances such as perfumes, cleaning products and toiletries from bathrooms and bedrooms.
  • Do not decant chemicals into drink containers as these are attractive to children.
  • Store all household chemicals and cleaning materials out of sight of children and in cupboards with child resistant closures or locks.
Advice for Under 5s: Blind Cord Strangulation

It takes only 18 seconds for a toddler to lose their life on a blind cord. If you have blinds fitted in your home, there are simple precautions that you can take:

  • If any blind has a cord or chain that is looped or could form a loop, use a safety device such as a blind or cleat or tidy to keep the cord or chain securely tidied away out of their reach
  • Do not place a child’s cot, bed, high chair or playpen near to a window blind
  • Do not put sofas, chairs, tables, shelves or bookcases near a window blind as children like to climb.

For more information on blind cord safety, you can watch a short video that highlights the dangers or download the Make it Safe Leaflet

To request blind cord safety devices for your home or a free home safety check call us on 0300 013 3333 ext 40336

Advice for Under 5s: E-Cigarettes/Vapes

Lethal liquid and fire risk

The Public Health Agency s warning that the content of e-cigarettes are highly toxic, presenting a particularly serious risk to children and pets if ingested, inhaled or if contact occurs with skin and eyes. There have been a number of children poisoned by ingesting refill liquid within the last four years and even one death.

Some e-cigarettes refills are made sweet-smelling chemicals and packaged in brightly coloured tubes that could be attractive to babies and young children.

The amount of nicotine in refills can vary considerably between products and from batch to batch. Ingesting a dose of 40mg of nicotine can be fatal for an adult, so a fatal dose for a child would be substantially less.

There have been reports of e-cigarettes exploding or the chargers causing fire.

E-cigarettes and refills must be kept out of reach of babies and children, and anyone who has swallowed e-cigarette liquid should be taken immediately to an Emergency Department.

Advice for Under 5s: Garden Safety

3 cms of water can drown a small child. Be careful around the paddling pool.

  • Be aware of items that can fill up with rain water eg. Plant pots, sand pits lids.
  • Be sure to close and lock garden gates
  • Sheds and garages should be locked at all times as children could gain access to sharp objects and poisons.
  • Ensure your fence is secured with no gaps to allow children to play safely.
  • Lawn Mowers and electrical equipment should be stored out of reach
  • Be aware which plants are poisonous eg. Plant bulbs or plants with berries.
  • Place climbable play equipment onto a soft surface such a grass or soft mat.
Advice for Under 5s: Liquitabs

Liquitabs (Liquid Detergent Capsules) are attractive, brightly coloured cleaning products used in washing machines and dishwashers. Children especially those under 5 years old can easily mistake these products for jelly-like sweets.

Store liquitabs out of children’s reach in a high locked cupboard. Cupboards locks or catches should be fitted in the home.

  • Do not rely on the packaging or product lid being closed as your only means of prevention. Young children can be determined and skilled at opening items and parents often underestimate their child’s ability to open things.
  • Dot not store liquitabs under the sink, worktop or by the appliance.
  • Do not preload your appliances with a liquitab until you are ready to turn them on.
  • Be careful when visiting grandparents’ or friends’ homes as they may not apply the same rules.
  • Look out for other poisonous substances in the home such as medication, cleaning products, garden or farm chemicals, tobacco products and alcohol.
Advice for Older People: Falls

Falls continue to be the leading cause of accidental death in the home with the incidence of falling increasing as people get older. Many risk factors have been identified which can increase your risk of falling, however many of these risk factors can be addressed to reduce your risk of having a falls at home.

Home Environment

  • Keep your stairs free of clutter – do not leave items lying on the stairs that could cause a trip or fall.
  • Ensure your home is well lit (use high wattage low energy light bulbs or a day light bulb) and always put lights on at night especially when getting up during the night.
  • Remove all loose / worn mats
  • Avoid trailing leads/wires.
  • If you use a non slip mat in the bath and shower ensure they are used appropriately removing them after use to air dry and clean the soap suds from them that can build up and cause a slip.
  • Mop up any water spillages as soon as possible.
  • Have broken or uneven pathways outdoors repaired.

Your home can be adapted with the help of aids in order to minimise your risk of falling. You can be referred to an Occupational Therapist who can have handrails fitted at front and back doors, an additional handrail fitted on the stairs and by the toilet.

Checking eyesight

Good vision has a major role in how you maintain your balance. Have your eyesight checked by an optometrist every year or sooner if you notice a change. Ensure you attend all appointments requested as having certain conditions may involve attending the optometrist and hospital appointments which are equally important.

Eye tests are FREE for everyone over the age of 60 years old.

Looking after feet

As you get older, the size and shape of your feet may change so always have your feet measured when buying new shoes.

When choosing footwear remember to choose styles that have a back strap, Velcro or preferably laces to secure them tightly. Avoid heels and slip ons.

Ensure to attend podiatrist appointments if you are a diabetic as it is particularly important that you look after your feet.

Bone Health

Osteoporosis is known as the silent illness and results in more fragile bones that will break more easily, often as a result of a fall. There are a number of risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing osteoporosis such as; family history smoking, drinking alcohol, long term immobility, early menopause, previous fractured bones and certain medical conditions. If you think you might be at risk of this condition you should contact your GP.

You can maintain healthy bones by:

  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet including foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. For example, milk, cheese yoghurt, oily fish, fortified cereals and margarine.
  • Partake in regular weight-bearing exercise.
  • Stop smoking.

Physical Activity – activities that improve muscle strength in our arms, legs, back, shoulders and chest are particularly important as we get older. They can make it easier to get up out of a chair, and improve our posture, coordination and balance which reduces our risk of falling. (See strength and balance leaflet in links for helpful tips).

Using the stair frequently, rising to standing position from a chair, walking, gardening, Tai Chi and dancing are great examples. Exercise must be performed at least twice a week for effective falls prevention.

Advice for Older People: Poisons

Many substances in the home are potential poisons including; medication, solvents, cleaning products, detergents, carbon monoxide, pesticides and perfumes.

Do not decant chemicals into other containers such as empty water bottle as these can be mistaken for a drink and ingested.

Advice for Older People: Managing Medication

Ensure you manage your medication and seek help and advice from your local pharmacist or GP if you are having difficulties remembering to take your medication as medication can often be organised into a sealed blister pack. Using a pill dispenser or having a family member help with organising your medication can also be useful.

It is important that you always take your medication as advised by your doctor.

Always read labels and warnings to ensure medications are not mixed up or mistakenly taken from something else. More than 1 in 10 older people have difficulty handling their medication and remembering when to take their medication. This could potentially lead to taking double doses and mixing medication which shouldn’t be taken together.

General Advice: Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is a highly poisonous gas known as the ‘Silent Killer’ - it cant be seen and has no smell, odour or taste. It can be released by any appliance or heating system that burns oil, gas, wood or solid fuel.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning:

  • Headaches                         
  • Breathlessness                 
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach Pain                    
  • Nausea                                
  • Tiredness
  • Chest Pain                          
  • Loss of consciousness

If your Carbon Monoxide alarm activates or you have symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning:

T – Turn off or extinguish the heating source/appliance (if safe to do so).
A – Air – ventilate your home by opening windows and doors. Stay outside in the fresh air
S – Seek medical help if you feel unwell.
K – Keep all heating sources/appliances off until serviced (or chimney/flues cleaned) by a qualified professional.

It is very important that your carbon monoxide alarm is situated in the correct place and you MUST follow manufacturers guidelines.

Also be aware that the batteries in your alarm may be a replaceable type, which should be replaced every year. Some alarms have a sealed battery type. Typically this will be between 5-7 years from the time of installation and the whole unit should be replaced. It is useful to mark the date on your alarm when it will expire from the date it is fitted.

To protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning all boilers and appliances MUST be serviced by a qualified engineer registered with the appropriate agency:

Gas Safe Register                                                                                                     
www.gassaferegister.co.uk                                                                         
Tel: 0800 408 5500

Northern Ireland Association of Chimney Sweeps  - NIACS (all fuels) 
www.niacs.co.uk

Oil Firing Technical Association - OFTEC (Oil) 
www.oftec.org 
Tel: 0845 65 85 080                                                                                                                   

Northern Ireland Coal Advisory (solid fuel)
www.coaladvisoryservice.com                                                     
Tel: 0845 712 5300

Remember to test all carbon monoxide alarms on a weekly basis!

General Advice: Fire

All smoke alarms in your home should be tested once per week. A useful tip would be using a Helping Hand or brush shaft to test your alarm instead of having to climb in order to reach the button to avoid the risk of falling.

It is recommended to adapt and follow a night-time routine. This should involve:

  • Switching off at the wall all electrical appliances which are not designed to keep on 24/7
  • Closing all internal door to stop fire from spreading. Closing doors can stop fire srpeadking up to 15 minutes giving you time to get out.
  • Do not leave doors open for pets
  • Discuss with family a fire escape plan should a fire break out in your home.

Candles

Treat lit candles as you would any other flame.

  • Don’t leave them unattended
  • Put them completely out at night.
  • Keep candles away from anything that can catch fire like furnishings, fabrics and curtains.
  • Candles and tea lights can melt plastic surfaces like tops of televisions and bath tubs. Make sure you always place them on a heat resistant surface.

Smoking

Did you know that cigarettes can burn at temperatures of over 700 degrees?

  • 50% of accidental fire deaths in NI are caused by careless disposal of smoking materials.
  • Take care smoking if you’re drowsy, taking prescription drugs or if you have been drinking alcohol.
  • Don’t ever smoke in bed as you’re bedding could easily catch fire.
  • Make sure the cigarette is put out properly.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.

Electric Blanket safety

Old or damaged electric blankets cause more than 5,000 fires a year.

  • Keep all electric blankets flat or roll loosely when storing away but never fold.
  • Dispose of all electric blankets which are 10 years and over.
  • Only leave a blanket switched on all night if it has a setting for safe-all night use, if not, always ensure it has been disconnected before getting into bed.
  • Always fit an electric blanket as advised in the instructions as most of the faults occur due to people not fitting them properly.
  • Look out for a third party certification mark on the blanket and packaging to ensure it meets the latest UK and European safety standards. An example to look for is BEAB approved.

DO NOT use hot water bottles in bed along with an electric blanket as this could cause electrocution.

Your skin also becomes thinner with age so if you use a hot water bottle on its own make sure it has a protective covering.

Staying Warm During Winter Months

  • Heat your home well by setting your heating to the right temperature (18-21 c). You can keep your home warm, and still keep your bills as low as possible.
  • Get financial support. There are grants, benefits and sources of advice available to make your home energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills. It is worthwhile checking you are claiming all the benefits you’re entitled to.
  • Eat well. Food is a vital source of energy, which helps to keep your body warm. Try to make sure that you have hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day.
  • Get the flu jab. You can get a free jab from your GP to protect against seasonal flu if you are over 65 or suffer from a health condition. Contact your GP for more information.
  • Look after yourself and others. On extremely cold days try to avoid going outside. If you do need to, remember to wrap up warm.