Promoting child safety at home
Your adult-friendly home has lots of potential hazards for a child. But you can keep your child safe by finding out what the risks are, and then preventing or removing them.
But even when you think you’ve removed all the home safety hazards, the reality is that children can still have tumbles and falls. That’s why supervision is one of the keys to child safety at home.
Also, as your child grows and learns to climb and open things, you need to be alert for new hazards. You’ll probably need to change the environment to make sure your home is still a safe and creative place to play and explore.
And along with supervision and a safe environment, you can also improve home safety by teaching your child about what’s safe and what’s not.
If children have a creative space to play and explore, with lots of interesting things to do and look at, they’ll be less likely to seek their own stimulation by exploring areas you might not want them to get into.
Preventing falls at home
Falls are the most common cause of injuries and visits to hospital in every age group.
You can help to keep your child safe by watching the new skills she’s learning, and the new places she can reach – and then adjusting your home. For example:
- When your child starts crawling, install safety guards across entries to stairs and balconies. And you still need to supervise your child on stairs and balconies.
- When your child starts climbing, lock windows – particularly upper-storey windows – restrict window openings, or shield them with firmly attached window guards. This will stop your child climbing out and falling.
- Leave a hall light on at night, or use sensor lights to make it easier for older children to get to the toilet without tripping.
Don’t leave babies unattended on raised surfaces like change tables, sofas or beds. Babies might roll or wriggle off and fall.
Burns and scalds
To prevent burns, keep your child away from fire and hot surfaces. Keep a close eye on your child whenever he’s anywhere near things that can burn – especially around stoves, ovens, microwaves, heaters and other appliances.
Hot drinks and too-hot baths are a major cause of scalds for babies and children. Here are some simple safety precautions to avoid these risks:
- Keep hot drinks away from and out of reach of children.
- Have the hot water delivered to your bathroom at maximum of 50°C. You still need to mix cold water with the hot water coming out of your taps to get the right bath temperature for babies and children.
House fires can be caused by cooking accidents, smouldering cigarettes, electrical faults, candles, incense and children playing with lighters and matches.
Working smoke alarms are an essential fire safety precaution.
By law your home must have at least one working smoke alarm installed on each level. For overall fire safety at home, you should install a smoke alarm outside the sleeping areas of your home. It’s also a very good idea to install alarms in bedrooms where people sleep with their doors closed.
You can make your child’s environment safer by:
- removing potential poisons
- storing chemicals and medicines up high in a locked cupboard or cabinet
- putting a child-safety latch on the doors of cupboards where you keep household poisons.
Strangulation and suffocation
Many homes have everyday items that could strangle or suffocate a child. These items include soft toys and bedding, blinds, cords and ropes, and bags, boxes and packaging.
Here are some essential safety tips to keep your child safe from suffocation and strangulation:
- Keep stuffed toys, cushions and piles of clothing out of cots and prams.
- Wrap blind cords in cleats attached to the wall at least 1.6 m above the floor.
- Tie knots in plastic bags, and keep them away from children.
Water safety depends on 100% supervision whenever your child is around water – pools, ponds, dams, rivers, creeks, baths and buckets with water.
If you have a pool, by law you must have a pool fence and self-locking gate that meets Australian Standard AS:1926.
For bath safety, always supervise and give your full attention to babies and children under five years in the bath. Never leave older children or siblings to supervise.
Here are tips for electrical safety at home:
- Get a licensed electrician to install safety switches, which cut power off quickly to avoid electrocution.
- Get a licensed electrician to do any repairs.
- Replace electrical appliances and cords if they’re worn.
- Use power point covers.
Safety around furniture
Children can be seriously injured if furniture tips and falls on top of them. Here are ways to avoid this issue:
- Check that furniture is sturdy – your child shouldn’t be able to pull it down or knock it over. You might need to brace furniture like bookshelves and wardrobes to the wall.
- Brace or strap modern flat screen televisions to the wall or entertainment unit.
- Move furniture with sharp corners away from areas where children run around, like hallways and near doorways. If you can’t move the furniture, pad its corners with foam or corner protectors.
Safety around glass
When children are running around at home, it’s easy for them to run into glass windows and doors. Here are tips to keep your child safe around glass:
- Install safety glass in windows and doors or apply shatter-resistant film to windows and doors of older homes.
- Put stickers on glass at eye level.
Some simple precautions can help you keep your child safe outdoors:
- Lock away hand tools like saws and drills, and keep lawnmowers, chainsaws and other sharp tools out of reach.
- Make sure your child is out of the way when you’re using tools.
- Unplug tools whenever you take a break.
Baby furniture and equipment
Safe baby furniture and baby equipment will help to protect your child. Always look for cots, mattresses, portacots and highchairs with the Australian Standards mark.
There are no Australian Standards for change tables and safety gates, so it’s important to look carefully at the safety features of any tables and gates you’re interested in.
CPR and first aid
It’s a very good idea to do some first aid and CPR training and update it each year. You can do training with organisations like the Royal Life Saving Society, the Red Cross and St John Ambulance Australia.
It’s also a good idea to pin up a basic resuscitation chart inside your home and also near your pool if you have one.
Keep first aid kits in your home and car, and take a kit on holidays too.
Make a list of emergency numbers to keep near your telephone. Below are some suggestions for numbers to include:
- Police, ambulance, fire – 000
- Poisons Information Centre – 131 126
- State Emergency Service – 132 500
- Health Direct Australia – 1800 022 222
- Nurse on Call – 1300 606 024
- 13 HEALTH (Queensland only) – 134 325 84
- Maternal Child Health Advisory Line (Victoria only) – 132 229
- child and family health nurse
- local children’s hospital
- all-night chemist
- trusted neighbours and relatives
- local council.