Promoting child safety at home
Your adult-friendly home has many 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 plenty 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.
Baby furniture and equipment
Safe baby furniture and baby equipment will help to protect your child. Always look for cots, mattresses, portacots and high chairs 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.
Burns and scalds prevention
To prevent burns, keep your child away from fire and hot surfaces. Keep a close eye on your child whenever they’re near things that can burn – especially around stoves, ovens, microwaves, heaters and other appliances.
Hot food and 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 food and drinks away from and out of reach of children.
- Avoid holding your child if you’re having hot food and drinks.
- Always test bath water temperature before bathing children – the safest bath temperature is 37-38°C.
- 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.
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.
Falls prevention 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 they’re learning, and the new places they 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.
Children can be seriously injured if furniture tips and falls on top of them. Here are ways to reduce the risk of this happening:
- Check that furniture is sturdy – your child shouldn’t be able to pull it down or knock it over. Anchoring furniture like bookshelves and wardrobes to the wall or floor reduces the risk of them tipping.
- Brace or strap 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.
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.
Household tools and backyard safety
Some simple precautions can help you keep your child safe around household tools and other backyard safety hazards:
- 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 and store tools away whenever you take a break.
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.
Test your smoke alarms every month and replace batteries each year. Replace the smoke alarms themselves every 10 years.
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.
If you think your child has been poisoned, call the Poisons Information Centre on 131 126.
Strangulation and suffocation prevention
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% active adult supervision whenever your child is around water. This includes around baths, 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. Regularly check and maintain the pool fence and gate to make sure it’s in proper working order. Never leave the gate propped open.
For bath safety, always supervise and give your full attention to babies and children under five years in the bath. Never leave children alone in the bath or bathroom. Never leave older children or siblings to supervise.
CPR and first aid
It’s a very good idea to do some first aid and CPR training. First aid training is recommended every three years, and CPR training is recommended every year. You can do training with organisations like the Royal Life Saving Society, the Red Cross and St John Ambulance Australia.
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
- child and family health nurse
- local children’s hospital
- all-night pharmacy
- trusted neighbours and relatives
- local council.
Need more information on child safety? Contact Kidsafe or the child safety centres or child health promotion units at the major children’s hospital in the capital city of your state or territory.