Home safety and accident prevention

Over two million children have an accident every year. Lots of these are easily preventable.

Every day, our emergency department sees several families who thought it would never happen to them.

Follow our simple steps to significantly reduce the chances you’ll be one of them.

Download our 10-minute home safety checklist

1. Check your smoke alarms

You are four times more likely to die in a fire if you don’t have a smoke alarm that works. Test your smoke alarm before bedtime tonight, and talk to your children about what to do if they hear it for real. Put a recurring reminder in your phone to check them every month.

Read more about fire safety.

A person tests their smoke alarm by pressing the button on it

2. Keep cleaning products, medicines and matches out of sight in secure, high-level cupboards.

Laundry and dishwasher liquid tablets, medicines, e-cigarette refills and air fresheners can all look tasty to your curious little one. Keep these items in secure containers, and out of reach or in cupboards with safety catches. Stand in your kitchen and bathroom and take a minute to think about what your child could get to.

3. Protect young children from dangerous button batteries

We are really worried about button batteries. These are the little round batteries that are everywhere – in car keys, musical birthday cards, LED candles and toys. When swallowed by a child, they can get stuck in the throat and silently start producing strong acid that damages vital internal organs.

Know where they are, and make sure they’re safe.

Act immediately if you ever think your child has swallowed a battery by bringing them to the emergency department.

Read more about button batteries

4. New dangers from magnet toys

Lots of fidget toys, and some clothing, now include very strong magnets, that can be easily swallowed.

These can magnetise together in the gut, trapping a piece of intestine (bowel) tissue between them. This squeezes the tissue together, cutting off the blood supply. As the gut dies, dangerous chemicals and enzymes can leak into the tummy, causing your child to become rapidly and seriously unwell.

Any magnet can be dangerous, but cheap imitation toys and clasps on clothing or accessories are now commonly found in the UK with magnets that are ten times the strength of safety standards.

Be careful what you buy. Just because it is sold on a well-known online platform does not guarantee that it is safe, and fake reviews can trick you into believing a product is good quality. If it’s too good to be true, all usually isn’t what it seems.

5. Reduce the risks of burns and scalds

Make sure hair straighteners, hot pans and the iron are never left within reach of your child.

Around 1 in 20 admissions to burns unit for children involved incidents with hair straighteners. They reach temperatures more than double that of boiling water, and often stay hot for over half an hour after being turned off.

Think where you keep them, and how you make sure they stay safe, even when you’re in a hurry.

A close up of hair straighteners showing a temperature up to 230oc

6. Beware of choke hazards

Look at your window blind cords through the eyes of your child.

Check they are out of reach or have a safety mechanism if caught around your child’s neck.

Toddlers are particularly vulnerable, as they are exploring the world, but still lack full muscle strength to free a relatively heavy head if they get tangled. They also have weaker and smaller windpipes than adults, so can suffocate far more quickly.

Read more about blind cord safety

7. Secure furniture

Secure tall cupboards, drawers and TVs to the wall so they can’t fall over

This heart-stopping video set the internet ablaze a few years ago. Even if it was staged as some have suggested, this happens for real to children in UK homes every year.

Yes, you were exhausted after building the flatpack, but what is the piece of furniture in your house that could do this to your child?

Contact the shop for new safety fixings, or order replacements tonight.

8. Practice safe sleeping for your baby

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome claims the lives of 4 babies every week in the UK.

The safest sleep for a new baby is when they;

  • Are on their back
  • At the base of the cot
  • In the same room as you
  • At the right room temperature (16-20oc)
  • In a home where no-one smokes

A woman cuddles a new baby as the father tickles the baby’s chin

Never sleep with them in a sofa or armchair. Your little baby can fall into the gap between you and the sofa and be suffocated.

You must never bring them into bed with you if you are extremely tired (we know, it’s hard!), if your baby was born prematurely or with low birth weight, if you or someone in the house smokes, or if you have consumed alcohol or other drugs.

It can be hard to decide what to do when they’re crying at 2am, so make a promise to them now about how you’ll keep them safe tonight.

Read more about safe sleeping

If you have any questions about SIDS or safer sleep, call the Lullaby Trust on 0808 802 6869 (Mon-Fri 10am-5pm)

9. Prevent falls

Secure upstairs windows with locks or catches, and keep your stairs safe

Birmingham Children’s Hospital sadly treats several children each year who have fallen from upstairs windows.

Falls account for nearly half of all children’s accidents.

A child climbs onto a windowsill by an open window

Do you have stair gates, and are windows your child could climb to locked with keys or an opening restrictor?

Think how ingenious your child is normally, and then take a second look at your window and stairs.

10. Check your child’s car seat

Some studies suggest over half of children are sitting in car seats that were either incorrectly fitted or inappropriate for them.

Children should ideally sit in rear facing seats for a minimum of 15 months, and potentially much longer.

A baby looks at their parents as they are secured into a rear facing child seat

Most accidents are frontal collisions, and facing backwards reduces the equivalent force on the neck from up to 300kg (being hit with the weight of a piano) to about 50kg.

The instructions aren’t always easy to follow, so find someone to look after the children, and check your car seat in a moment’s peace rather than when you’re rushing to get out the house.

If you lend your car seat to friends or family members, make sure they know how to use it properly, and check it again when you put it back in your own car.

Read more about car seats

More advice

Watching your little one grow and explore the world around them can be an exciting and satisfying time as a parent.

But they’re still learning, and taking just a few simple and cheap safety actions could make all the difference.

For more information, why not visit one of these websites?