The home can be a very dangerous place to be indeed. And according to RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), it’s where more accidents happen than anywhere else.
Their research has shown that every year, there are approximately 6,000 deaths as the result of a home accident; and more than two million children under the age of 15 experience accidents in and around the home. And as well as accidents, hazardous substances can also hide in cupboards, sheds and even the very fabric of your house.
If you’ve just bought a new property, make sure you’re home safe by reading up on some of the hidden dangers that cause accident, injury or worse every week UK homes.
It’s a shocking fact, but electricity is now the major cause of accidental fires in the UK, causing more than 20,000 a year, according to UK industry safety body Electrical Safety First. Their figures also show that each year, about 70 people are killed and 350,000 are seriously injured due to an electrical accident in the home.
So it’s essential to ensure that your household wiring and any appliances you are using are safe. Preferably before you move in. Old and potentially unsafe wiring should have shown up on your survey, so you should already have hired a registered electrician to sort it out.
But as ESF also point out, it’s easy to make an electrical circuit work, but it’s far harder to make the circuit work safely. It’s surprising how many people think they can turn their hand to electrical jobs way beyond their skills and these kind of dangerous bodges could be lurking unseen behind your skirting boards or under your floors.
Be a bright spark and make sure you find a registered local electrician to give you the reassurance that your home’s electrics are safe.
Malfunctioning fires and faulty gas appliances
In the past, fire itself was a lethal killer in household accidents. Though still a danger, nowadays it’s the fumes produced by solid fuel and gas fires that are the biggest threat.
It’s a frightening statistic that every year in Britain, more than 200 people go to hospital with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, leading to around 40 deaths.
Carbon monoxide is virtually impossible to detect by smell, sight, or sound, hence its gruesome nickname; the silent killer. It’s produced when fuels like gas, oil, coal or wood do not fully burn and makes its way into your home via badly installed or poorly maintained household appliances such as fires, cookers, boilers and heaters; or inefficient ventilation or blocked flues and chimneys.
The most sensible things to do to stay safe are install carbon monoxide alarms and ensure your appliances are checked regularly by competent, registered tradespeople.
Or for complete peace of mind, get a gas safety certificate from a local Gas Safe engineer.
With any luck, your new property will have been well and truly cleared out before you move in. But this isn’t always the case.
Make sure any prescription medicines that may still be hiding in bathroom cabinets have been disposed of, as these can be dangerous if they fall into the hands of young children.
You may also find that though the living spaces have been cleared, the same can’t be said for the garage, shed or cellar. Nasty substances like paint, cleaning chemicals, weedkillers and garden treatments are often stored for decades and some of the older products contain levels of toxicity that are totally unsuitable for household use. Carry out a thorough check and if you find any hazardous materials, dispose of them carefully and responsibly – never pour them down the drain.
Loops on blind and curtain cords
An often overlooked and potentially lethal household danger are the looped cords found on window dressings and blinds. These are a strangling hazard and tragically, small children can be choked while playing with these innocuous-looking accessories. Though new safety measures have been adopted by manufacturers, many older blinds or curtains will not conform to them.
If you have small kids and your new property has dangerous looped cords, you can minimise risk by keeping them out of reach or trimming so that only adults can reach them. Better still, do away with them altogether and change your window covering for a cordless design.
Scary but true: a child or baby can drown in as little as 5cm of water. Drowning is the third highest cause of death in the UK, and many preventable incidents of drowning occur in the home and garden. It goes without saying that you should never leave a small child unattended in the bath and it also makes sense that the toilet lid stays down when not in use if toddlers are around.
It’s also essential that you make sure there is no uncovered water in your new property like garden ponds, water butts or even buckets outside that have filled with rain water. Your little ones will be inquisitive and just as keen as you to explore their exciting new surroundings and as with most things kids do, they’ll be magnetically drawn to danger. So make sure you carry out a thorough search of your garden for any hidden watery hazards and cover or drain them before someone smaller finds them.
Not quite hidden, but often overlooked as a hazard by most people who just view them as a convenient way to get from floor to floor. But this is the most dangerous place in your house, according to statistics, and where the majority of injuries or deaths occur, particularly amongst older people. Figures have shown that almost 57,000 pensioners attend A&E departments due to accidents on stairs and almost 1,000 people a year die as result of stair-related falls.
Look out for loose carpet or trip hazards and crucially, make sure your staircase light is working.
According to the UK Health and Safety Executive, asbestos-related conditions are responsible for about 4,000 deaths a year. Once the fibres are in your system, it can take years to develop symptoms of diseases like asbestosis that cause serious lung damage.
Though mainly found in the workplace, asbestos was once seen as a wonder material and used widely in the UK until the mid 1980s. In fact, figures suggest that your home has a 50% chance of harbouring this nasty stuff.
It was deployed for a variety of purposes and was ideal for fireproofing and insulation, so can often be found in ceiling coatings, boiler flue pipes and ducts, water tanks, eaves and gutters. It was also commonly used in cement ceiling panels and garage roofs.
Don’t panic If you think your new property may contain asbestos, as it can prove to be nothing to worry about if it’s treated properly. Asbestos in good condition is usually safe unless asbestos fibres become airborne, which can happen when the material is accidentally broken or moved. So never try and remove it yourself! An asbestos survey from an expert will put your mind at rest and they will also be able to tell you the best way to make your home safe.