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Safety

  • Accidents are the most common cause of death among children aged between one and five years.

  • Every year about 600,000 children under five go to hospital because of an accident in the home.

Children need to explore and to learn about the things around them. The safer you make your home, the less likely it is that their exploration will land them in hospital. Outside your home it’s not so easy to make sure that the world is a safe place, but by getting together with other parents you can make a difference.

You can put pressure on your local council as follows:

  • to make road crossings safer;
  • to mend stairs and walkways and improve lighting;
  • to clear rubbish tips and board up old buildings

Protect and teach

  • Under-threes can’t be expected to understand or remember safety advice. They need to have an adult nearby at all times.
  • Three-year-olds can start learning how to do things safely, but expect your child to forget if she or he is excited or distracted.
  • Eight-year-olds can usually remember and act on safety instructions, though they are not yet safe enough to cross a busy road alone. They need adults around to call on for help at all times.

  • Under eleven-year-olds children are unable to judge speed and distance, so they should never cross busy roads alone. From the age of eight or nine children could cross quiet roads alone but they must wait until there are no cars at all. They should know and understand the Green Cross Code.

Safety checklist 

Use this list to check whether you’re doing everything you can to prevent accidents. It’s impossible to list all dangers, but thinking about some of these should start you thinking about others. Tick off the things you’ve done.

Danger – choking and suffocation 

Q. Do you store small objects away from babies and small children who might put them in their mouths?

Q. Have you got rid of ribbons and strings that might, either in play or by accident, get wound around a child’s neck?

Q. Do you keep peanuts away from children in your house? They often cause choking.

Q. Do you store polythene bags out of children’s reach?

Danger – fires, burns and scalds 

Q. Have you fitted a smoke detector?

Q. Have you checked your smoke detector battery this week?

Q. Could you get out of your house in a fire?

Q. Have you shortened your kettle flex or bought a coiled flex? Dangling flexes from irons and kettles can be pulled.

Q. Do you have a fire guard, fixed to the wall, round any kind of open fire (coal, gas or electric) or a hot stove?

Q. Do you always use the back rings on the cooker and turn pan handles away from the front of a cooker? A flat work surface on either side of the cooker will prevent your child reaching pan handles at the side of the cooker. Or you could fit a cooker hob guard.

Q. Do you use a playpen, cot or high chair (with restraints) to keep your child safe while you cook?

Q. Do you keep your child away when you’re drinking or carrying hot drinks and put mugs and cups, coffee jugs and teapots out of reach?

Q. Have you put your tablecloths away? A child pulling at the edges can bring a hot drink or teapot down.

Q. Do you always run the cold tap first in the bath and test the temperature before your child gets in? Be especially careful once your child is big enough to get into the bath without help and can play with the taps.

Q. Have you turned down the hot water thermostat to 54ºC or 130ºF to avoid scalds?

Q. Do you always cover hot water bottles to prevent burns and remove them from the bed before your child gets in?

Danger – falls 

Q. Do you always put bouncing chairs on the floor rather than a table or worktop?

Q. Do you have a properly fixed stair gate or barrier, preferably at both the top and bottom of your stairs?

Q. Baby walkers are dangerous. They tip babies down stairs and on to fires and radiators. Don’t tick this box until you have thrown yours out.

Q. Have you checked the rails round your landing and balconies? Could your child fall through, crawl under, climb over? Horizontal railings are especially dangerous.

Q. Do you have safety catches or locks on your upstairs windows to stop your child falling out? Are you sure you won’t be locked or nailed in if there is a fire?

Danger – cuts 

Q. Low-level glass in doors and windows is dangerous, especially once your child is on the move. Have you boarded it up, fitted safety film, or safety glass?

Q. Do you keep all sharp things somewhere safe (away from children)?

Q. Do you make sure your children never walk around holding anything made of glass or with anything like a pencil or lollipop stick in their mouths?

Danger – poisoning 

Q. Have you locked all alcohol and medicines away or stored them high up, out of sight and where the child can’t climb?

Q. Are your medicines in child-resistant containers? In other people’s houses watch out for dangers like tablets in drawers and handbags.

Q. Are your household and garden chemicals in a safe place, high up, or locked away? Some chemicals are sold with child-resistant caps. Make sure you replace the cap properly after use.

Q.  Are you sure there are no dangerous liquids in a bottle or jar that could make them look like drink?

Q. Are you teaching your children not to eat any plants, fungi, berries or seeds?

Q. If you use surma on your child’s eyes, is it one of the safe, lead-free brands? Talk to your pharmacist. Some surma can be dangerous.

Danger – electricity

Q. Are your electric sockets covered by heavy furniture or safety covers when not in use?

Q. Have you repaired all worn flexes?

Q. Are you careful not to plug too many appliances into one socket?

Danger – drowning 

Q. Do you know you should never leave a baby or young child under four alone in the bath for a moment? If the phone or doorbell rings, take your child with you, or let it ring.

Q. Is your garden pond covered or fenced off? Never leave your child alone near water.

Q. Does your child know how to swim? Children who can swim are safer, but it is still no guarantee of safety, so you should still keep a close watch when your children are near water.

Danger – cars 

Q. Do you know the law?

  • It’s illegal to carry an unrestrained child in the front seat.
  • It’s illegal to carry an unrestrained child if there is a suitable restraint in the car.
  • If there’s a child restraint in the front but not in the back then children under three must use it.
  • If there’s an adult restraint in the front but not in the back children over three years must use it.
  • You can only carry unrestrained passengers if there are more passengers than seat belts.
  • In general, it’s safer for a child over three to use an adult belt than not to use a belt at all. Children should never be allowed to travel in the back of a hatchback (unless it has been specially adapted and fitted with seat belts) or to stand in a moving car.

Q. Do you have a rear-facing baby seat or a special restraint system for your carrycot?

Q. Do you have a child safety seat for toddlers?

Q. Do you have a booster cushion for bigger children to use with an adult safety belt?

Q. Do you always make sure you get your children out of the car on the pavement side?

Q. If you have air bags fitted to your car, do you make sure your baby always travels in the back seat?

In a growing number of areas there are loan schemes for baby safety seats. Through these schemes, you can get the seats more cheaply. Some schemes are run by local maternity hospitals. Or ask your midwife, health visitor, or road safety officer.

Danger – roads

  • Never let a child on or near roads alone. Young children don’t understand the danger
    of traffic.
  • Hold your child’s hand when you’re near roads. Walking reins are useful for toddlers.
  • Teach your child to cross roads safely by always crossing safely yourself and explaining what you’re doing. Don’t expect any child under the age of eight to cross a road alone.

Danger – strangers 

Parents are often very worried about the possibility that their child will be abducted or murdered by a stranger. In fact this is a rare occurrence compared, for example, with the risk of a traffic accident.

Nevertheless it’s sensible to teach your children the following:

  • Never go with anyone (even someone they know well) without telling the grown-up who is looking after them.
  • If someone they don’t know tries to take them away, it’s OK to scream and kick.
  • Tell your children always to tell you if they’ve been approached by someone they don’t know.
  • Make sure your child knows what to do if he or she is lost.
  • In a crowded place, it’s safest to stand still and wait to be found.

Otherwise:

  • tell a police officer
  • go into a shop and tell someone behind the counter
  • tell someone who has other children with them
  • Teach your child his or her address and phone number or the phone number of some other responsible person.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.