Little things can make a big safety difference
Have a little one on the way? You’ll want to know about these 12 items recommended by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that can make a big difference when it comes to your child’s safety:
- Safety latches and locks—Latches and locks for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas help prevent poisonings and other injuries. Safety latches and locks on cabinets and drawers can help prevent children from gaining access to medicines, household cleaners, matches, or cigarette lighters, as well as knives and other sharp objects. Even products with child-resistant packaging should be locked away and kept out of reach. This packaging is not childproof. Look for safety latches and locks that adults can easily use but are sturdy enough to withstand pulls and tugs from children.
- Safety gates—Help prevent falls down stairs and keep children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers by using safety gates. Look for safety gates that children cannot dislodge easily but that adults can open and close without difficulty. For the top of stairs, only use gates that screw into the wall. All new gates must meet current safety standards: Replace or avoid older safety gates, especially those that have “V” shapes that are large enough to entrap a child’s head and neck.
- Door knob covers and door locks—These items prevent children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers. Be sure the door knob covers are sturdy and allow doors to be opened quickly by an adult in case of an emergency.
- Anti-scald devices—Anti-scald devices regulate water temperature and can help reduce the likelihood of burns. Also be sure to set your water heater temperature no higher than 120 degrees to help prevent burns.
- Smoke alarms—Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside each bedroom, and outside sleeping areas to alert you to fires. Smoke alarms are essential safety devices for protection against fire deaths and injuries. Check smoke alarms once a month to make sure they’re working, and change batteries at least once a year or consider using 10-year batteries for alarms.
- Window guards and locks—These items help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks, and landings. Check these safety devices frequently to make sure they are secure and properly installed and maintained. Use them to limit window openings to four inches or less, including the space between the window guard bars. If you have window guards, be sure at least one window in each room can be easily used for escape in a fire. Remember: Window screens are not effective for preventing children from falling out of windows.
- Corner and edge bumpers—Bumpers help prevent injuries from falls against sharp edges of furniture and fireplaces. Look for bumpers that stay or stick securely on furniture or hearth edges.
- Outlet covers and plates—Help prevent electrocution with outlet covers and outlet plates, which can help protect children from electrical shock and possible electrocution. Be sure outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children and are large enough so that children cannot choke on them. If you are replacing receptacles, use a tamper-resistant type.
- Carbon monoxide alarms—These alarms specifically alert you to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Install these items near sleeping areas and change their batteries at least once a year.
- Cordless window coverings—The commission recommends using cordless window coverings in homes with young children to help prevent strangulation. Children can wrap window covering cords around their necks or can pull cords that are not clearly visible, but are accessible, and become entangled in the loops. If you have window blinds from 2000 or earlier and you cannot afford new, cordless window coverings, call the Window Covering Safety Council at (800) 506-4636 or visit windowcoverings.org for a free repair kit. In addition, window blinds that have an inner cord (for raising the slats of the blinds) can be pulled by a child and form a potentially deadly loop. Consumers should immediately repair these types of blinds. Please note that these free retrofit kits do not address the dangling pull cord hazard associated with many common window blinds.
- Furniture and appliance anchors—Deaths and injuries occur when children climb onto, fall against, or pull themselves up on television stands, shelves, bookcases, dressers, desks, chests, and ranges so, for added security, anchor these products to the floor or attach them to a wall. Free-standing ranges and stoves should be installed with anti-tip brackets.
- Layers of protection for pools and spas—Pools and spas should be surrounded by safety features including fences with self-closing, self-latching gates. If your house serves as a side of the barrier, doors heading to the pool should have an alarm or the pool should have a power safety cover. Pool alarms can serve as an additional layer of protection. Remember: Sliding glass doors, with locks that must be re-secured after each use, are not an effective barrier to pools.
The good news is that the risk of injury can be reduced or prevented by using child-safety devices and reminding older children in the house to re-secure safety devices after disabling them. Most of these safety devices are easy to find and are relatively inexpensive. You can buy them at hardware stores, baby equipment shops, supermarkets, drug stores, home improvement stores, on the internet, and through mail-order catalogs. Safety devices should be sturdy enough to hinder access and yet easy for you to use. To be effective, they must be properly installed: Follow installation instructions carefully.
However, no device is completely childproof—determined youngsters have been known to overcome or disable them. While these items can and do make a vital difference for children’s safety, there is ultimately no substitute for close and careful parental supervision.
For assistance in installing these devices in your home, and for other around-the-house safety improvement help, contact a professional licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Contractors State License Board; to check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.