7 Most common serious accidents in the home and how to avoid them.

Although we all like to think of our homes as sanctuaries of comfort and security, the typical Kenyan house harbours some significant safety risks. Fatal accidents within the home are a leading cause of death in the country. No matter how much we strive to make our domestic environment as safe as possible, accidents at home can still happen - even in the most conscientious of households.

Causes of accidental death can be difficult to gather information on, as studies may categorise deaths differently. However, the following are usually cited as the most common causes of fatal accidents in homes:

1. Falls.

Fall injuries are a bigger risk than many people realise. Falls account for more than a third of all fatal injuries. Small children, elderly people, and people with underlying health conditions are very vulnerable to these accidents.

Ladders, step stools, stairs, shower stalls and chairs are just some of ways people fall in their home. Irregularities like uneven flooring, poorly installed doors and door jams, and loose hardwood or tile can also contribute to unintentional fall-related accidents. 

One greatest potential area for falls are the bathrooms. If one falls in the tub or the shower, they are falling onto such a hard surface which results in a more severe injury. Although there are all sorts of ways to reduce this risk, households should install grab bars in their bathtubs and showers.

Every household should take steps to prevent such accidents around your house by eliminating obstacles and hazards that increase the risks of tripping, skidding, or stumbling. It is advisable to always supervise children as they are more prone to falling from their naturally adventurous nature.

2. Poisonings.

It is the second-leading cause of accidental home injury deaths especially for children under 6 years. Majority of these victims are children exposed to dangerous household cleaners or other toxins. Adult victims have usually accidentally overdosed on prescription or illegal drugs.

More than 2/3 of homes with young children report storing household chemicals in unlocked places. Potentially poisonous substances such as ant spray, rodent repellant, antifreeze or bleach should be always stored in a secured cabinet. While one can install a lock, basic spring action levers installed on the top of any cabinet door is also a great deterrent for households with children.

3. Fire and burns.

Home fires and burns claim more than a 1,000 lives a year, making it the third-leading cause of accidental home injury deaths.

All fires and heaters should be well-guarded, especially from open fires. Portable heaters and candles should also be kept away from furniture and curtains.

Many fires start in the kitchen, especially fat fires. Never leave the kitchen unattended. If there are children around, keep matches and lighters well out of reach. Do not smoke in bed nor dry or air clothes over or near the fire, or the cooker.

Households are advised is to have plenty of fire drills and if possible, anyone building a new home should have fire sprinklers installed in the house.

4. Cuts.

Any cut means that there will be some blood, and this can be one of the most difficult things involved in first aid for children.

Broken glass and sharp objects left idling in the compound can cause serious cuts. One should also make sure that all material used in furniture or fittings conform to safety standards especially if you have a young family.

In case of a cut, one is advised to apply pressure to stop the bleeding and apply an antiseptic to the area. Assessing the situation is important, but (generally speaking) if the blood stops following pressure, it is likely to be a minor cut that will not need stitches.

5. Drowning.

Drowning is the fifth-most leading cause of household deaths each year. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to water-related household accidents and should be closely monitored around any standing water.

Households with a backyard pool, a bathtub, pond or spa should install at least a 4-foot high fence around it. They should never allow a child to be unsupervised even if the fence is installed. It is also advisable to always be within arm’s reach of a small child when enjoying the pool area.

A child should never be left in a bathtub alone. Likewise, all karais and buckets holding water should be placed where the child cannot access them. Children can drown in as little as 1 inch of water, so under no circumstance should anyone leave the child unattended if they are exposed to any of these dangers – your child’s life may depend on it.

6. Electrical accidents.

Many accidents and fatalities involve electricity - it must be treated with respect.

All wiring installation should checked at least once every five years by an approved contractor, or straightaway if you are entering an older property.

Other safety measures include;  not using appliances with worn or damaged flexes, never overload an electric socket and having appliances that appear faulty checked at once before using them.
Portable mains-operated appliances should be kept out of the bathroom. People who use electric blankets should have them serviced and checked regularly.

Always look for the CE mark when buying any electrical equipment.

7. Airway obstruction and Choking.

Choking, suffocation, and strangulation claims thousands of lives every year and is a particular concern for young children. In fact, many deaths that had originally been attributed to sudden infant death syndrome have since been reclassified as airway-obstruction fatalities.

Many of these deaths are actually [due to] suffocation because of an unsafe sleep environment. Either there is a lot of stuff in the crib or maybe blankets or stuffed animals, [which] can cover the baby's airway passages.

To create a safe sleep environment, the crib should be virtually empty, except for the baby who should be put to sleep on his or her back. Parents of older children need to be on the lookout for smaller items like coins or toys that can clog up air passageways if swallowed.

If an object is small enough to fit through a toilet paper roll, it's a danger to a small child. Unfortunately, things are kind of left on the floor, maybe under the sofa cushions, or it could be a coin or an older child's Legos.

Parting shot….

When it comes to home injuries, the old saying really does ring true: ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Common sense about safety, keen supervision of children, and a hands-on approach to injury prevention can help protect your loved ones from the common causes of household accidents.
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