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Danger Zone: Safety Tips For Your Home And Office

In June 2007, the results of a National Safety Council (NSC) injury report sent shivers up the spines of public health officials.


Deaths and injuries from poisonings, falls and other accidents were on the rise, the organization warned. And although such accidents are highly preventable, a second NSC study—published in October 2007—showed that nearly one-third of Americans don’t believe anything can be done to stop them.


The numbers are staggering. According to the U.S. Home Safety Council, about 20,000 people die and 21 million medical visits are made annually as a result of home accidents.


Workplaces can be dangerous too: 5,400 employees died from a work-related injury in 2007 alone, and more than 4 million workers had a nonfatal injury or illness, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.


Fortunately, prevention isn’t complicated or expensive. This report will give you the tools to protect yourself, your family and your employees.


Slips And Falls

Falls are responsible for more than 5 million injuries annually—resulting in more emergency room visits than any other cause.


You can prevent most falls by observing a few simple rules. Some apply to your home, some to your office and some to both locations.


  • Make sure rooms, pathways, stairways and storage facilities are well lit. Add night lights to dark areas. Keep flashlights and extra batteries handy for power outages.
  • Practice good housekeeping: keep papers, boxes, pencils, toys and other loose items off the floor.
  • Clean up spills immediately. In an office setting, put up a wet floor sign or cone after mopping.
  • Install grab bars in bathrooms as needed. More falls occur in the bathroom than anywhere else. Put a nonskid bathmat in the tub and make sure all bath rugs have a nonskid backing.
  • Replace or repair worn, slick or uneven flooring. Remove torn or wrinkled carpeting.
  • Use nonskid pads under loose rugs or floor mats.
  • Keep cords and cables out of pathways; tape down loose cords.
  • If you have young children at home, install gates to keep them off the stairs.
  • Don’t let pets sleep in high-traffic areas where someone could trip over them.
  • Wear shoes or slippers with nonskid soles; it’s easy to slip in stocking feet.
  • Install railings by the steps leading in and out of the house.
  • Practice ladder safety. Make sure ladders are sturdy and in good condition. Use them only on stable surfaces. If possible, use ladders while someone else is present. Have your buddy steady the base.



Children are at greatest risk of being poisoned. To protect them, place household chemicals and medicines in cabinets well out of a child’s reach, and use child-proof locks.


Keep all toxic chemicals and medicines in their original child-resistant packaging.


Never leave a child unattended with household chemicals. Most poisonings occur while such products are in use. If you must go to the door or the telephone, take the youngster with you.


Use household chemicals according to their label directions and never combine them. Mixing cleaning agents—for example, combining a product that contains bleach with one that includes ammonia—can create deadly chlorine gas.


Carbon monoxide is the No. 1 cause of accidental poisoning fatalities in the U.S. If you have a fireplace, a gas water heater or a gas heating system, install a carbon monoxide detector within 10 feet of every bedroom. Change the batteries twice a year. And learn the signs of early carbon monoxide poisoning: flu-like symptoms such as headache, nausea and fatigue.


Burns, Fires And Electric Shock

Keep fire extinguishers handy—in the kitchen as well as near fireplaces and wood stoves.


Extinguishers are rated according to the type of fires they can quench:

  • A for wood, paper and plastic
  • B for flammable liquids
  • C for electrical

An ABC extinguisher is good for all-round use in homes and offices.


Don’t leave cooking pots unattended, especially when you’re deep frying. If a fire starts on the cook top, smother it by putting a lid on the pan or applying baking soda. If these don’t work, use your fire extinguisher.


Never leave little ones alone in the kitchen where they could pull over a hot pot, grab a knife or get hold of other dangerous tools.


To prevent scalding—a common household burn—reduce the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.


Each year, have a professional service your gas or electric furnace. Have chimneys and fireplaces checked annually and cleaned if needed.


Use extreme caution with portable heaters. Never run them while you’re not at home. Keep them far away from furniture, curtains, clothing and other flammable objects. Do not leave children alone with a portable heater.


Install smoke detectors in hallways and bedrooms on each level of your home, including the basement. Test the batteries every month, and change them twice a year—when the time changes in spring and fall.


Plan escape routes from each room in case of fire and pick a safe spot outside where everyone can meet. Teach all family members or employees the routes and designated safe zone. Once or twice a year, have a fire drill to make sure everyone is clear on the plan.


If your home doesn’t have ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), get them installed. GFCIs can prevent burns and electric shock injuries. Building codes now require them for outdoor receptacles, outlets in garage walls and crawl spaces, and receptacles in kitchens and bathrooms.


Take a look at electrical outlets to make sure they’re not overloaded with computer and other electronic equipment. Check power and extension cords periodically for cuts or signs of fraying. Replace any that are worn or damaged.


Drowning, Suffocating And Choking

Babies and small children are at greatest risk. The best protection is vigilance: never leaving little ones unattended where they could get into trouble.


Choking hazards for children include plastic bags, balloons and toys with small parts that can be swallowed. Babies can also suffocate in soft bedding or pillows.


Cords and cables—including the cords of windows blinds and exercise machines—pose extreme dangers, as shown by the tragic death of boxer Mike Tyson’s 4-year-old daughter. In May 2009, Exodus Tyson got her head caught in the cord from a treadmill and was choked to death.


More than one-third of choking or suffocation deaths are caused by foods such as hot dogs, carrots, grapes, gel candies and nuts that can become stuck in a child’s windpipe. Doctors recommend avoiding gel candies altogether and cutting other foods into small pieces.


A child can drown in 2 inches of water. Always stay with your child when she’s in the tub. Never leave buckets of water or cleaning supplies out where children could fall in. If you have toddlers, put a safety lock on toilets.


Empty wading pools after use. If you have an in-ground or above-ground pool, it should be securely gated and locked when not in use. Never leave youngsters in or around the pool alone.


Lifesaving Skills And Equipment

Start by having a comprehensive first-aid kit for your home and workplace. The Red Cross sells both kinds through its online store (


Local chapters of the Red Cross also teach courses in:

  • First aid
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • How to use an automated external defibrillator
  • Water safety
  • And more


Visit to find your chapter and sign up for courses.


Know the phone numbers for emergency services and the local poison-control center. Program them into your phone or keep a list on the wall by all land lines.


Preventing Disaster In The Workplace

The following tips can help protect you, your staffers and potentially any customers who visit your facility:


  • Slip and fall accidents are the most common source of workplace injury. Be vigilant about maintaining safe, clean, dry floors and eliminating all clutter. Add lighting to dimly lit areas.
  • Reduce the risk of office fires by making your space a no-smoking zone.
  • Keep computer and other equipment cords and cables out of pathways; tape down loose cords.
  • Make sure printers, shredders and other electrical equipment are turned off and unplugged before you attempt to fix a jam or make other repairs.
  • Designate fire escape routes for every part of the building. If you have an employee with a physical handicap, the escape strategy should include plans for assisting him or her. Conduct a fire drill twice a year.
  • Send one or two employees to the Red Cross’s safety courses ( so that there’s always someone on duty who can perform CPR and other lifesaving skills.
  • Prevent injuries caused by lifting, carrying and otherwise handling objects. Encourage workers to use carts to move heavy objects and to work in teams when possible. Teach safe lifting practices, using the legs, not the back.
  • If employees drive on the job, reduce the risk of accidents by enforcing strict bans on using cell phones while on the road and consuming alcohol before driving.


Put accident prevention rules in writing. Ask everyone to read and initial a copy.


Encourage a culture of cooperation so every staffer responds to improve unsafe conditions, rather than saying “it’s not my job.” Ask employees to help you monitor the building and invite them to make safety recommendations.


You can get help with workplace safety and training from the Red Cross. Go to for these and other resources:

  • Emergency preparedness kits and supplies
  • First aid kits and supplies
  • First aid and CPR training materials
  • Health and safety training materials


For More Information

Get more safety help for your home and office by visiting these Web sites.


Institute for Safety and Health Management



National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health


Home Safety Council

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