Kids Health Info

Safety: Around the home

  • The home is the most common place for young children to be injured. Before they begin school, children often spend the greater part of their day at home and they are curious, adventurous and do not have a full understanding of the consequences of their actions.

    Most injuries are predictable and preventable. It’s important to make the home environment as safe as possible to minimise the likelihood, frequency and severity of injuries.

    Main causes of injury 

    Injuries around the home requiring a visit to hospital are most common in children aged one to two years, with injury rates decreasing with age. Child deaths in the home are most common in children up to four years old.

    The most common causes of injury to young children in the home are falls, poisoning and burns. Jammed fingers, dog bites and near drowning are also risks for young children around the home.

    Common scenarios related to injuries in the home include:

    • Lack of supervision due to poor visual contact between work areas (kitchen, laundry) and play areas (backyard, family room).
    • Falls due to poor lighting, floor surface or tripping hazards.
    • Lack of supervision of children when parents or caregivers are busy or distracted (e.g. on the phone, entertaining, there are a lot of things happening at one time). 

    Preventing injuries at home

    Supervise your child

    Supervision is the most important safety precaution. However, it is understandable that parents and caregivers cannot watch their children every second of every day.

    Have a think about your daily routine. Sometimes there’s a lot going on – especially if you’re dealing with more than one child. At times like these, injuries can happen because supervision is more difficult.

    Consider making life simpler for yourself, for example by serving dinners you have prepared earlier and frozen, or giving your baby the occasional wipe down with a face washer instead of a bath.

    Minimise risks around the home

    Take the time to create a safe home for your child by looking for potential hazards and implementing steps to address any risks.

    • Provide a safe play space for your child, where you can safely leave them alone while you have to attend to something else (e.g. go to the bathroom or check on something cooking).
    • Ensure dangerous items such as medicines, poisons, matches or lighters are locked away.
    • Install barriers to stop access to hazardous areas.
    • Use safety products, such as electrical outlet plugs, cabinet and drawer locks, window stops, window guards and furniture straps and brackets to prevent furniture tip-overs.
    • By law, all homes in Victoria must have smoke alarms installed.
    • Rearrange objects and furniture to improve traffic paths and reduce tripping hazards.

    Kitchen

    Common injuries in the kitchen include poisoning, falls or scalds from hot food, water or other liquids. To avoid injuries, try to keep children out of the kitchen when you are cooking. Some parents may choose to use a playpen at this busy time or a safety gate at the kitchen door.

    It’s also important to educate your child about the dangers in the kitchen, and set rules about what is off-limits for children to touch. 

    Other ways to keep children safe in the kitchen include installing:

    • an oven guard, stove knob covers or a stove guard that fits around the hot plates to avoid burns
    • safety taps or tap covers to reduce the risk of scalds
    • locks or safety latches on cupboards where dangerous items (e.g. knives, dishwashing detergent) are stored. 

    For more information see our fact sheet Safety: Poisoning prevention and Burns – prevention and first aid.

    Bathroom

    The bathroom is a dangerous room in the home for children due to the risk of scalds and drownings. Fall injuries are also common due to the combination of water and slippery surfaces.

    • Always remain within arm’s reach of your baby or child in the bath. Do not leave to answer the phone or attend to visitors, and avoid cooking at bath time.
    • Ensure hot water is delivered to the bathroom at a maximum of 50°C to prevent serious scalds.
    • Install anti-slip products to prevent children from falling in the bath.
    • Keep the door shut or install a safety gate in the doorway to prevent unsupervised access to the bathroom.
    • Avoid the use of fan heaters on the floor.
    • Check the temperature of the water before placing your baby or child in the bath; use your forearm or a thermometer (a comfortable temperature for a baby is between 37–39ºC).
    • Ensure hot water taps are turned off tightly before putting children in the bath.

    For more information, see our fact sheet Safety: Bath time

    Laundry

    To keep children safe and free of injuries in the laundry:

    • Keep the door closed or use a safety gate in the doorway.
    • To avoid the risk of drowning, keep buckets of water off the floor and cover with a lid.
    • Keep cleaning products in a locked cupboard out of reach of children.

    Bedroom

    To ensure a safe sleeping environment for babies, lay them in their own sleeping area without blankets, bumpers or pillows.  Parents can share the same room but not the same bed. Co-sleeping (sharing a sleep surface with your baby) can increase the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and fatal sleep accidents. For more information, see Red nose: safe sleeping.

    For information on furniture in the bedroom, see our fact sheet Safety: Nursery and baby furniture.

    Living/family room

    Provide children with a safe play space in the living area.

    Store toys in a ventilated toy box with holes to avoid suffocation if your child climbs inside, and have a slow closing latch to prevent finger jams. Install finger-jam protectors and door-stoppers to both the hinge side and the opening side of doors to prevent serious finger injuries.

    Be extra careful of remote controls and other devices that may have button batteries. If button batteries are swallowed, they can cause serious injury or death. See our fact sheet Safety: Button batteries.

    Windows

    Windows play a vital role in home safety, ensuring a second way out of a room in an emergency situation, such as a fire. Make sure nothing is blocking or preventing a window from opening in case of emergency.

    However, windows can also pose a risk to young children. To prevent a fall injury from a window:

    • Keep windows closed and locked when children are around.
    • Don’t rely on insect screens to prevent a fall.
    • Arrange furniture and shelves away from windows to prevent children climbing and opening a window. 

    Exercise equipment

    Do not allow young children near home gym equipment such as weights, treadmills and exercise bikes.  Place these items in a separate room or use safety gates to keep children away from these items. Before you purchase a treadmill, research which models provide protective covers to prevent little fingers and hands getting caught. Check that the machine has a safety stop switch to disable it quickly in case of an injury. 

    Key points to remember

    • The home is the most common place for young children to be injured, with falls, burns and poisoning the most common cause of injuries.
    • Supervision is the most important safety precaution.
    • Look for potential hazards around the home and take steps to address any risks, such as using child locks or safety gates.
    • Ensure dangerous items such as medicines, poisons, matches or lighters are locked away.
    • Never reverse in a driveway until you know all children are safe.

    For more information

    Common questions our doctors are asked

    What first aid kit should I purchase?

    It’s not necessary to purchase a first aid kit – you can make one up yourself, but make sure you have all the right bits and pieces in it. See our fact sheet First aid. If you wish to purchase a ready-made first aid kit, choose one made by a reputable provider (e.g. St John Ambulance, Australian Red Cross) and one that is suitable for your needs as they come in a range of sizes. It’s a good idea to have a first aid kit in the car, in the home and a smaller one to take with you as you and your children are out and about.

    Where can I purchase child safety locks and guards, and where should I put them?

    There are many products available in hardware stores, department stores (e.g. Big W, Target, Baby Bunting) and online that help make your home safer for your baby, toddler or child. It’s a good idea to take a look around your home from your child’s perspective – get down low for crawling babies, and look at what a toddler or older child might want to climb on or get to. Make a list and choose products that will help secure, lock, latch or plug the spots you want to make safe.


    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Safety Centre. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Reviewed October 2018.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.

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Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.