We all want to feel safe and sound in the comfort of our homes, but many people would be surprised to learn that the typical household is the place where most preventable injuries occur. This is because we spend more time there than anywhere else. While we do our best to make our homes safe, injuries do occur – especially to children and the elderly. The United States Center for Disease Control and other organizations utilize data collection on reported home accidents and offer advice for preventing such accidents.
Preventing the Injuries of Children
“Every day in the United States, two dozen children die from an injury that was not intended.” This is how The National Action Plan for Child Injury Prevention by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), written in 2012, begins. A 2015 report by Safe Kids Worldwide supports that claim: In 2013, “7,600 children ages 19 and under died from unintentional injuries.” Safe Kids reports that six children die each day (over 2,200 each year) from accidents in the home. And the home is where children spend most of their time.
Collecting data on injuries and accidents can be a difficult undertaking, but the information can be used to influence changes to the home environment based on the age of the children in the house to try to prevent accidents. There are very simple measures that can be taken to protect children from serious injury or death in the home. This has been taken to consideration by many households already, with a 60% decline in the death rate of children by accident from 1987 to 2013 (Safe Kids, 2015). In the home, such actions as storing medicines and chemicals out of the reach of children and installing smoke detectors have contributed to this decline. In addition, the use of car seats and safety belts have saved tens of thousands of children’s lives in relation to automobiles.
Safe Kids reported that 819 infants under age 1 suffocated or strangulated in bed in 2013. These deaths are easily preventable by removing blankets, bumpers, and stuffed animals from the beds. Parents.com reports that 4,000 children are injured each year from falling out of windows, which can easily be prevented by utilizing window guards and locks.
Most Dangerous Places in the Home
More non-fatal injuries, particularly to young children who are unsteady on their feet, are caused by falls than any other means. Nearly 2,000,000 emergency room visits are made because of falls. Of these, Safe Kids reports, 93,000 visits are by children under age 5 who fell down stairs. These injuries can be prevented by the use of safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs.
The kitchen is the most dangerous place in a home. With hot cooking surfaces and foods, chemicals and medicines, knives and the potential for fire, in particular with gas stoves, parents must take precautions against injury to their children. A study reported by Safe Kids found that there were five emergency room visits every hour because of burns in the kitchen (p. 9). Supervising children in the kitchen is the best way to prevent injury, but removing and locking up chemicals, installing drawer locks and putting medicines in high, locked cabinets are further preventive measures that can be taken.
The living room is also a big accident zone. Nearly 19,000 injuries occur from falls off of furniture and from items on shelves, such as televisions, falling onto children. While supervision is the number one preventive measure, securing items to the walls is the best way to prevent injury. For top-heavy pieces of furniture, parents can use wall mounts and straps to secure them.
The costs – financial, physical and emotional – of children’s injuries and deaths is enormous. While danger can never be totally eliminated, parents’ actions and vigilance can reduce accidents to their children.
Data collection has helped protect the lives of many inside and outside of homes. If you are interested in learning more about data collection, you may want to consider pursuing a degree in data science.