“Be vigilant.” Sounds like the motto for a local law enforcement agency. But there’s no better phrase to capture the urgency and importance of your responsibility of keeping your home a safe place, especially if you have young children.
Here is a list of the 10 biggest safety hazards you should watch for in and around your home:
1. Kitchen Stove
Your kitchen stove is a big potential safety hazard. The stove itself is a burn risk, but when you’re cooking it can be even more dangerous. An unattended pot of boiling water intrigues your toddler, and a pot handle sticking out from the stove looks to your child like a convenient handlebar for climbing up and taking a closer look. Additionally, if you have a gas range, a child who plays with the gas flow control knobs can create the equivalent to a dangerous gas leak. Solutions? Use back burners as much as possible and always keep pot handles turned in. For the gas knobs, just remove them when you’re not using the stove. They usually pop right off.
How dangerous can a dishwasher be? The safety problem with your dishwasher isn’t the appliance itself, but rather what’s inside. An unlatched dishwasher can be easily opened by a toddler, and where are those sharp knives located? In the utensil rack—the easiest place for your child to reach in the dishwasher. You basically have two options for keeping your dishwasher safe: keep it empty or keep it securely latched.
3. The Dog
Man’s best friend can be a child’s worst enemy. Little children don’t understand—they walk up to the dog, grab a handful of fur, and yank as hard as they can! They don’t know any better, and you can guarantee this is going to happen at least a few times. If the dog isn’t very patient, it might snap at your child or even worse. The best way to avoid this is to acclimate your dog as a puppy to young children. Older dogs who aren’t used to being around children are less tolerant of change. The old adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” applies here. Older dogs who aren’t used to young children are less inclined to adapt. In a worst case scenario, your only choice may be to re-home your dog.
4. Water Heater Temperature
Many people don’t realize you can change the temperature of your water heater. If it’s set too high, anyone who uses a faucet can be badly scalded. What if your child is in the tub and inadvertently turns on the hot water? The hotter you set your water heater, the worse your child could be burned.
Unfortunately, the solution isn’t as simple as just turning down the temperature. High temperatures help prevent bacteria from growing. If you lower your heater’s temperature, some bacteria such as those that cause Legionnaire’s disease can grow in your hot water tank.
OSHA recommends if you or those who live in your home are susceptible to this disease that you keep your water heater set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are not as susceptible—especially if you have young children or elderly in your home who are at a higher risk of being scalded—you may want to lower the temperature. To address both sides of this dilemma, one study recommends that you set your hot water heater at 140 degrees but install anti-scalding devices that ensure water dispensed at the tap never exceeds 120 degrees.
In addition to risks of scalding, a water heater that is set too high can result in dangerously high pressure. Even though all water heaters sold today require safety release valves, a malfunction in that valve could result in an explosion.
5. Unprotected Pool
If you have a pool and you have children, you absolutely must make sure that it is secure and inaccessible unless you are right there. Kids absolutely love playing in the water, and an open pool is an invitation to a young child to come play. You can be distracted or pulled away at any given time, and even a solitary inattentive moment can lead to disaster. Make sure your pool is protected so the kids can’t get in without you there. The lack of barriers is the 2nd factor listed by the CDC for child risk of drowning.
6. Cleaners and Chemicals
Kids love putting things in their mouths. House cleaners and other chemicals are a serious risk for poison. Many are caustic even if they come in contact with skin. We like to keep our household cleaners handy—under sinks, in broom closets, perhaps even left out on the counter or table after we’ve finished cleaning. The one thing you can count on if you leave these chemicals accessible is that your child will get into them. Always put them away in a safe place when you are finished using them, and, if you store them within reach of a child such as under the sink, make sure they are secured with child safety locks. Keep the number of your nearest poison control center in a handy place in case your child ever ingests any of these chemicals.
7. The “Junk Pile”
Kids love climbing around and sorting through the backyard junk pile. To them, it’s a great place for an imaginary treasure hunt. The junk pile can be a safety hazard in a number of ways. It’s prone to be a nesting ground for spiders and other critters. You can be sure that old wood will lead to big slivers. Rusty old metal scraps or even broken glass can result in serious cuts. It’s best to haul away old junk as soon as possible, but if you have to store anything for a while, keep it in an inaccessible place, behind a locked fence or in a secure shed.
8. Open Windows
Open windows are a fall hazard. A child might lean against the screen thinking he’s safe. If the screen pops loose, the child can fall out the window. Modern windows have safety latches for a reason: when you’re not around, keep the windows securely latched, especially for those that are easy for your child to climb up to.
9. Fire Hazards
Keep fire hazards locked away in secure places, and make sure they are properly stored. One obvious example is the gas can for your lawn mower, but don’t forget about other flammable materials such as lighter fluid, kerosene, and paint thinner. Matches and lighters need to be kept up high, out of the reach of children at all times.
10. Backyard Grill
The hazards associated with your backyard grill are almost identical to your kitchen stove, except your grill is probably far less supervised. If you have a gas grill, make sure all the valves are shut off, including the master valve on the propane tank. When the grill is unsupervised, disconnect the propane and move it to a secure location like a locked garden shed.
Nicole has been writing about home safety and security for years, including everything from surpirsing home safety hazards to the best options for home fencing.