Household horrors: Fires, falls and other misfortunes

Eliza Buglar

Nov 30, 2021

For many of us, our home is our sanctuary. It’s the last place you expect to find yourself the victim of an accident or injury.

Yet every year, people fall victim to all sorts of mishaps around the home, resulting in damage, injuries and, tragically, even death. For instance, in the US alone, more than 26 million people sought medical help in 2019 for injuries sustained at home.1

But what causes these accidents around the home? Let’s have a look through various statistics to see whether some common features found in our homes could pose a bigger danger than we perhaps realise.

Click on the buttons below to find out the causes of accidents around the house

Many accidents and injuries around the home are potentially preventable if you take the right precautions and follow safety measures. Here are a few home safety tips to help you on your way.

To avoid fires in the kitchen, make sure you never leave your cooking unattended, and turn off the hot plate when you leave the room.13 Keep your cooking area clear of flammable items (like curtains and tea towels) and do not use water on a fat or oil fire; smother these stove-top fires with the pan lid or a fire blanket and turn the hot plate off.

Fires in bedrooms can be caused by faulty electrical appliances, like electric blankets and fans. Always use your electric blanket per the instructions, turn it off before you go to sleep or leave the house, and never use it on a water bed.14 Don’t run extension cords for other electrical appliances under carpets or rugs, and replace any frayed or breaking cables.

Heating equipment (including appliances and fireplaces) can cause fires in living rooms if you’re not careful. Keep flammable materials like clothes and paper at least three feet (one metre) away from the heater and turn off portable heaters before going to bed or leaving your home.15

You should have a fire escape plan for your home and practise it as well.16 Identify ways to get out of each room if the primary path is blocked, and check that your windows aren’t stuck and can be properly opened.

For smoke alarms, make sure to have one on every level of your house (including basements) and replace the batteries whenever necessary;16 the New South Wales Rural Fire Service in Australia recommends changing the battery at least once every 12 months.17 Don’t turn the alarms off while cooking, either!

You can reduce your risk of falls around the home through several means. Fix trip hazards (such as slippery flooring, loose rugs and frayed carpets) and make sure your home has good lighting.18 Get a non-slip mat for your bathroom and consider outfitting your stairs and bathroom with handrails. If you can, make sure your bed and chairs are at a height you can easily get up from.

Gardening injuries can be avoided by taking simple safety precautions. When gardening out in the sun, wear long-sleeved clothing, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.19 You should also wear enclosed shoes, eye protection and long pants when mowing. Regularly check and clean your gardening equipment.

To prevent drowning, install a fence around the entire pool to separate it from the rest of the house and yard, with a gate that’s self-closing and self-latching.20 You should always watch children while they’re in the water, so avoid things like using your phone or reading a book.

Burns and scalds are a big risk in the kitchen, particularly for children. Make sure to turn the handles of pots and pans away from the front of the stove (point them towards the back instead) and keep hot drinks away from surface edges.21 Take your plate to the pot to serve, not the other way around, and avoid carrying hot drinks when children are near or when you’re holding them.

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Sources

  1. National Safety Council: Injury Facts – All preventable injuries, 2019. Accessed January 2021.
  2. FEMA: U.S. Fire Administration – Residential Building Fire Trends: March 2020. Accessed December 2020.
  3. National Fire Protection Association – Home Cooking Fires: July 2020. By Marty Ahrens. Published in a press release November 2020. Accessed December 2020.
  4. Home Office: National Statistics – Detailed analysis of fires attended by fire and rescue services: England, April 2019 to March 2020. Accessed January 2021.
  5. New Zealand Government: Ministry of Health – Publicly funded hospital discharges – 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018. Published October 2020. Accessed December 2020.
  6. Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare – Handbook of Health and Welfare Statistics 2019: Part 1 Population and households. Released March 2019. Accessed December 2019.
  7. Statistics Canada – Table 13-10-0156-01 Deaths, by cause, Chapter XX: External causes of morbidity and mortality (V01 to Y89). Last modified December 2020. Accessed December 2020.
  8. Tracy LM, Rosenblum S, & Gabbe BJ. (2020). Burns Registry of Australia and New Zealand (BRANZ) 2018/19 Annual Report. Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University. Melbourne, Australia. Accessed January 2021.
  9. Australian Bureau of Statistics – Causes of death, Australia. Released October 2020. Accessed December 2020.
  10. Socialstyrelsen – Statistics on Hospitalisations Due to Injuries and Poisonings 2019. Published September 2020. Accessed December 2020.
  11. NHS Digital – Hospital Admitted Patient Care Activity 2019-20. Published September 2020. Accessed December 2020.
  12. Home Office: National Statistics – Detailed analysis of fires attended by FRSs, England, April 2019 to March 2020: data tables. Tables 0603. Published October 2020. Accessed January 2021.
  13. Queensland Government: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services – Kitchen. Last updated October 2016. Accessed December 2020.
  14. Queensland Government: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services – Bedroom. Last updated October 2016. Accessed December 2020.
  15. Queensland Government: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services – Lounge. Last updated October 2016. Accessed December 2020.
  16. Ready.gov – Home fires. Last updated June 2020. Accessed December 2020.
  17. NSW Government: NSW Rural Fire Service – Home fire safety. Accessed January 2021.
  18. Queensland Government – Tips to reduce falls at home. Last updated July 2017. Accessed January 2021.
  19. Victoria State Government: Better Health Channel – Gardening safety. Last updated October 2018. Accessed December 2020.
  20. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Drowning prevention. Last reviewed February 2019. Accessed December 2020.
  21. Victoria State Government: Better Health Channel – Burns and scalds – children. Last updated July 2019. Accessed January 2021.