Keeping your Home safe for Children over the Holidays

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on December 11, 2016

Thousands of Canadians are injured in their own homes every year and in many instances, the accident victims are children.  Of course, there are safeguards that can be taken throughout the year to keep our children safe, but there are additional hazards and safety concerns over the holiday season.  Most accidents within the home are entirely preventable, so we can safeguard against injuries to children by planning for, and eliminating dangers in our homes.

Prevent people from falling in your home, particularly young children and older adults, by doing as follows.
  • Keep the floors clear of clutter, including promptly putting away present wrappings.
  • Install good lighting, particularly in stairwells and hallways
  • Get rid of rugs that may slip
  • Use safety gates to prevent young children from falling down stairs
  • Immediately clean up spills or wet floors, including from wet boots or snow at entranceways

The risk of fires and burns can be heightened over the holidays.  Here are tips for reducing the risk of injury from fire or heat.

  • If you use a space heater, place it out of the areas where children play or sleep and warn your children not to touch the heater.  Also, locate heaters away from any flammable object, such as curtains or furniture.
  • Ensure that young children cannot get close to a gas or wood fireplace that is being used.
  • If young children are in the home, try to use only the back burners on your stove (particularly for cooking liquids).
  • Don’t leave food cooking on the stovetop unattended.
  • Prepare for, and instruct your family on what to do in the event of a fire, including installing smoke alarms on every floor and practicing an escape plan.  Periodically check the battery on your smoke alarm and replace it often.
  • Candles present one of the greatest risks of fire. Never leave lit candles unattended and ensure that candles are not located near a flammable object.
  • Store matches and lighters where they cannot be accessed by children.
  • Always supervise young children if there is a heat source such as a fireplace or wood stove, and keep them well away from these devices.
  • If you have young children in the home, turn down the temperature on your water heater to reduce the risk of scalding.

Holiday decorations may be hazardous for young children.

  • Ensure that your Christmas tree is secure, such that it cannot be pulled over by a young curious child.  Even better is to place your tree out of reach, while you have young children in the home.
  • Ideally, all decorations should be soft and unbreakable, while your children are young. 
  • If you have ornaments or decorations that present any risk to young children in the home, particularly any item that could be swallowed or break (such as glass or metal ornaments), place them out of reach.
  • Only use Christmas lights that are cool to the touch, and don’t attach more than the recommended number of light strings to the same cord.
  • Keep any plants that are poisonous or can cause stomach upset out of reach of children, such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettia

Although today’s toys should adhere to safety standards, some toys are potentially hazardous, especially for younger children, and there are actions that caregivers can take to reduce the risk of injury from toys.

  • Ensure that the toys you purchase for children are age-appropriate so that young children are not exposed to dangers, such as from swallowing small toys intended for older children. Also, make sure that any toys your bring out for visiting children to play with are also age-appropriate.
  • Choose toys that are well made and durable.
  • Check for, and follow any manufacturer’s warnings and suggestions for use.
  • Verify whether any toy being considered for purchase is on a Health Canada list of toy recalls or safety alerts.
  • Periodically check toys to ensure that any potential damage, such as broken parts, doesn’t constitute a safety risk.
  • Promptly clean up toy wrappings and packaging, such as bubble paper, ties and other materials, to eliminate risks of swallowing and asphyxiation

Adequate supervision is one of the most important strategies for keeping children in your home safe.  It is typically more challenging to supervise our children when we’re busy preparing food and entertaining over the holidays, but this is a time when supervision is particularly vital as there are sometimes additional hazards.  It is a good idea to clearly designate who is responsible for watching the children while entertaining visitors, perhaps sharing this duty at different times, so that accidents don’t happen while one person assumes another is keeping watch.   Also, make sure that young children can’t reach or have access to candies and other foods on which they may choke or any that present an allergy danger.

Injury to children can occur in the blink of an eye, and we are responsible not only for own children’s safety, but also for the safety of visitors, including any young children. So, let’s take all the necessary precautions in eliminating dangers over the holidays, and have a safe and happy Christmas season!

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