Home safety: Around the house

How to create a child-friendly home

Protecting your baby from falling

Infant having diaper changedBabies' heads are large compared to the rest of their bodies. This affects their balance and makes them more vulnerable to falls. Also, as babies can wiggle, kick and roll, they can fall from high surfaces, such as change tables, cribs, high chairs or counters. Falls can cause serious injuries.

Stay close to your baby. You are your baby's best defence against injury. You can reduce the risk by staying close to them.

Keep one hand on your child while they're on the change table. Your baby can wiggle, kick and roll. This can cause them to fall from high surfaces such as change tables. Make sure to keep one hand on your baby while changing them to prevent them from rolling off the table and falling.

Place car seats, carriers and rockers on the floor. Placing car seats, carriers and rockers on furniture can result in a very serious injury to your child. Because your child can wiggle, kick and roll, they can cause these carriers to move and fall off the furniture.

Bolt safety gates to the wall at the top and bottom of the stairs. Pressure gates can easily become separated from the wall if a baby or toddler pushes on them. Make sure to use gates that come with screws and bolts at the top and bottom of the stairs. 

Place cribs, beds and other furniture away from windows and balconies. Babies are always curious. They have climbed onto window ledges, pushed out window screens, and climbed over balcony railings. Placing furniture away from windows and balcony railings will help reduce the chance of your infant falling. Make sure to install window stops or guards on windows above the second storey. 

Safety gates keep kids safe

In Canada, about 40 per cent of the injuries that involve baby gates involve children younger than one year. Safety gates are used to prevent infants and toddlers from falling down stairs or as a barrier between rooms. There are two types of gates: hardware-mounted gates and pressure-mounted gates. Hardware-mounted gates are secured to door jams or walls with screws and plates. Pressure-mounted gates are held in place by a pressure bar applied to a door frame.

How can gates help reduce the risk of falls to your child?

Child leaning on the baby gateInstall safety gates properly. Gates should always be installed and used according to the manufacturer's instructions. The locking mechanisms should always be placed on the side away from the child. Hardware-mounted gates should be installed at the top and bottom of stairs.

Use the correct gates. Once your child's chin is in line with the top of the gate or when he or she is two years old, the gate is no longer effective. A child may attempt to jump or climb over the gate. Teach children, two years and older, to climb stairs and practise with them until they are able to climb independently. Remind family members and friends to close the gate.

For more information on gates visit Consumer Product Safety, Health Canada or call 1-866-662-0666.

Protect your child from window and balcony falls.

Young children can easily fall from open windows and off balconies. They are curious and don't understand the risks of falling from heights. Falls from windows have caused serious injuries and death.  Window screens are not designed to prevent falls. Screens can easily give way under the weight of a small child.

Here are some safety tips to prevent your child from window and balcony falls:

Keep your young child away from open windows and balcony railings. Always place cribs, beds and other furniture away from windows. Make sure that doors to balconies are kept locked. Furniture or other objects on balconies should be arranged away from railings.

Use window guards and stops on windows above the first floor. Window stops prevent the window from opening more than 10 centimetres (four inches). Window guards are a barrier in front of the window. They are available at local hardware, home renovation or home safety stores. 

If you live in an apartment, landlords may be required to provide window stops or guards. Tenants living in apartment buildings should check with their municipality to see if there is a window safety bylaw. This may mean that a landlord must provide window stops or guards for you.

Window safety devices

Window guards act as a barrier, like a gate, in front of the window and can be found at hardware and specialty stores. They are available with both horizontal and vertical bars. Make sure to purchase window guards that have a release mechanism so they can be fully opened in case of an emergency. Window guards have bars spaced no more than 10 cm (four inches) apart.

Window stops are small devices that prevent a window from opening more than 10 cm (four inches), so that a child cannot fall out. Wide varieties of window stops are available and can be found at hardware stores.

Check your local hardware or home renovation store for window guards and stops. An Internet search will also find online stores that can ship the products to you.

Window blind or curtain cords

Window blind cordsBetween 1989 and 2009, 27 children died and 23 children were injured by becoming entangled in window blind cords, as reported by Health Canada.

Here's how to help reduce the risk to your child

Cut the cords short and tie them out of reach. Young children find window blind or curtain cords interesting and are attracted to them. Cut the cords short and tie them high to help keep blind cords out of reach.

Cribs, beds, high chairs and playpens should not be placed by window blind or curtain cords. Putting your children's furniture at the level of the window, especially at times when they are not constantly supervised, makes it easier for children to reach the window blind or curtain cords.

Use cordless window coverings. Different window coverings, such as drapes without cords or roller blinds, are safer for children. For more information on window blind cord safety, visit the Healthy Canadians website

Locks and latches

Check your locks and latches. Locks and latches need to be changed as your child grows and starts to become more active and better at opening locks.  Latches should be checked periodically, as mechanisms can break down when used often. This is especially true of plastic locks.

Placement of locks and latches. Locks and latches fit more effectively if there is a lip on the underside of the cabinets and drawers to hook on to. If your cabinet does not have a lip, place a lock around the handles on the outside of the cabinet instead. Placing latches on cabinet or furniture drawers also will prevent your child from using the drawers as a means of climbing up onto counter tops and furniture.

Prevent your television from toppling onto your child

Prevent your television from toppling on to your childBetween 1990 and 2007, more than 195 children, ages 0 to 19, were injured each year in Canada due to toppling televisions1, with children between the ages of 2 and 4 at the highest risk for injury. Falling televisions can cause severe neck and head injuries in children, especially toddlers. Televisions are often placed on high furniture, including dressers or are not properly mounted to the wall, making them more likely to tip over if not properly secured. 

Here's how to help reduce the risk to your child

Keep your televisions on low, sturdy furniture. The newer designs of TVs have bigger screens and smaller backs, which makes them heavy in the front and easier to tip over.

Use safety products to secure the television set. Television sets are heavy and hard and if they fall on children, can result in head injuries, broken bones, crushed nerves and internal injuries. Anchors, angle-braces or furniture straps can be used to secure televisions to the wall.

Remind children not to climb on the furniture. Children love to climb and use furniture in creative ways, which can become very dangerous.

Keep your child away from fireplaces. The glass barrier on your fireplace can heat up to over 200°C (400°F). For gas fireplaces this can occur in about six minutes during use. It takes an average of 45 minutes for the gas fireplace to cool to a safe temperature, after the gas fire is switched off.

Place a barrier around your fireplace. Install safety gates around the fireplace or at doorways to the room that has the fireplace. Young children, under five years of age, and especially those under two years, are most at risk. When young children are first beginning to walk, they often fall. Hands and fingers are burned on the glass and metal parts of the door as young children raise their arms to stop their fall. Also, young children are attracted to the flames and want to touch it.

Supervise your child. Never leave a young child alone near a fireplace; they can be burned before, during, and after use of the fireplace.

Teach children about the dangers of fire, and supervise. Teach your child the dangers of fire. However, teaching alone will not prevent your child from an injury. Young children, especially toddlers, can know a safety rule, but will not necessarily follow it. See our scalds and burns section for more detailed information.

Poison prevention tips

Keep all potential poisons locked up and out of reach of children. As your child grows, he becomes increasingly active and can more easily reach and open cabinets. Medicines, cleaning products and other poisons need to be locked in a place high up and out of your child's reach.

  • Keep all potential poisons locked up and out of reach of children.
  • Store poisons in a cabinet that is high up and can be locked using a lock or latch that cannot be opened by a child.
  • Place all medications in a locked box and put it in a place that is high up and out of your child's reach.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Install smoke detectors on every level of the home and in each sleeping areaInstall smoke detectors on every level of the home and in each sleeping area. Smoke detectors save lives. The risk of fire-related deaths is three times higher in homes without smoke detectors than those with smoke detectors. Most children who died in residential fires were in homes without smoke detectors or without working smoke detectors. Alarms should be tested every month and batteries changed each year.

Carbon monoxide detectors can save your child's life. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, toxic gas, produced by sources such as defective appliances, clothes dryers, furnaces or exhaust fumes from cars in garages. Breathing this gas can cause a coma or death. A carbon monoxide detector can alert your family to the presence of the gas in your home. Detectors should be tested monthly and batteries changed each year.

References 

1. Huchcrosft, S.A., McDowan, C.R., Mo, F. (2013). Injuries related to consumer products in Canada - a systematic literature review. Chronic Diseases and Injuries in Canada, 33(3).