Disclaimer: This information is general in nature only. While Budget Direct has endeavoured to ensure the information we’ve relied on is accurate and current, we do not guarantee it. Budget Direct accepts no liability for this information.
Most of us like to think of our homes as places of safety and comfort — a refuge from the dangers of the world.
But sometimes our homes can be just as life-threatening as anything Mother Nature throws at us.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, approximately one-quarter of all injuries requiring hospitalisation occur in or around the home.1
From burns and broken bones to cuts and bruises, domestic injuries cover almost the entire gamut of personal injuries.
Despite the prevalence of home-related accidents, some Australians may not be aware of the inherent risks of home life.
We’ve identified nine of the most common risks in and around the home.
Related article: Child safety: Tips to childproof your home
Accidental falls are the leading cause of injuries requiring hospitalisation in Australia.2
And while a large percentage of falls involve young children and the elderly, they are a risk for teens and younger adults as well.
Many accidental falls occur as a result of insufficient lighting (especially near stairs).
Bathrooms and toilets are also high-risk areas, due to the likelihood of water collecting on smooth surfaces and making them slippery.
Rugs that are not properly secured to the ground have also been known to cause falls.
Unsecured windows and balconies are also a danger, especially for young children.
Even wearing socks around the house—as opposed to going barefoot or wearing rubber-soled shoes—can result in a slip and fall.
Perhaps the most overlooked cause of falls is clutter. Be sure to pick up any loose objects from high-traffic areas, where someone might stumble over them.
Home fires account for approximately 94 per cent of all fire-related deaths.
Up to 50 per cent of home-fire fatalities appear to be linked to a lack of working smoke alarms and well-rehearsed home fire escape plans.
Other factors can play a role too. For example, flammable clutter, such as boxes and papers, can cause fires to quickly spread through the home.
They can also block escape routes — particularly when smoke makes it difficult to see clearly.
Homeowners with improperly maintained chimneys, furnaces, and fireplaces also run the risk of a house fire. Be sure to hire a professional to inspect your heating systems regularly.
Kitchens are also a high-risk zone, with unattended cooking a major cause of fires in the home.
Lastly, electrical systems and appliances that are not inspected regularly can lead to electrical fires.
Faulty plug sockets, loose-fitting plugs, outdated appliances, incorrect light-bulb wattages, and old and frayed wiring are all potential hazards.
Related article: How to prepare a home emergency evacuation plan
Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of fire-related fatalities in Australia.
However, asphyxiation—specifically inert gas asphyxiation—can occur even when no smoke is present. Perhaps the most dangerous gas for homeowners is carbon monoxide (CO).
CO is a natural by-product of the burning of fossil fuels, and is completely invisible, odourless, and flavourless — making it difficult to detect without the right equipment.
When someone breathes in too much CO, they quickly succumb to dizziness, followed by unconsciousness.
If left in a CO rich environment, they will quickly asphyxiate and die. CO detectors placed around the home are an inexpensive way to minimise this risk.
Children are the most common victims of airway obstruction injuries, such as choking and strangulation.
These can be caused by things like foods, small toys, and blind cords.
Be careful when preparing solid food for your child and make sure any potential choking or strangulation hazards are kept out of reach.
While they’re less susceptible, older people can also choke on foods, especially dry or chewy ones.
Be warned: The consumption of alcohol can increase the risk of choking.
5. Water-related injuries
Unfenced pools and lack of supervision significantly increase the risk pools pose to children.
Children under five years of age are most at risk of drowning in a home pool.3 Fifty per cent of child drowning deaths occur at home.4
Pools are not the only water-related hazards in or around the home.
Bathtubs and even toilets can be drowning hazards, which is why it’s important to keep young children under constant supervision.
Another danger is electrocution associated with using electronic devices while in the bath or shower.
Among of the most common injuries sustained in the home are cuts and scrapes.
The cause of many of these injuries are kitchen knives.
Dull knives are often more dangerous than sharp knives. That’s because dull knives require more force to cut and are thus more likely to slip and cause deep wounds.
Tin cans can also be hazardous once opened, which is why they should be quickly disposed of.
It goes without saying that you should handle glass carefully, especially broken glass.
To clean up broken glass on tiles, first use a broom to collect the large shards. Then gently wipe the area with a damp paper towel to collect any small pieces remaining.
In carpeted areas, use a vacuum cleaner. Continue to pass over the area until you can no longer hear any pieces being sucked up.
Protruding nails and screws are another cause of cuts and scrapes; make them safe or remove them.
And sand any hardwood surfaces to reduce the risk of splinters.
7. Crushing injuries
Each year approximately 300 children are hospitalised due to injuries caused by falling televisions.
Televisions, bookcases, and other appliances and furniture prone to tipping should be secured to nearby walls or have anti-tip brackets or straps installed.
Of course, nothing reduces the risk further than keeping an eye on the little ones, especially those who love ‘mountaineering’.
Unsurprisingly, children are at greatest risk of being accidentally poisoned at home.
Keep toxic substances like cleaning products, garden chemicals, medications, etc. locked up or out of reach of curious children.
Adults who fail to read warning labels may also be at risk. Keep the telephone number of the Poison Information Centre (13 11 26) in a visible place.
For people who suffer from allergies, mould can be a real danger in the home.
Mould can irritate noses, throats, eyes and skin and, in immunosuppressed people, lead to serious lung infections.
The most common causes of mould (and mildew) are high humidity, condensation and water leaks.
If a home’s humidity levels are above 60 per cent, the likelihood of mould developing increases significantly. (You may wish to invest in a home humidity meter.)
Certain areas — such as bathrooms, toilets, door- and window-frames — are more prone to mould infestations than others.
You can help prevent mould by reducing the moisture or humidity levels in your home (e.g. by fixing leaky pipes, dehumidifying the air).
By being aware of the hazards in your home and addressing them before they cause harm, you can make your home the safe haven it’s meant to be.
3. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Previousproducts/1301.0Feature%20Article152006?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=1301.0&issue=2006&num=&view=