The following guidelines for safety in the home are specifically related to the care of children which means baby care. There are other important considerations for general safety which fall outside the scope of this list, but also demand our attention.
The Newborn Baby Care
• Do not use a pillow in your baby’s cot or pram; there is
a risk of suffocation. Remove loose protective plastic bags from mattresses; a tight plastic covering molded to fit cannot lift up and is safe.
• Do not use lacy shawls in which a baby’s fingers could be trapped. Beware of strings on baby bonnets that could tighten round the throat.
• If you leave the pram outside unattended, use a cat net, but remember that this reduces the passage of air and if the pram is in even mild sunlight it can be very hot inside.
• Do not leave a hot water bottle in the baby’s bed after warming it. A leak could cause a scald.
• Test the temperature of bathwater with your elbow to avoid scalding. It should feel pleasantly warm. Get into the habit of putting cold water in the bath first. If you bathe your baby in the kitchen sink, corer the hot tap with a cloth and make absolutely certain it cannot be turned on accidentally. Never leave a baby alone in the bath.
If the phone rings or there is a knock at the door, ignore it, or wrap your baby in a towel and take him or her with you to attend the caller.
• If you smoke, do not light a cigarette or hold one while you are holding your baby. You can easily burn him or her, and anyway the smoke is bad for the child.
• In the car, place your baby in a carry cot secured to the back seat by an approved restraint. Holding your baby on your lap while sitting in the front passenger seat is the most dangerous thing you can do. It is also illegal to have anyone in the front seat who is not wearing a restraint. Putting your own strap around the child is more dangerous than holding a child loose on your lap.
• When buying equipment such as prams, buggies, carry cots and cots, look for a British Standards institute symbol on the label. This is your guarantee that the product is soundly constructed. Use a shopping tray designed for your pram so that the weight is evenly distributed. Do not hang shopping bags from the handles of a buggy – it could easily tip up and throw the baby out.
• Always use a harness in buggies, baby chairs and baby bouncers.
• Ensure the bars on cots and banisters are close enough together to prevent a baby’s head popping between them.
• When buying a second-hand pram or buggy, take special care to ensure that the brakes on both sides work efficiently and that the rings which prevent it from collapsing are sound. Check that old cots have not been painted with paint containing lead.
When your baby start putting things into the mouth, keep out of reach dangerous things such as beads he or she might choke on; a glass with a few drops of alcohol in the bottom, empty plastic pots (like yogurt pots) that crack easily and have sharp edges.
Six months to one year
Your baby is still too young to be left alone in the bath.
* During this period you may have to give up using a pram if yours is very lightweight, as your baby will be able to tip it up once able to sit up. Even in a solidly built pram ii is essential to use a harness to prevent the baby falling out.
* Choose a fairly heavy high chair with a wide base. Always use a harness. To save you transferring the harness from pram to highchair at mealtimes, have one for each piece of equipment.
Once crawling starts, the floor must be cleared of hazards such as dishes of pet food. Any kitchen spills must be mopped up immediately. Central heating radiators and pipes can be very hot to the touch; lower the temperature if necessary. Use a fireguard around open unit fires. It is against the law to leave a child under twelve years old in a room with an unguarded fire.
Increasing, mobility means you cannot put your baby down in one place and expect him or her to stay there. The child can easily roll off a bed or sofa on to the floor. A playpen is invaluable at this stage, even if you only use it for brief periods.
• Use plastic covers for electric sockets not in use. Be very careful about flexes trailing across the floor you may have to dispense with table lamps for a while.
• When your child starts to stand, make sure the furniture is heavy enough to bear his or her weight: tall, thin plant stands, for example, will crash down.
• Install safety gates at the bottom and top of any flights of stairs now. If there are sets of
single steps in a passageway, set an old cushion against them on the lower floor.
* Dispense with tablecloths for the time being he or she could pull cups of scalding tea on to the head. Clear away glass and china ornaments or put them well out of reach.
• It is probably better to do the ironing when your toddler is in bed. A pull on the flex could bring the hot iron down, and the board could trap little fingers. An iron remains dangerously hot for at least half an hour after it has been turned off.
• Keep poisonous substances locked away; not only household chemicals and weed killers, but drugs (which look like sweets), alcohol and cigarettes. Never let a child play with medicine containers, empty or full. Do not transfer dangerous substances to innocents looking bottles. Unused medicines should be returned to your pharmacy or flushed down the lavatory. Accidental poisoning is responsible for increasing numbers of child deaths.
• Teach your child to go up and down stairs safely and to use the handrail. Place stops on windows so that they can only be opened a limited amount. Floor-to-ceiling windows can be invisible to a toddler. To prevent him or her crashing into them, let them get dirty or stick transfers on the glass.
• Be careful with toys: make sure they are well made and will not break up into sharp fragments when thrown around (and they will get thrown around). Do not buy objects so small they could be swallowed or pushed into the ears or nostrils.
• A small child can drown in three inches of water: never leave your toddler alone in the bath, and be careful about shallow garden pools: empty them and use them as a sandpit for a few years or cover with protective netting. Go to mother-and-toddler swimming lessons.
• Keep knitting needles, sewing equipment, scissors and DIY equipment in a safe place.
When walking in a busy street, hold your child’s hand firmly or, better still, use a harness and reins if he or she doesn’t want to be in the push chair. You can now buy wrist bands connected by a brightly colored flexible cord which dive the child a little more independence. Have a BSTI-approved child seat with harness fitted to the back seat of your car.
• Don’t let your toddler play with plastic bags. Dispose of any you don’t need safely and quickly can’t get at them.
You may well not buy any new furniture while your children are still small, but check that none of your existing furniture is made of polyurethane foam this substance gives off highly toxic fumes when alight and causes suffocation in two to three minutes. Get rid of it, and if you buy second-hand upholstered furniture, make sure it is made of horsehair with a spring instruction.
• Store matches out of reach of children.
• Make your kitchen a safe place now your child is a toddler. Fit all floor cupboards with safety catches so that they cannot be opened, and transfer dangerous substances like cleaning materials and bleach to a high shelf. Fit a cooker guard. Use the back burners on the hob whenever possible. Keep out of reach the flexes of small appliances such as the kettle, toaster or food processor. Put knives on a magnetic rack on the wall.
As children assume more responsibility around the home, teach them the safety rules you observe yourself. If you let your ten-year-old make a cup of tea or iron the pillowslips, supervise to start with and again from time to time make sure he or she is being careful.
Safety from strangers
However unlikely it may seem; all children must be protected from the possibility of assault. As they grow, they learn to relate to an ever-wider circle of people. It may see ridiculous to tell a boy or girl not to talk to strangers when you frequently do it yourself: but you can and must tell them not to go with strangers and that you must always know where they are, even if they are going next door to play. If you get separated from your child in a public place, the rule should be for him or her to stay where you were last together, and not to go with anyone who offers to take the child home or anywhere else. You can explain to older children that while most adults are kind to children, a few are not, and that enticement like sweets or a lift home is danger signals. Discuss the devious ways in which some grown-ups may try to entice a child away, such as saying that they had lost a puppy and would the child come and help the stranger to search. Try to make sure that your child is in a group, because there is some safety in numbers.
By the time a child leaves primary school, he or she should know how to use a local police station.
It is essential to teach your child road safety and to be seen to observe the rules yourself.
Never let a child under five out alone. He or she can learn that there is the dividing line between pavement and traffic, but easily forget the danger if attracted something on the other side of road, for example. A child is unable to judge the speed of an oncoming vehicle until the age of ten. You can give training older children to cross road, use a basic route and find spot on the journey which is safety cross. Insist the child always does there. Safe places are pedestal crossings, patrolled crossing, ways or controlled lights, but may not be any of these on the run to school or the corner shop. Explain the dangers of crossing behind a parked vehicle – the child must make him or her alert. Explain that he or she to look both ways twice as were listening for cars, motorbike, bicycles. Teach your child to the speed of traffic (this takes a practice) and to be aware unpredictability of drivers, where a corner without signaling or and the same route as often as is necessary for you to be sure the children safe as you would be yourself.
As time goes on, the lesson learned on this basic route and applied to others, and eventually all roads.