There are many hazards that exist in everyday life. Not all accidents can be avoided. The best way to decrease the potential for accidents in your home is to develop a culture of safety in your home. This includes having a system in place that addresses both personal risk and any possible environmental hazards. It is important that you demonstrate a “professional commitment” to safety in all areas of your home to eliminate unnecessary, foreseeable hazards.
To develop a culture of safety, you must first look for hazards in and around your home. This assessment of hazards and risks should be done to identify potential hazards in both the residential environment and the immediate surrounding area(s) to minimize the risk of having an avoidable accident. Every household/family member should be involved in observing and identifying potential hazards in their environment, with an additional focus on the abilities and vulnerabilities of each person within the home. The more eyes you have looking into a problem, the more you are likely to see. This approach benefits everyone in the long run, even if some of your family will grumble about more “housework” to be done.
Hazards in the environment are certainly not limited to, but may include the following:
- Fire-rated doors that have been propped open (building codes requires fire rated doors in certain areas for particular reasons – keeping them propped open diminishes or eliminates their effectiveness!)
- Disabled locks or latches
- Alarms that are non-functional
- Buckled carpets
- Electrical cords on floors
- Irregular walking surfaces
- Improper storage of and access to toxic chemicals
- Exposure to heating unit surfaces
- Unsafe water temperatures
- Furniture that is not appropriate (for example, chairs that are too low or are unsteady may present a fall hazard)
- Lighting that is inadequate or creates glare.
There are many materials in the average home that can pose a potential hazard to family members and/or pets. Toxic materials can be found in the form of solids, liquids, gases, mists, dusts, fumes, and vapors. Both humans and their pets can be exposed to toxic materials by inhaling them, absorbing them through their skin, or ingesting them. Remember though that hazards can change over time. Sometimes it’s a new cleanser brought into the home, or for example, there may be temporary hazards in the home, such as construction, painting, and housekeeping activities, that can affect those who dwell in your home.
The whole point of this is not that it is some sort of comprehensive list of anything and everything that needs to be dealt with in your home. Consider this the “low hanging fruit” that is easy to find and easy to remediate. The important thing is learning to train your eye to see the hazard before an accident happens. It takes time to learn – I’ve been doing these types of assessments in commercial buildings, hotels, health care facilities and residential homes for over a decade now and I still find new hazards because I’m attuned to it in a way I never was before. Something might reveal itself to be hazardous only because it is somehow related to something else you discovered previously to be hazardous. Train your eye to look for these things in your home and soon you’ll be seeing them everywhere you go, whether it’s your office or the shopping mall or during your yearly pilgrimage to Aunt Edna’s for Thanksgiving. It will become second nature if you practice it long enough, just like anything.
In the next article, I will break down different areas of your home base, in order to provide a systematic approach to assessing your environment. While there is no perfect, all-inclusive list that will keep you safe from every possible hazard, there is a method to this madness and it will greatly reduce your personal risk if you take the time to actually get hands-on with it and it all starts with a thorough assessment. For now, look for the low hanging fruit and start training your eye. We’re still developing the preparedness mindset, so we’re going to move slowly and systematically to make sure we cover all the bases.
Stay safe out there!
Thanks for reading,