Home Safety and Health

How to prevent accidents and avoid health problems in the home

About half of all serious accidents take place in the home. Each year in the UK an estimated 4,000 people are killed and about 2.7 million injured due to accidents in their homes.

People over the age of 75 and children under the age of 5 have the highest rates of accidents in the home needing medical treatment.

Preventing falls

About 4 in 10 of all injuries that occur in the home are the result of falls. Elderly people are especially vulnerable. To prevent falls in the home, make sure that the lighting in your house is adequate, that floor coverings are secure, that no objects are left on the stairs, and that safety rails are installed in the bathroom.

If you have a baby or a toddler, you can reduce the risk of falls by installing a stair gate, which restricts the child’s access to stairways.

Avoiding poisoning

Poisoning causes a significant proportion of injuries that take place in the home. The poisons responsible include prescription and over-the-counter drugs, household cleaning materials, gases such as carbon monoxide, and lead. Since children are particularly at risk of poisoning, all drugs, cleaning materials, and other household chemicals should be kept out of their reach.

Carbon monoxide

To prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide, have chimneys and flues checked, and heating systems and gas appliances inspected, yearly. For extra protection you should also fit carbon monoxide alarms, available in DIY shops.


Lead pipes should be replaced with copper or plastic pipes. Any lead-based paint in your house should be removed by professional contractors. If you have any children’s toys made before 1980, make sure that the toys are not coated with lead-based paint.

Preventing fires

Fire is one of the greatest hazards in the home. If you have an open fire, put a fire guard in front of it, and have both the fireplace and the chimney swept regularly. If you smoke, extinguish smoking materials carefully after use. When cooking, take care if using hot oil, and never leave frying pans or deep-fat fryers unattended. Keep a fire blanket or extinguisher in the kitchen. Teach children never to play with matches. To prevent electrical fires, take care not to overload sockets with adapters. Keep highly flammable materials locked away. In addition, have smoke detectors installed in case a fire does break out.

Monitoring air pollution in and around the home

Causes of air pollution in the home include tobacco smoke and house dust. Outside the home, sources of air pollution include industrial plants and various types of vehicle, particularly cars, buses, and lorries. If you are concerned about air pollution near your home, contact your local authority. Nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and ozone from motor vehicles irritate the airways and aggravate the symptoms of respiratory diseases. The fine particles from diesel exhaust can also irritate the airways, and some have caused cancer in laboratory animals.

Other possible sources of pollution include older refrigerators and freezers that use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and, in some areas of the UK, radon from granite rock, which can damage the lungs if inhaled in large amounts.

Health Action: Food Hygiene

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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