Safety in the Home – Especially for Children

Safety in the Home – Especially for Children

Parents of young children worry endlessly about safety and how to protect them from “everything” — from ill-intentioned strangers to random bullets and stray dogs — but as Home Inspectors, we can’t overlook one of the biggest threats to a child’s safety and well-being: their own home.

Experts say children ages 1 to 4 are more likely to be injured by falls, burns, drowning, choking, cuts and /or poisoning than by any “stranger”.

Children are curious by nature; they will explore and plunder at any given opportunity.  Parents want to ensure that there are no hidden (or obvious) dangers in their homes.   As Home Inspectors, we make it part of our mission to educate parents about particular dangers to children.  We should look at each room from a child’s eye-level.

This article outlines some major areas that are considered danger zones for children.  There are more hazards in a home than those mentioned here.

Alert: Your house number must be clearly seen from the road, even on a rainy night, for emergency personnel to find you easily, when the need arises.

Stairs and railings – inside and out
Stairs are one of the most dangerous places in a home for anyone.  More than 2.3 million children ages 14 and younger were treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries in North America annually.  More than half of those were children under the age of 5.

Stairs may also be a challenge for the elderly and people with mobility issues – especially if handrails are not properly installed and maintained.

Deadly stairs
The most common deficiencies seen are open risers, improperly-spaced balusters and missing or improperly installed handrails (as per the above photo).

 Smoke alarms
Current standards require inter-connected and hard-wired smoke detectors on every level of the house, in hallways in the vicinity of sleeping rooms, if not inside every sleeping room.  Because smoke alarms provide such an important safety function, they are mandated for all homes – no matter the age.

smoke detector of fire alarm in action

A working smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a fire in half.  Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years. Talk to your family about a safety fire-escape plan, including children.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Because CO kills hundreds of people each year and injures thousands, a working carbon monoxide detector on every floor of a home, is recommended, especially near all bedrooms.  A CO detector should be located within 10 feet of each bedroom door and there should be one near or over any attached garage, but not in the garage.  Each detector should be replaced every 5 years.

The importance of smoke alarms and CO detectors cannot be overstated.

Emergency egress
Smoke alarms can’t save a child or anyone else, who cannot escape the home.  If windows are sticking or even worse, windows bolted closed or sealed-off, there is no escape that way.  When there’s a fire, people are known to panic and emergency egress needs to be simple and without any special effort.  Far too many existing homes have inoperable windows, which suggests homeowners don’t know or consider this to be such a danger.  Certainly, minimum window sizing for bedrooms and basements should be maintained for egress of occupants or ingress by emergency personnel. See window safety

Think about the need for escape ladders for children (& others) who might get trapped in 2nd and 3rd storey bedrooms.  Proper education for their use is essential and emphasised it is not a plaything.
But what about interior doors?  The possibility of getting trapped in bedrooms with an interior door that sticks or has defective hardware could also trap a child or anyone else during a fire.  Obviously, it is the same for exterior doors.

Ensure there are sprinklers installed in every room, if possible.

Anti-scald devices and hot water temperature…
According to scalds are the number 1 cause of burning for small children.

Elderly residents are also at risk of scalding.

 Potentially Dangerous Household Products

Children swallowed poisonous products that were not stored properly or were taken out of their original container, such as bleaches, paint thinners, ammonia, and abrasive cleaners. Even a small amount of a chemical product can be harmful to a child. Bad taste and odours do not keep children away from chemical products.

Chemical products can be poisonous, flammable, corrosive, and even explosive.

If you suspect your child has swallowed a dangerous product: Contact your Provincial Poison Centre by telephone immediately. 1 800-567-8911.                                                          If the victim is unconscious, not breathing or having a seizure, call 911.  Please have available the name of the product, amount taken, and the time of the incident.

Anti-tip brackets
Lawsuits involving stove tip-overs have made the news for years; anti-tip brackets are often installed incorrectly or not at all, despite every range being shipped with such hardware.                                                                                                                                            Anti –tip brackets may be necessary for other items like bookcases and other similar pieces of furniture.

The Safe Kids Campaign reports that more than 2,400 children die in home-related injuries. About 2 million children are hurt in home-related injuries each year.  Many of these accidents can be easily prevented and that’s where we can help.  As committed professionals, we can advocate for safer homes for the little ones in our world.

SAFERhome Standards Society

The Team of Home and Building Specialists


“Uncovering Tomorrow’s Surprises, TODAY !”



About Glenn Duxbury

Duxbury & Associates Building Inspection and Consulting Ltd. has received the 2004 Douglas College Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the ‘Consulting’ category for persistence and pursuit of excellent service delivery to clients by providing very thorough and professional Inspection Reports and dedication to those involved in buying / selling / building / renovating and maintaining uncompromised customer focus.