Staying safe around the home

Accidents are more likely to happen at home than anywhere else. The following questions will allow you to check the safety of your home.

General safety

Do you smoke?

If you smoke you should ensure each cigarette is properly put out. Also, you should use deep ashtrays. You should never smoke in bed.

Have you got a smoke alarm fitted on every floor?

You should test your smoke alarm frequently, and ensure it is well ventilated and clear from dust. Batteries should be changed yearly. Your smoke alarm should meet British Standards (number BS5446) and have the Kitemark. A specially designed smoke alarm is available for the hard of hearing.

Do you have a pre-planned escape route in the event of a fire?

If you find a fire in your house, knowing your escape route can save precious time. You can contact your local fire brigade for information regarding staying safe in the event of a fire.
 
Do you use a fire guard if you have an open fire?

If you have an open fire, fire guards help to keep you safe.

Do you dry clothes near to a fire source?

You should never dry clothes on, near or over a fire or heater.

Do you have any loose cables littering the floor?

Loose cables and wires can be a trip hazard. You should arrange appliances so that they are close to sockets and ensure all cables and wires are next to walls.

Are your plug sockets overloaded?

If you have lots of appliances, overloaded plug sockets can pose a fire risk. If you need extra sockets, you should use a bar adaptor on a lead rather than a single block adaptor.  In the case of powerful appliances, such as irons, kettles and electric heaters, never put more than one into each socket.

Is your furniture sensibly arranged?

You should be able to walk around furniture with ease.

Are your carpets in good condition?

Rucked-up or frayed carpets are a potential trip hazard. If they are you should consider replacing them or use double-sided carpet, which will stop them from moving.

If you feel unsafe in your home, is help available?

You can get a community alarm from your local council or Age Concern. This will connect you to a 24-hour response centre that can be contacted by the push of a button.

Who can you contact in an emergency?

You should keep a list of emergency contact numbers near the telephone. This book should include the contact details for all of the companies that provide your services and amenities – water, gas, electric and telephone suppliers, the council, doctor’s surgery, the police and friends and relatives who could help in an emergency.

Is your house fitted with a carbon monoxide detector?

Carbon monoxide detectors are an essential investment in all homes where gas, oil, coal or wood is burned. These materials can give off carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas, if faulty. Boilers can also give off carbon monoxide if faulty. The carbon monoxide detector should meet the European Standard (number BS EN 50291) and have a Kitemark.

Is your door fitted with a letterbox cage?

A letterbox cage prevents post and papers from spreading out on the floor, creating a trip hazard. It also ensures you do not have to bend down to pick up the post.

Do your slippers fit?

Ill-fitting slippers can be a trip hazard. You should also be careful of long, loose-fitting clothes, such as dressing gowns. These too can cause you to trip.
 
Do you have a procedure in place when opening the door to strangers?

When you open the door to a stranger you should: lock, stop, chain and check.

You should lock any other exterior doors before going to open the front door. Before you open the door, put the chain on and look through the spy-hole or window at who is at the door. Ask who the caller is, and if you are not sure ask to see identification

Kitchen

Do you have a clear space near to the hobs and cooker?

A clear space near to the oven means you can put hot pans and trays down safely.

Do you keep the things you use regularly within easy access?

Keep the utensils and food you use often within easy reach. If you need to re-arrange shelves, do so. Also, use long-handled grabbers to reach for small, lightweight objects so you don’t need to stretch for them.

Do you point pan handles towards the back of the cooker?

It is easy to knock a pan off the oven, especially if the handles overhang the edge of the cooker. Turn them to the back to minimise the risk and ensure they are not over other hobs that are on to prevent the handles from getting hot.

Do you leave the kitchen when you are cooking?

A timer can remind you when your food is ready and stop food from burning. It is essential if you leave the room while your food is cooking. You should never leave hot oil cooking unattended.

Are you at risk of falling over on wet or damp floors?

To minimise the risk of slips, trips or falls, you should clean up any spills immediately after they happen.  You can also put down non-slip mats near sinks and the washing machine to keep floors dry and prevent slips.

Do you keep items that can catch fire away from hobs?

Plenty of items stored in the kitchen can catch fire, including oven gloves, tea towels and kitchen rolls. You should store these safely away from the cooker.
 
Is your kitchen equipment kept clean?

Crumbs and grease can build up over time. These can increase the risk of fire.

If a pan catches fire, do you know what to do?

If a pan catches fire do not move it or throw water on it. Instead, if it is safe to do so, turn off the heat supply. Then leave the kitchen, closing the door behind you. Get everyone else in the house to leave and then call 999.

Do you check the pilot light if you have a gas boiler?

You should check the pilot light on your gas boiler regularly. If you notice it has gone out, find the instructions for the boiler. These will tell you how to relight it. If you are unable to relight it call a heating engineer out.

Bathroom

Does your bathroom have a non-slip bathmat, a handrail and a bath seat?
 
The bathroom poses plenty of slip dangers, and a non-slip bathmat, handrail and bath seat can all help minimise risk. You should ensure your bathmat does not slip when you walk on it.

Do you keep your medicines locked away safely from children and pets and stored in the bottle or packet they came in?

If possible you should keep any medicine locked in a cabinet and out of reach of children.
 
Do you keep electrical appliances out of the bathroom?
 
You should never use heaters, hairdryers, electric radios and other appliances in the bathroom.

Bedroom

Do bed sheets and duvets trail onto the floor?

Loose bedding represents a trip hazard, so you should tuck duvets and bed sheets out of the way when you get out of bed in the morning.

Do you have a bedside lamp or torch handy?

Having access to a portable light can help you if you need to get up in the night, or if a power cut occurs.

Do you use an electric blanket?

If you have an electric blanket you should ensure it is serviced regularly.  Also keep an eye out for tell-tale danger signs including worn cables, frayed fabric or scorch marks. You should unplug the blanket before you go to bed. If the blanket gets wet you should not use it until it has completely dried.

Stairs

Do you keep your stairs free from mess?

You should avoid putting anything on the stairs, even if it is just for a moment. Always check they are free from clutter when you walk up and down them.

Are your stairs well lit?

To avoid any trip hazards your stairs should always be well lit.

Do your stairs have handrails fitted?

Even on small flights of stairs, handrails can help prevent falls and support balance. Ideally, you should have handrails on either side of the stairs.
 
Is there a two-way light switch fitted which can be operated from the top and bottom of the stairs?

This means you do not have to walk up or down the stairs in darkness. If you do not have one, you can speak to an electrician to get one fitted.
 
Can you make out the edge of each step easily?

If you are unsure about how visible each step is, you may consider using masking tape or a thin line of paint to make each step more identifiable. You should ensure any tape used is properly stuck down to ensure it does not become a trip hazard.
 
Have you considered using plug-in night lights?

Plug-in night lights turn on at night-time, providing a subtle light which can help with navigation

Have you got emergency power-failure lights?

Emergency power failure lights plug into sockets and stay on in the event of a power cut.

Garden

Do you ensure garden paths are clear of overgrown plants and shrubs and fallen leaves?
 
Shrubs, weeds and fallen leaves can present slip or trip hazards, so ensure your garden paths are free from any obstacles.

Do you ensure there is no moss or algae on any paving stones?

Paving stones can become slippery with algae and moss when wet. To prevent this cut back any overhanging branches to ensure plenty of light and air reaches the paving stone. To remove algae build up you can use a pressure washer, or use specially-formulated products.

Do you know what to do if it is icy under foot?

If you need to go outside in icy weather, spread salt or salty sand on ice.

If you need to use a ladder, is it safe?

You should never use a ladder on your own. Make sure someone is on hand to hold the ladder steady, ensure it is anchored at the bottom and propped at a safe angle.
 
What do you do with tools once you have used them?

You should always lock them away safely once you have finished using them. While in use they should be put in a safe place when not in use and should be used safely in accordance with their instructions.
 
When you use any power points with garden tools and mowers, are the sockets fitted with a residual current device (RCD)?

RCDs are very useful as they will shut off the power supply in the case of an electrical fault or if you accidentally cut through the power cord.

Age UK Stockport
Address: Commonweal, 56 Wellington Street, Stockport SK1 3AQ
Phone: 0161 480 1211
Fax: 0161 480 3735
Web: www.ageukstockport.org.uk
Email: admin@ageukstockport.org.uk

Special thanks to Age UK and Help the Aged for help in providing this useful safety information.