Home Safety - CSIROCare Child Care Centre

Positive Parenting
Home Safety
As infants spend most of their time at home, the
home environment needs to be as safe as possible.
This is particularly important from around six to
eight months of age when infants start moving
around. Having a safe environment allows children to
explore their surroundings. Parenting is easier when
you do not have to constantly tell children not to
touch things. Accidents in the home are a leading
cause of injury and death in young children. By
recognising and removing some of the dangers in the
home, most accidents can be prevented. This tip sheet
gives some suggestions about how to make your
home safe for your child.
Why Is Safety Important?
Each year there are about 1.6 million accidents involving
children in Australia. Each day, 5,000 children need
medical attention due to accidents, and 170 of these are
admitted to hospital. One child loses their life every day as
a result of accidents. Half of these accidents occur at
home. Most accidents at home occur inside the house and
involve children under the age of five. Boys are more
likely to be injured than girls. The major causes of injury
are falls, poisoning, burns and scalds, and bites. The major
causes of death include drowning, house fires, suffocation,
choking and poisoning.
How To Make Your Home Safe
Kitchen and Living Areas
Many accidents occur in the kitchen, so anything that may
cause harm should be well out of reach of young children.
This may include sharp objects or utensils, matches or
lighters, glassware or breakables, and poisons such as
household cleaners, bleaches, chemicals or medicines.
Make sure these items are removed to high or lockable
cupboards and dispose of any poisons or medicines that
are not in use. Check that potentially harmful objects are
removed from low areas, especially those below one
metre. Empty the dishwasher when your child is not there.
Left over dishwashing powder causes burns and poisoning
if swallowed. Make sure that the dishwasher door is kept
firmly closed at all times.
Power points, electrical plugs and cords can be a particular
problem for infants and toddlers. When power points are
not in use, make sure they are covered with safety covers
that fit into the socket. These are available from hardware
and department stores. If possible, have an electrician
install a circuit breaker or safety switches to avoid
electrocution. Check that all cords are well insulated and
not in need of repair. Keep a fire extinguisher and fire
blanket somewhere that is easily accessible. All heaters and
fires should have sturdy guards placed well in front of
So your child cannot accidentally pull an appliance down
on top of them, keep all appliance cords, especially for the
electric jug, well out of reach. If possible, use curly cords
or a cordless jug. Turn pot handles toward the rear of the
stove and use back plates as much as possible. Use a stove
guard to prevent your child from being able to touch hot
elements or tip pots off the stove. Consider using a barrier
so young children are unable to enter the kitchen while
you are cooking. Never leave your child unattended in the
kitchen. Never carry hot items over your child’s head. It is
better to bring your plates to the pots rather than carry
pots or saucepans across the kitchen.
Place hot drinks at the back of workbenches or in the
centre of the table to avoid accidental spills and burns. Do
not have hot drinks while nursing a child. Use non-slip
placemats rather than table cloths which can be easily
pulled off the table.
To prevent accidental suffocation, keep plastic bags out of
reach, and tie a knot in them if they are to be recycled or
thrown out so a young child will not be able to get a bag
over their head.
Fit safety gates at the top and bottom of staircases and
make sure they are kept closed. Make sure you are with
your child whenever they attempt to go up or down stairs.
Keep children away from unstable or fragile furniture until
they do not need to grab onto things to keep upright.
Attach safety corners to sharp edges on furniture in case
there are falls. Make sure that TV or stereo knobs cannot
be removed and swallowed. Preferably, valuable video and
stereo equipment should be kept in a locked cupboard.
Objects less than three or four centimetres wide (buttons,
coins, small batteries, needles, pins, small pieces of toys),
and hard foods (nuts and raw carrot pieces) can be
accidentally swallowed by infants. To prevent choking,
keep these items out of reach, and cook or grate hard
foods for young children. Ensure that pot plants are not
poisonous. Ideally, pot plants should also be out of young
children’s reach.
Nursery furniture and equipment should comply with
Australian standards where they apply. Check for an
approval stamp.
Water fascinates children. From the age of about eight
months, many children try to pull themselves into the bath
or, occasionally, up on to the sink to turn on taps or to get
to the medicine cupboard. This can result in serious
accidents such as falling into the bath, getting scalded,
drowning or taking dangerous medicines.
Never leave an infant or toddler unattended in the bath or
bathroom. Children can drown in just five centimetres of
water. Take the telephone off the hook when you are
bathing your child, and take your child with you if you
must leave the bathroom for any reason. It is best to fill
the bath with cold water first, then add hot, then turn on
the cold tap briefly so the spout cools down. Always check
to make sure the bath is the correct temperature before
putting your child in. Bath water should be 38°C or less.
Turn off all taps tightly so your child can’t turn them on,
and fit child-resistant safety taps on all hot water taps. To
prevent scalding, have your hot water turned down to no
more than 50°C.
Try to use non-slip floor finishings and keep the floor dry.
Keep all electrical appliances such as razors and hair
dryers unplugged and out of reach.
Keep all cleaning agents, cosmetics and medicines locked
up. Keep the bathroom door closed firmly so babies and
toddlers are only in the bathroom if they are supervised.
Where possible, keep doors propped open with doorstops,
wedges or latches, or use finger jam protectors on doors to
prevent injuries to your child’s fingers. This is especially
important in living areas and children’s bedrooms.
Dangerous Toys
Always follow the manufacturer’s age recommendations on
toys. Some toys are unsafe for young children. When you
purchase toys appropriate for your older child, think about
the dangers for younger children. Marbles, Lego, small
cars, and toys with small, removable parts can be put into
an infant’s or toddler’s mouth and cause choking. Any
object smaller than three or four centimetres wide can be
dangerous. Problems can arise when older children play
with these kinds of toys and they attract the attention of
younger ones. Older children should be encouraged to
play with such toys in their bedrooms, outside the house,
or only if the younger child is closely supervised by an
adult. Older children should be warned of the potential
danger of the toy to their younger brother or sister.
How To Make the Outside of Your
Home Safe
Swimming pools should be fenced by an Australian
standard isolation fence with a child-resistant gate. Fencing
and gates should be appropriately maintained, and gates
should be kept closed at all times. Swimming activities
need to be supervised. Parents should insist that older
children walk rather than run when near the pool. Young
children should always wear flotation aids and be taught
to swim as soon as possible. Show children where it is
safe to dive. Too many head injuries, even in good
swimmers, are caused by children misjudging the dive and
hitting the bottom. When several children are in the pool,
diving should be banned altogether. Lock away pool
chemicals and pool filtration equipment.
Play Equipment
Outdoor play equipment should be kept in good condition
and checked regularly for sharp edges and splintered
wood. Young children should always be supervised near
swings and slides. Infants and toddlers can easily crawl or
walk into the path of older children on swings and get
hurt. Try to ensure there is a soft surface, such as chip
bark, under play equipment to cushion falls.
Barbecue Areas
From nine or 10 months of age, children are intrigued by
stairs and want to climb them. Falling down stairs can
cause serious injuries, including head and spinal injuries.
Barbecues are extremely dangerous places for young
children. Children are fascinated by fire and will often try
to touch an open flame. Never leave an open fire
unattended and keep young children well away from the
cooking area. Gas barbecues should have knobs firmly
tightened when not in use. Do not allow children to play
with matches at any time. Store matches out of reach or
lock them away.
your area. Develop a fire drill for your home. Adults and
older children should be aware of the best exit points and
a meeting place outside the house.
Make a List of Emergency Numbers
If you have a dog, always supervise your child when they
are near it. Teach your child to approach dogs with
caution. Encourage them to avoid strange dogs completely.
Keep your child away from the dog at feeding times or if
there are puppies. Use a barrier to keep your child away
from your pet’s feeding area. If possible, wait until your
child is of school age before getting a dog. Other pets can
also cause difficulties. Cats, rabbits, birds and guinea pigs
can all cause scratches. Teach your child how to handle
and be gentle with pets. Treat any scratches with antiseptic
and consult your doctor if the injury is serious.
Sun Safety
Have a list of telephone numbers to use in an emergency.
Fill out the list below and keep it displayed near your
Emergency Numbers
Family doctor:
Nearest hospital:
Neighbour with a car:
Ambulance: 000
Fire Brigade: 000
Police: 000
Poisons Information: 13 11 26
Sunburn can cause serious injury to infants. Do not expose
infants under 12 months of age to direct sunlight. Always
ensure your child has adequate protection from the sun. They
should wear appropriate clothing, such as a long-sleeved
T-shirt and a wide-brimmed or legionnaire’s style hat. They
should also wear SPF 15+ water-resistant sunscreen. Try to
ensure that play areas are shaded and avoid staying out in
the sun, especially between 10.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. (or
11.00 a.m. and 3.00 p.m. during daylight saving).
Other Useful Numbers
How To Do a Safety Check of Your
Child Safety Centre, Royal Children’s Hospital (for safety
equipment): (03) 9345 5085
Check Each Room
Royal Children’s Hospital (for clinic appointments, patient
inquiries): (03) 9345 5522
A room-by-room safety check, based on one developed by
Kidsafe, the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of
Australia, is given on the back of this tip sheet. If you
answer no to any of these questions, you may need to
make some changes.
Make the Changes You Need To Ensure
Your Child’s Safety
Start by making simple low or no cost changes to areas
where your child spends most of their time, such as family
living areas. It costs nothing to change your habits. Make
some plans for dealing with hazards that involve any
expense. It is a good idea to do a first-aid course, and start
putting together a first-aid kit. Contact St John Ambulance
or the Australian Red Cross to find out about courses in
Local Maternal and Child Health Centre:
Maternal and Child Health After Hours Telephone Service
(03) 9853 0844 (for city callers) or 1800 134 883 (for
country callers)
Kidsafe: (03) 9670 1319
Key Steps
Ensure that your child is supervised at all times.
Check that each room is safe.
Check that outside areas are safe.
Make any necessary changes to make your home safe.
Keep a list of emergency numbers near your phone.
Further information about safety and accident
prevention is available from Kidsafe, the Child
Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia
(03) 9670 1319. If you have any questions or are
concerned about the safety of your home, contact the
centre where you were given this tip sheet.
Written by the Parenting and Family Support Centre (Triple P),
The University of Queensland, Brisbane.
Published by the Victorian Parenting Centre 2005.
© Victorian Government Department of Human Services 2000.
Permission is granted for this material to be printed, copied and
distributed for non-commercial purposes within the State of Victoria.
Code: PPT1002
Home Safety Checklist
Do I have a fire blanket or a woollen
blanket handy?
Are poisons, cleaners and dish washing liquid
kept in a lockable cupboard?
Is the stove firmly fixed to the wall or floor
so it will not tip?
Are curtains well away from the stove?
Are knives and matches out of reach?
Do power points have covers?
Is the kettle out of reach?
Is the high chair stable?
Does the high chair have a harness?
Is the dishwasher door kept firmly closed?
Other things I have noticed:
Yes No
Yes No
Do I have a smoke detector?
Are pills kept out of reach?
Is my handbag kept out of reach?
Is my child’s cot away from the window?
Are curtain cords away from the cot?
Are the cot rails 50 to 85 millimetres apart?
Is everything I need close to the changing table? ■
Do bunks have strong rails?
Are the toys in good condition?
Are sharp corners on the furniture protected?
Is the furniture arranged to avoid collisions?
Is there a night light?
Other things I have noticed:
Living Rooms
Yes No
Do I have a smoke detector?
Does the heating, such as the fire place or
heater, have a strong guard?
Do power points have covers?
Are the electrical leads short?
Are sharp corners on the furniture protected?
Is the furniture arranged to avoid collisions?
Are hot drinks placed out of reach?
Do glass doors or large windows have safety film? ■
Do I use table mats rather than cloths?
Other things I have noticed:
Bathroom and Laundry
Is the hot water temperature turned down
low (50°C)?
Do I have child-resistant taps?
Are poisons stored out of reach?
Do I have a lockable medicine cupboard?
Are razors, scissors and hair dryers stored
out of reach?
Are cosmetics and toiletries stored out of reach?
Does my nappy bucket have a firm lid?
Is my nappy bucket placed out of reach?
Are electric heaters away from water?
Are electric heaters placed out of reach?
Other things I have noticed:
Does the shed or garage have a lock?
Are there fences and self-closing gates
around all drowning hazards (including
pools, ponds and bird baths)?
Is water emptied out of buckets and bins?
Is the play area separate from the driveway,
dams and other hazards?
Is the play area fenced?
Is the play equipment stable and in good
Is there a soft surface under play equipment
to cushion falls?
Are pathways clear?
Are all poisonous plants removed?
Are branches trimmed away from children’s
eye level?
Are garden tools put away after use?
Other things I have noticed:
Yes No
Yes No