21 September, 2015

Child car seats – It’s all about choosing…and fitting

The impending visit of my brother’s family – including one child aged 22 months and the other 34 months – gave me the opportunity to learn the modern ins and outs of choosing the right seat. Our visitors were coming by train and already had enough to carry…..

shutterstock_12193342 MediumIt’s been 28 years since our first son was born in Canada, where the quality of the car seat was inspected by the hospital staff before I was allowed to drive him home – a practice now more widespread in the UK. But that child car seat had sustained him all the way through to the point where he had traded up to a booster, so his newly arrived brother could take over the forward/backward facing, reclining and multi-adjustable hot seat. One child car seat and one booster seat spanned two children throughout their growth period.

But in 2015, returning to the subject, I found it had moved forward a long way in design and technology and I’m sure that there are many others like me, including new grandparents, who are having to learn the ropes all over again. My first point of call was the RoSPA Infocentre (free advice to members of the public on 0121 248 2130), where Anita Plumb neatly narrowed down the options to three weights I  needed to consider:


Anita Plumb

• Up to 13kg – rear facing
• 9-18kg – front facing or a combination seat that starts rearward-facing and then becomes forward-facing (better to keep children rear-facing as long as possible)
• 15kg upwards – high-backed booster seats and then, if necessary a booster cushion, but again much better to use a high-backed booster seat rather than a booster cushionn.

And these weight bands certainly were a help when I started to look into the details more fully e.g. on our own website www.childcarseats.org.uk/types-of-seat/ and www.childcarseats.org.uk/choosing-using/buying-child-car-seats-checklist/ where the full and glorious complexity of it all starts to come out. Here, to be precise, you will find up to 10 categories, which give all the weight/age permutations. It certainly isn’t easy to work out the options, so here’s my thinking:

  •  With a baby up to 13kg, you need a baby car seat (rearward facing) in category 0+ or a 0+ and 1 combination seat that converts from rearward to forward facing, or i-size , which is based on the child’s age and height.


  • After that, with a toddler or young child up to 36kg, you need to move up in size. The best option is a Group 1-2-3 adjustable seat, which will cover all of those initial years of growth, right up to the age of 12.
  • There are many other combinations (all subject to using the same car – see below) but this seems to be the simplest and most inexpensive sequence. Once the child is either 135cm tall or aged 12 years, they can use the adult seat belt, although if possible keep them in the booster seat until they are 150 cm tall.

So having decided that I needed Group 1-2-3 seats for my niece and nephew, I set off for Halfords in Shirley, pretty much as a mystery shopper, since RoSPA accredits Halfords’ car seat fitter training, and I wanted to experience what this meant first-hand.

shutterstock_173523590The first issue encountered was that although I had ordered two Halfords own-brand car seats online, that didn’t mean job done. CJ Ahmed, the fitter, explained that he first had to check that they fitted properly (the mind-boggling combinations of cars and car seats make this an imprecise art). So in my brand new Volvo V60, although it had the finest reputation for safety, these seats turned out to be unsuitable. The basic range seats (not Isofix) wouldn’t fit firmly and CJ showed me just how much play was involved. A sudden impact would whip the child forwards or sideways – we needed something much more solid, attached securely to the car with the seat belt.

So we started to move up the scale of seats and this involved moving up the price range too. We stopped when we had sourced a seat which was rock solid. CJ taught me to climb in, kneel on the seat and apply maximum pressure on the belt to get the tightest fit, and the design of this seat, with a clip to hold the belt in place, really did the job. As you go up the range, the adjustability, reclinability and comfort of the seats also improves and these are all important considerations if you’re going on a long journey. And having started at £35 for the basic range seat, we had actually reached £100 each by the time we found what was needed! Whether the less expensive car seat will fit your car seems more a matter of luck and you can see immediately why folks might baulk at this and try to pressurise the staff to fit something cheaper. But CJ was wedded to quality, certainly not for any commercial motive, and that was admirable.

The story wasn’t over yet. Unfortunately, there was only one such seat in stock but CJ, realising that I was on a tight timeframe, offered to drive over to another store in his own time and pick up a second one, to be installed in the morning. This was conduct well above and beyond the call of duty – I was truly impressed.

Talking to Halfords’ staff, I heard some pretty hair-raising stories of customers trying to cut corners – the couple who tried to buy a basic Group 1-2-3 seat for their baby; the people who insisted on buying seats which Halfords would not fit because they were too loose; the couple who argued about trying to fit their baby’s seat forward-facing in the front. I also learnt that at a recent customer advice event at the store, 80 per cent of car seats checked by the fitters turned out to be incorrectly fitted. Having learnt how to do it properly, from an expert, I can believe it.

This was an illuminating experience for me, and I had no hesitation in writing to Halfords’ CEO to commend CJ. My concern is that complexity and cost could conspire to encourage people to cut corners. The truth is that a good quality modern standard new seat (and we wouldn’t recommend a second-hand seat unless it’s from family or a friend you’re willing to trust your child’s life to) costs no more than a tank of fuel.

The weekend passed off fabulously and both children found their seats so comfortable, they fell asleep at the wrong times – I got into trouble a bit for that. But when you see them sleeping there in their innocence, you know that investing in quality for their safety and future happiness is a price well worth paying.


Tom Mullarkey_RoSPA chief executive_head and shoulders1 The new EU i-size standard is not based on the child’s weight, but requires children to be kept rearward-facing until they are at least 15 months old. They fit into the Isofix points that were built into the car when it was manufactured; see www.childcarseats.org.uk/types-of-seat/i-size-seats/

Tom Mullarkey, chief executive

2 September, 2015

Brave young mum supports RoSPA nappy sack campaign

Beth Amison with baby Maison

Beth Amison with baby Maison

Mum-of-two Beth Amison, aged 23, from Staffordshire, promotes nappy sack safety following the death of her seven-month-old son Maison in 2013. This is her story.

My world fell apart because of a nappy sack but how do I sum up the worst day of my life? How do I explain how empty I feel and how my heart hurts so much that I can’t breathe?

It was on March 7th 2013 that I went into my seven-month-old baby son Maison’s bedroom to wake him up – only it wasn’t his beautiful smile I was greeted with. Instead Maison was lying in his cot with a handful of nappy sacks scattered around him and one was covering his face.

From this moment on, it’s all a painful blur but I know that 999 was called and my house was full of paramedics desperately trying to save my baby’s life. I knew he was gone and that it was too late.

Our changing stand had been placed next to the cot, as many people’s are, and in the pockets of the stand, I had placed nappy sacks months and months before. To be honest, I had forgotten they were already there.

Our cot was on the highest setting because Maison had never crawled. He could sit, but only if you placed him that way. However, that day he must have learned to stand for the first time as that’s the only way he could have reached the changing stand.

Nappy sacks are usually brightly coloured and make a rustling sound so babies find them very attractive. They are made of thin plastic, which easily covers the face and can be sucked down the airways. As they are used to dispose of soiled nappies, these sacks also aren’t required by law to have safety holes like plastic carrier bags, so they are more dangerous to children.

Babies have a natural grabbing reflex and put things into their mouths, but then they cannot get them back out and as they get older, they start to become mobile and can find items that you thought were put away.

Baby Maison

Baby Maison

RoSPA records data on these tragedies and research has found that nappy sacks have claimed the lives of at least 16 babies, ranging from newborns to one-year-old. Since Maison died, I share the dangers of nappy sacks to other parents through my Facebook page called Maisons Memory and my advice to other parents and carers is to ask yourself some important questions.

Questions like how many of you have nappy sacks on the side, possibly in reach of a child? or are nappy sacks in the changing bag, zipped away, but the changing bag is within reach?
Do you assume because you haven’t seen your baby stand or crawl yet that they can’t?

Since Maison’s death, I have had two more children, who are currently 18-months-old and six-weeks-old, but I don’t use nappy sacks anymore.

I urge anyone who is around babies to think about the possible dangers before they become a problem. Don’t have the “it won’t happen to me” or “it didn’t do me any harm, so I’m not going to think about it” attitudes because when tragedy strikes, it leaves you heartbroken forever.

6 August, 2015

How safe is your home?

Tess Bowen and her brother Mat taking on the Wolf Run

Tess Bowen and her brother Mat taking on the Wolf Run

Cold, wet and soaking head to toe in mud, I jumped into the river to swim the final stretch before the finish line. I may have been tired and aching, but last month I completed the WolfRun in order to bring vital cash in for LifeForce.

RoSPA’s LifeForce is a community-based volunteer programme that empowers people and communities by giving them the skills, support and knowledge to stay safe in their homes.

I wanted to see just how much of a difference my muddy achievement would make, so I took part in one of LifeForce’s home-checks by visiting a family in Birmingham with Justin, its volunteer manager.

I got to see the programme in action with a family that included an older couple, their daughter and her young son. Once we were welcomed in, we made our way from room to room around the house highlighting potential risks to the family. While we were doing this, I was thinking about how some of the risks Justin was pointing out in this home, actually mirror some of those in my own house.

It dawned on me that I’m also guilty of having too many plugs attached to one extension lead; I often leave things near the stairs with the intention of moving them and then end up tripping over them when I’m in a rush. We think “it’s alright I’ve survived fine in my own home”, but all it takes is that one incident which can change your family’s life forever.


The bathroom was important in this home as it contains a gas boiler; Justin stressed the importance of having a carbon monoxide alarm in the house. A lot of us still have gas boilers and appliances and some even have coal fires in our homes, but how many of us are aware of their dangers and of the silent killer that is carbon monoxide? Part of LifeForce’s role is to inform and educate families on the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and offering solutions to prevent any tragedies.

reaching for the blindsBedrooms

Justin checked each of the windows. These windows had catches to restrict how far they could open, which we were happy to see, as it is easy for curious children to climb. What Justin was mainly looking for was the blind cord arrangement – whether they had any, how long they were and more importantly if there was a potential risk of strangulation for the young child. RoSPA is aware of at least 28 cases of death by blind cord strangulation amongst children under the age of five. Each case could have been prevented and LifeForce wants to ensure that this never happens to any of the families it visits. This particular family had two windows with blind cords and although there was a safety device attached to the first, it was broken and there was a piece missing. Justin noted to send them some cleats so that the cords could be tied up out of reach from an inquisitive child.


The kitchen can also be a dangerous place for children, as witnessed in this home. We noticed a few medications left on the side plus cleaning products on the window ledge and sharp knives left out both on the worktop and in the sink. We often leave harmful things out on surfaces and in easily accessible cupboards but children are curious and can be easily poisoned or cut. Knives in the sink are particularly dangerous as a child may innocently wash their hands and receive a nasty surprise. LifeForce is there to reiterate the importance of keeping harmful substances and objects locked away and out of sight from little hands.


Garden PondGarden

We ended the tour in their garden. At this stage the family shared their worries about the safety of the garden and how sad it is that they can’t let their little boy play outside without constant concern for his wellbeing. The pond, which the child had already fallen into twice, was still a potential risk. The pond itself had not been used for quite some time and Justin strongly advised that it could be removed as it remained a danger for the little boy. The other option would be to fit a pond mesh, grille or grid. Aside from the pond, there were large tools and gas canisters outside, which Justin said ought to be locked up carefully in the shed.


Real estateSo, from my visit I could see first hand the importance of LifeForce – its use in giving practical advice and resources to families that need it. After all, who wouldn’t want to keep their children safe? Who wouldn’t want to prevent a nasty injury or worse to their loved ones in their own home? As I walked away it left me thinking, I hope the family take on board some of Justin’s advice as it would be tragic for anything to happen to them. I also realised that I really need to get home and make some serious safety changes myself!

Tess Bowen, campaigns and fundraising assistant

4 August, 2015

RoSPA at The Royal Welsh Show

RoSPA House was an interesting sight at 5:30am on a Tuesday. We were at work at that unearthly hour because five staff had a journey to Powys to complete, so we could take part in this year’s Royal Welsh Show.

RoSPA stand at the Royal Welsh Show

RoSPA stand at the Royal Welsh Show

We were invited by Wales YFC, who have chosen us as their charity of the year. Safety is very important to their chairman Iwan and sadly Wales YFC has lost a number of young members in road accidents.

None of us had attended an agricultural show before, so you can imagine our delight when we were entertained by sheep shearing, herding and stock judging competitions (not to mention the interesting aromas coming from the food tent!).

At the show we provided advice and resources for young people and their parents;

Wales YFC members helping to judge one of the day's competitions

Wales YFC members helping to judge one of the day’s competitions

including leaflets, freebies, 50 free young driver profilers and a fun safety quiz with a Kindle prize! We also handed out luminous snap bands, which were extremely popular with passing children.

It was great to run a stall in the YFC area; we were able to witness how brilliant its

young members are. There were dozens of them wearing white coats and judging several of the competitions.

Wales YFC chairman Iwan

Wales YFC chairman Iwan

Members were also taking part in dancing and talent competitions or competing in different challenges. They were all working hard on something be it making milkshakes, teas and biscuits or providing information at stalls.

They were very welcoming and we thoroughly enjoyed the day. We would definitely return next year, perhaps we’ll bring some paper weights as it was extremely windy!

Tess Bowen

Tess Bowen

These young people were inspiring and we are proud to be their chosen charity. We

look forward to our continuing work with them to save lives and reduce accidents!

Tess Bowen, campaigns and fundraising assistant

28 April, 2015

April 28…a day like any other?

What is so important about April 28th? It’s the 118th day of the year or the 119th in any leap year. It also means there are only 247 days of 2015 remaining!

But it’s not a day like any other…over the decades significant numbers of people across the world have been killed, injured, disabled or made ill as a consequence of working for a living.

The 28th of April provides a single focus each year for those of us who can make a difference to reflect on the staggering number of people who are affected, not only those directly involved but their families and the impact that each accident or case of occupational disease has on the wider community.

The world of work has changed dramatically for some but not all of us. On  April 28, 1869 it is recorded that laborers for the Central Pacific Railroad working on the First Transcontinental Railroad laid 10 miles of track in one day, a feat which has never been matched.

I could find no detailed record of the impact that this “feat” had on the workers themselves, however with labor-saving devices in those days consisting primarily of wheelbarrows, horse or mule drawn carts, and a few railroad pulled gondolas. The impact of this immense amount of manual labor will undoubtably have taken its toll.

On  April 28, 1914 and 1924 mining disasters in Eccles and Benwood West Virginia claimed the lives of 300 miners.

There were no survivors in the Benwood Mining Disaster, caused by the ignition of methane gas and coal dust, the names of the 119 killed, remain a sombre reminder of the event.

On  April 28, 1986, high levels of radiation resulting from the Chernobyl disaster were detected at a nuclear power plant in Sweden, leading Soviet authorities to publicly announce the accident…the result of a flawed reactor design operated by inadequately trained personnel.

On  April 28, 2014, an HSE Press Release recorded the life-changing injuries suffered by Kevin Lowe, 48,

as a result of an incident at Tangerine Confectionery Ltd in Blackpool on  September 19, 2012, he is now only able to walk short distances with the use of a stick.

It goes without saying that the impact of each and every instance of harm as a consequence of working

Karen McDonnell

Karen McDonnell

for a living is significant to the sufferer.

The 28th of April encourages us all to stop and think about what has gone before, what lessons can be learned, how things can be done differently and what needs to change to tackle emerging health and safety issues within the world of work.

If like myself you have no direct experience (thankfully) of dealing with the outcomes of a work related accident or ill-health caused by work, take a few moments to reflect on the list of names linked to the Benwood Mining Disaster, or visit RoSPA’s Workers Memorial day web page.

Karen McDonnell, RoSPA’s occupational safety and health policy adviser

23 March, 2015

RoSPA taking on the Wolf Run for LifeForce

The daring members of RoSPA's Wolf Run team

The daring members of RoSPA’s Wolf Run team

On June 13th, 15 fearless RoSPA employees will be running, climbing, swimming, wading  and crawling around 10 kilometres of Leicestershire countryside, as they take part in a Wolf Run. The aim is to raise lots of money for RoSPA LifeForce and to increase awareness of the work we do. 

Simon Day, assistant product manager and one of the 15 brave souls, blogs about the start of his journey to the Wolf Run, to explain a bit about the event, as well as providing a few tips on how to run safely in all conditions…

Challenge YOURSELF!

First things first, I’m not looking for sympathy. We’re not attempting to scale a mountain, or to swim the Channel or to do one of those extreme challenges that the likes of Walliams and Izzard seem to specialise in. We’re just going to complete 10km around a very muddy obstacle course. It’s something that thousands of other people do and it’s something that many more would scoff at. Indeed, some of the other members of the “RoSPA 15” are regarding the event as little more than a stroll in the park. “10km? That’s nothing, I run that most days.”

Nonetheless, 10km of mud represents a decent-sized challenge for me. I’m not completely unfit, a few years ago I considered myself to be extremely fit. I played cricket, football and badminton, I was a regular at the gym and I was even a qualified cricket coach. But I got older, lazier and became unfit.  In fact, until this recent episode began I hadn’t broken into a trot for about 18 months.  I’m also a bit of a coward…so I definitely do not want to get hurt or injured.

Get prepared and have the right tools for the job

When the idea of the Wolfrun was mooted, I didn’t exactly jump at the chance to put my name down. But for some strange, inexplicable reason I decided to say “yes”. I’d love to come up with something more cathartic here, but I’d be lying, I just said “yes” without really thinking about it!

I paid my fee…and then gave some thought to exactly how I was going to build up my fitness in three short months! Luckily, the modern world makes life easier and I soon stumbled upon an excellent app that aimed to take me from couch to 10km in 12 weeks. There are three runs per week, with the length and intensity increasing week by week.

Of course, I needed some kit first – after much scrambling around spare room drawers I found a Portugal World Cup 2002 shirt that just about fitted and didn’t appear to have any holes in it.  It did however lack a key component for running around the English countryside…it wasn’t waterproof! A visit to the murky depths of my golf bag soon rectified the situation – a lightweight, breathable waterproof jacket may sound like something from Alan Partridge’s sports casual range, but for cross country running it’s perfect.

shoe printNow it was time to find some trainers, I unearthed a pair that were emitting a stench that told a story of neglect. But I didn’t care, I’d be running through mud so aesthetics and aroma were hardly key considerations. What was important was that they were comfortable and provided support for my ankles.

Make sure your training matches your challenge

Then came the running bit. My years of playing sport had taught me the importance of warming up before exercise. So some stretching exercises were followed by a brisk five minute walk to loosen the muscles. While I’m on the subject, it’s also vital to warm down after exercising. It’s tempting to just collapse in a heap after running, but a few minutes of walking and stretching will help prevent injuries.

I decided that road running wouldn’t cut it, I needed to go cross country in order to better prepare. Luckily, I live in a pretty remote spot, but one that I know well. here are plenty of ignored footpaths and bridleways within easy reach of my front door. What’s more, most of them involve steep inclines and uneven ground. Perfect! I had a clearly defined route planned and was going to stick to it.

My app is a combination of running and brisk walking for half an hour. Easy in theory, but in practice it meant I was breaking into runs during very steep muddy climbs. There’s also the problem of uneven ground. Run on a street and you know that the surface will be solid. Run on mud and every step is a gamble. Sometimes you land hard, sometimes you squelch and sometimes your foot moves at a funny angle. That’s why it’s important to run during daylight hours. Seeing where you’re going is imperative – I encountered a number of stray branches that would currently be protruding from my eye socket had I attempted the run during darkness. Regardless of light, I was finding it difficult to differentiate between mud and horse manure during certain sections of the run. A post-run inspection of my trainers revealed that my differentiating skills weren’t the best.

Simon Day, RoSPA assistant product manager

Simon Day, RoSPA assistant product manager

Nevertheless, I completed runs one and two and felt surprisingly fine. On run three it rained hard. By hard, I mean really hard;

the sky was reminiscent of the end of Ghostbusters and to make matters worse, I discovered a fresh problem. Namely that wet Portugal World Cup 2002 shirts lead to severe nipple itching! Now, the sight of a soaking wet, panting man, scratching his own nipples may be appealing to some, but when you’re the man in question it’s a particularly miserable experience.

But once again, I completed the circuit. And you know what; I do feel slightly better about the whole thing. I know I can run, and I have a clearer idea of what some of the challenges will be. I’m still dreading the actual run, but I’m happy that I’m on the right track.

You can donate by visiting our Just Giving page HERE

5 March, 2015

Cycling to work: thoughts from our man on two wheels

As part of RoSPA’s Family Safety Week, Matt Cryer, our awards and events development manager, blogs on his reflections as a part-time cycle-commuter in Birmingham. The views contained are Matt’s own.

I live five miles from RoSPA’s head office. I cycle in around three days a week, using a combination of roads and traffic-free cycle paths, depending on the time of year. Here are my top tips and observations about how to safely enjoy riding to work.

Bike white wall 2Know your bike, kit and route

First and foremost, get to know your bike, and make sure it’s well maintained. This not only makes your bike safer, but also quieter and easier to ride. I’ve not always been great at this – noisy gears or squeaky brakes don’t inspire confidence and can hamper your enjoyment of riding to work.

Before heading out, I always give my bike a visual check (see the M-check safety video for how to quickly carry this out), and make sure my tyres are correctly inflated, as under-inflation makes them more prone to puncture from on-road debris. Finally, I check that my lights are working, and that I have a spare set of batteries. I also choose to wear a helmet and a high-visibility reflective jacket to improve my visibility to other road users.

Before you head out, choose a route you are comfortable with. You can often avoid heavy traffic and tricky junctions without making your commute much longer. For example, during the darker winter months, I tend to commute primarily on the road, but in the lighter months, I have the alternative of combining this with unlit cycle paths, which reduces risk by letting me cycle away from other traffic.

Build your Confidence

It’s easy to feel vulnerable on city roads and to want to hug the gutter to stay away from traffic. However, this isn’t the safest place. Gutter debris, painted lines and drain covers all make this a risky position to take on the road – particularly when it’s wet. On roads with parked vehicles, you’re also putting yourself in the “door zone”, at risk of colliding with opening vehicle doors.

I found reading up on road positioning to be really helpful. Learning about the primary (centre of traffic lane) and secondary (approx 0.5m-1m from kerb) positions and when to use them will transform the way you ride. Good positioning, clear hand signals and regular looks over your shoulder will help make traffic aware of your direction and intentions, and much less likely to squeeze you with an overtake where there’s not really enough room.

Bounce back

Vehicles will occasionally squeeze you with an overtake where there’s not really enough room. Not everyone makes good decisions, but don’t let it knock your confidence, or make you unreasonably angry, as both these states of mind affect your own judgement and concentration as you continue to ride. Just carry on riding positively and positioning your bike carefully – or take time out to calm down.

Don’t get too confident

Having been a cycle commuter for some time, I often feel my biggest risk is over-confidence. I enjoy riding in traffic, and making faster progress than other vehicles can definitely give you a buzz. But it’s easy to want to make progress at all costs, which can sometimes go against good judgement.

Be particularly careful when moving past stationary traffic, which won’t always be looking out for you.

While it might feel safer, make sure you only ever filter on the left if there is no chance that the traffic will start flowing suddenly.

From experience, drivers are less likely to check their left-hand mirror in heavy traffic and you don’t want to be caught on the inside of a long vehicle if it starts moving – particularly if it chooses to turn left. This is one of the most common causes of fatal cycling accidents, due to vehicle blind-spots.

Matt cycle gear 2

Matt Cryer, RoSPA’s awards and events development manager, in his cycling gear.

In stationary traffic, also be extra aware of pedestrians, who may register that vehicle traffic has stopped and step into the road without looking out for cyclists. This one nearly caught me out just last week. I avoided the pedestrian, but ended up in an undignified heap on the floor.

Most of all, enjoy it!

With careful maintenance, thought-out road positioning and confidence, I find cycling to work extremely enjoyable and great for keeping fit.

Be sure to check out the Family Safety Week website for more advice on cycle safety for you and your family.

21 January, 2015

Make sure your sledging trip doesn’t end in A&E

David Walker, RoSPA’s leisure safety manager, writes on how to make the annual winter favourite safer for families to enjoy.

This month’s snow flurries have inevitably led to people dusting off their sledges, or creating makeshift ones, and getting out onto previously-grassy slopes. It’s a time-honoured tradition that allows the Great British public to enjoy the winter weather to the fullest – and compared to other winter-related incidents, it has a small accident rate.

RoSPA Copyright SledgersBut as with any activity, the increase in participants leads to an increase in the number of accidents, with those causing fatal or serious injuries tending to be those where the rider crashes into an object, or is hurt by their makeshift sled.

But this should not put off any would-be sledgers. The risk is obviously inherent, but no more so than any other sporting or physical activity.

RoSPA encourages people of all ages to get out onto the slopes, but as with everything else there are ways to reduce the chances of ending up in accident and emergency.

The best advice we can offer is to take time to consider your choice of sledging location. It is obviously better if the snow is deeper, and the run should be clear of obstacles such as trees, fences and rocks.  It is also best to avoid sledging near to roads, pavements and bodies of water, regardless of whether it is frozen.

If you walk up the slope first you will be able to get a feel for how safe the run will be, giving yourself time to spot hazards, finding out how steep the slope is (as standing at the top can give a false impression of the gradient), and checking for the amount of stopping distance at the bottom.

If the slope is particularly busy, be considerate to others using it as clashes can result in some nasty injuries, and only go

sledging in the daytime.  It’s also best to go down feet first!

David Walker, RoSPA leisure safety manager

David Walker, RoSPA leisure safety manager

And finally, if you are planning on taking a homemade sledge, think about what could happen if you crash with it, such as “are there sharp edges?”

Sledging is a fun way to enjoy the cold weather, and with a few simple steps you can ensure it doesn’t end with a trip to A&E.

8 January, 2015

Businesses back our life-saving mission beyond the workplace

Michael Corley, our head of campaigns and fundraising, takes a look at how businesses are getting behind RoSPA’s life-saving work.

By entering our awards, taking our training or becoming RoSPA members, we know that companies are champions of safety in the workplace.

But since setting up our fundraising team, we’ve come to realise that many of the organisations we work with are standing up for safety beyond the factory gates and office doors.

For 18 months we’ve been working with some of the UK’s largest companies, getting their staff on board to raise funds for our life-saving mission.

Here is just a flavour of what they are doing to support our work:

  • In September 2014, Securitas staff from across the UK harnessed pedal power to raise money after seeing our appeals video at the RoSPA Awards. The week-long ‘Tour of Securitas’ also saw workers running raffles, competitions and bake sales
  • Outsourcing specialist Bunzl donated £15,000 to our managing occupational road risk campaign. Their UK managing director and key staff also attended our forum in October which looked at new ways to help employers manage the risks staff face (and create) when they use the road for work purposes
  • Morrison Utility Services and others have joined our “Family of Fundraisers” scheme
  • Cycle clothes manufacturer Proviz has designed a reflective cycle jacket, with £5 from all sales generated through a promotional video going to support our work.
The Tour of Securitas

The Tour of Securitas

It’s been a fascinating journey for us – and for the companies we are working with. Many are genuinely surprised by the number of different areas of safety we are involved in – from our work to get more carbon monoxide alarms in people’s homes to our campaign to prevent children being poisoned by household products.

And it’s not all about fundraising. Many firms want to get staff volunteering, taking their safety knowledge out beyond the workplace.

They have learned that improvements in road safety and workplaces mean that homes and leisure pursuits now cause far more injuries and deaths – 1,000 per month – than car crashes and industrial accidents.

Michael Corley

Michael Corley

So they’re keen to get involved in our upcoming volunteer scheme, which will take their safety knowledge into people’s homes to keep vulnerable individuals and families safe.

Research undertaken by Business in the Community and others shows that when employees take part in volunteering, they feel more engaged, more motivated and more confident as a result.

It’s a win-win situation for both a business and the charity it supports. So, if you would like to find out more about how we could work with your company, please get in touch on 0121 248 2507 or email mcorley@rospa.com. I’d love to hear from you.

4 December, 2014

Drowning – the silent, global pandemic

Ten key actions to prevent drowning (WHO report)

Ten key actions to prevent drowning (WHO report)

Every single hour, of every single day, 40 people around the world die from drowning.

This preventable killer is among the top 10 leading causes of death in every region of the world, and sadly it is children under five who are at the greatest risk of what is, essentially, a global pandemic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last month published its Global Report on Drowning, which now recognises the serious extent of the problem.

It’s a long-awaited and welcome report that sets out just how serious the issue is, and lists suggestions as to what can be done so that the global community can start to tackle the problem. Such is the enormity of the issue that it’s astounding that this is the first report and strategy of its kind to be published.

We hear about other terrible blights in the press every day, but drowning is the silent pandemic. An estimated 372,000 people die every year but the true figure is likely to be much higher, possibly as high as 50 per cent more in some countries, due to the methods of data collection used.

Regardless, the estimated death toll still puts drowning at two-thirds of that of malnutrition, and more than 50 per cent of that of malaria. Despite this, we have targeted prevention methods for these two issues, but none for drowning.

And let’s not kid ourselves that this is solely a Third World issue, as despite more than 90 per cent of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries, the problem also exists in developed nations where walking next to or being near water leads to a high number of incidents of drowning. The majority of drowning happens in inland water, in everyday situations. Within poorer nations, travel and fetching water are the major factors where drowning occurs.



The WHO report outlines 10 key actions to prevent drowning, simple steps which could help to save thousands of lives every year:

  1. Install barriers controlling access to water
  2. Provide safe places away from water for pre-school children
  3. Teach school age children basic swimming, water safety and rescue skills
  4. Train the public in safe rescue and resuscitation
  5. Strengthen public awareness
  6. Set safe boating, shipping and ferry regulations
  7. Manage flood risks and other hazards
  8. Coordinate drowning prevention with other sectors
  9. Develop a national water safety plan
  10. Address priority research questions with studies.

On top of these key actions, the report also outlines four recommendations that nations can implement to begin to address the pandemic, recommendations which RoSPA supports.

Nation states should A) implement proven prevention strategies tailored to their own circumstances, B) take steps to improve the data available, C) aim to develop a national water safety plan, and D) band together to form a global partnership for drowning prevention.

Together, we can tackle an issue that is so easily preventable that it should not even be a problem. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying needlessly each year, and, as the report states, the time to act is now.

David Walker, RoSPA’s leisure safety manager


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