Archive for ‘General safety’

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

21 July, 2014

Your holiday checklist – don’t forget to pack the carbon monoxide alarm.

Swimming costume – check. Sun lotion – check. Inflatable lilo – check.

Your holiday packing is almost complete but you’ve got that nagging feeling that there is something missing from your suitcase.

Go safe and enjoy your holidays

Go safe and enjoy your holidays

Well, if you are heading off to a holiday apartment, cottage, caravan or even boat, you have most likely forgotten to pack one small item that could make all the difference to your long-awaited vacation – a carbon monoxide (CO) detector.

At The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), we recommend that people take a small, portable CO detector with them whether they are going home or abroad to prevent tragedies that we have sadly seen many times before.

Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer because you can’t see it, hear it, smell it or taste it, meaning its deadly fumes can act without families even realising it, often through the night while they are asleep.

The problem is that fumes can be caused by a faulty or badly-serviced gas and other fossil fuel-burning appliance, whether it’s a heater, gas stove, generator or even barbecue in an enclosed space.

Follow our tips for a happy, safe family holiday

Follow our tips for a happy, safe family holiday

Seven-year-old Christianna Shepherd and her six-year-old brother Robert, from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, died from carbon monoxide poisoning during a holiday in Corfu after a faulty boiler leaked gas into the hotel bungalow where they were staying in October 2006.

Last year, an Easter boating holiday turned into tragedy when 36-year-old mum Kelly Webster and her 10-year-old daughter Laura Thornton died after inhaling CO fumes as they slept on a moored motor cruiser on Lake Windermere in the Lake District. Investigators found that fumes from a generator, whose improvised exhaust and silencer system had become detached, had spread into the cabin.

So, when you get to your holiday home, here are three simple tips to remember:

  1. Take a portable CO detector to check for any signs of the dangerous gas – these can be bought for just a few pounds from most DIY stores but are priceless in terms of the lives they can save
  2. Make sure the premises are well ventilated and never use a barbecue inside
  3. Be aware of the symptoms and dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

RoSPA’s carbon monoxide safety website has more details on CO symptoms but the main signs to look out for include:

  • suffering prolonged flu-like symptoms – headaches, nausea, breathlessness or dizziness
  • the boiler pilot light flames burning orange, instead of blue
  • sooty stains on or near appliances
  • excessive condensation in the room

    Spot the signs of CO poisoning

    Spot the signs of CO poisoning

Just knowing a few of the signs to look out for will already have equipped you with some useful knowledge. This RoSPA video, below, highlights why being aware of carbon monoxide is so important.


I’m sure you will have a lovely break and I’ll leave you to get on with that packing. Oh, and remember, when summer is over, it will be time to arrange for that all important Autumn service to your boiler at home.

Alison Brinkworth, RoSPA public health support officer.


19 March, 2014

What a picture!

RoSPA’s campaigns officer Helen Halls reveals the secrets of the Family Safety Week photo shoot.

Meet our Family Safety Week stars!

Meet our Family Safety Week stars!

How many times have you looked at photos of Kate Moss and thought “Modelling? Bah? Money for old rope!” Or seen shots of assistants standing around seemingly doing nothing more taxing than passing a prop or powdering an overpaid nose?

I thought it looked like a cushy job until I took on the task of setting up a photo shoot for our very first Family Safety Week.

We wanted good photos of real people, so the logical place to scout for models was within our own RoSPA family. Babies, children, nieces, mums and dads were all drafted in to be the faces of Family Safety Week.

With my models booked (okay then, railroaded) and Redfrost Photography’s Bromsgrove studio reserved, everything seemed to be going smoothly . . . too smoothly. Then, on the eve of the shoot, my ‘young dad’ got pulled into a meeting and my ‘grandma’ got sick. Cue a day of phone calls and charm offensives, all to no avail.

Thankfully, press officer Alison rounded up her mother-in-law and husband’s best man to save the day – and my nerves.

Plied with tea and biscuits, our models began bonding in Redfrost’s cosy kitchen as the shoot got underway – until curiosity began to draw them out, one by one, to watch the action in the studio.

It may look effortless, but modelling’s not easy. To get that one perfect image, you may have had to flash a smile 20 times, or move your leg slightly for 10 minutes until it’s in exactly the right place. But our amateurs took to it like ducks to water, especially young Sienna Mansell, who also helped out with prop management and babysitting Elijah Bullock.

Helen briefs, from left, Rich, Lachman, Alison and Virginia on exactly what shot she wants.

Helen briefs, from left, Rich, Lachman, Alison and Virginia on exactly what shot she wants.

And if I thought I’d just be standing around holding a pot plant, I was wrong. Marshalling models, sorting out props, discussions with the photographer and keeping things running to time all needed to be juggled. I even got dragged into a few photos myself.

The end result was all worth it. The photos are great. You can see some of them on our Family Safety Week website .

My thanks go to ever-patient photographer Richard (who had the added pressure of knowing his wife could go into labour at any moment) and to our Family Safety Week family – Elijah, Sienna, Zack, Jack, Katie, Jo, John, Alison, Ibi, Lachman and Virginia. You were amazing.

27 January, 2014

A Walk on the Safeside

I was a child in the 1970s, when, as the cliché goes, we had to make our own entertainment.

A young Helen Halls.

A young Helen Halls.

Growing up in a small Yorkshire town, I played outside, walked to school and was off on my bike for hours. Mobile phones hadn’t been invented, so my parents couldn’t call to summon me home.

Being out and about from an early age, I learnt about risks and keeping safe largely through experience, though I was in the Tufty Club and did my RoSPA cycling proficiency test.

Helen now as RoSPA's campaigns officer.

Helen now as RoSPA’s campaigns officer.

Today, many children are ferried to and from school/activities and spend free time online or on a games console, so they don’t get the opportunities to experience risk that we old goats had. 

Plus, the rise of the internet has led to new dangers online.

Which is why LASER (Learning About Safety by Experiencing Risk) centres are a great idea, giving children the opportunity to experience risk and learn how to stay safe in an interesting, interactive way.

As RoSPA hosts the LASER Alliance, I was lucky enough to get a tour of Safeside, Birmingham’s LASER centre.

The Safeside 'village'.

The Safeside ‘village’.

Run by West Midlands Fire Service, it boasts a full-size indoor street scene featuring a road crossing, bus, train, canal, car, home, pub, dark alleyway, police station – and more.

Children learn about many aspects of safety via scenarios, activities, videos and discussion. They work with presenters, guides and even students from the Birmingham School of Acting.

Safeside presenter Dave Bailey.

Safeside presenter Dave Bailey.

It’s a practical, at times shocking, but fun way for children to get to grips with real life issues and consider what they should do in those situations.

And it works: presenter Dave Bailey tells us of children he first met at primary school who come back to the centre in their teens.

They often tell him about situations where they’ve used what they learned at Safeside – it really has saved lives.

If you’re a parent group, nursery, SureStart or school, I’d really recommend organising a visit to Safeside.

To find out more about Safeside and its activities , click here.

Helen Halls, RoSPA campaigns officer.

18 December, 2013

Have yourself a safe little Christmas

“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening…”

Never leave burning candles unattended and make sure they are extinguished before going to bed.

Never leave burning candles unattended and make sure they are extinguished before going to bed.

Oh yes, Christmas is nearly here! And amidst the chaos of present wrapping, food shopping and house decorating, I can see many a parent tearing their hair out over the never-ending “to do” list…

But where there’s a will, there’s a way…Good preparation is key to ensuring that your festivities are not cut short by an accident, because, let’s face it, no-one wants that! It may surprise you to know that you are 50 per cent more likely to die in a house fire over Christmas than at any other time of year. Why? Well, a combination of smoking and drinking alcohol are well-known risk factors, but candle fires also claim many lives. According to the latest Fire Statistics Great Britain, in 2011/12, there were around 1,000 candle fires in homes across Great Britain, resulting in nine deaths and 388 casualties. Christmas trees, decorations and cards were also shown to be a fire risk and responsible for 47 house fires. This is why it’s important to do the following:

  • Keep decorations and cards away from fires and other heat sources such as light fittings
  • Don’t leave burning candles unattended and make sure they are extinguished before going to bed
  • Never put candles on Christmas trees
  • If you have old and dated Christmas lights, now is the time to consider buying new ones which will meet much higher safety standards
  • Don’t underestimate the danger of overloading plug sockets. Different electrical appliances use different amounts of power, which is why you should never plug into an extension lead or socket, appliances that collectively use more than 13 amps or 3,000 watts of energy. Otherwise, it may overheat and cause a fire.

And don’t forget those smoke alarms! Is yours working? Have you tested it recently? It could just save your life. But think twice before deciding to remove its batteries to kick-start that new gadget or toy you’ve just opened – find a safer alternative – buy batteries for your gifts in advance.

On the big day itself, it’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of Christmas and momentarily forget about the bags of opened presents left at the bottom of the stairs or the mulled wine warming on the stove. But the kitchen is a hotbed of activity, particularly on Christmas Day, which is why cooking should not be left unattended. Likewise, children should also be kept out of the kitchen and away from items such as matches and lighters. Did you know that falls remain the biggest cause of home accidents – involving all age groups? Simple things, such as keeping staircases free of clutter and making sure extension leads and cables are not strewn across the living room floor can help limit the risk of someone tripping over and injuring themselves or others.

Take a moment to look around your home from a child’s point of view. This will help you to spot potential hazards.

Take a moment to look around your home from a child’s point of view. This will help you to spot potential hazards.

It is also worth taking a moment to look around your home from a child’s point of view. Not only will this allow you to see potential dangers from a new perspective i.e. a hot drink balanced on the edge of the coffee table, but it is also a reminder to “think ahead” to keep little ones safe in your home this Christmas.

There have also been cases where children have swallowed bulbs from Christmas tree lights, so it is not a good idea to let them play with items on the tree. Young children are particularly at risk from choking, because they examine things around them by putting them in their mouths. Peanuts, for example, should be kept out of reach of children under six. Even a burst balloon or button cell battery could be a choking hazard to a baby or toddler, which is why you need to buy toys that are appropriate for your child’s age range.

It might be tempting to let a child play with Christmas novelties around the home, but these are not toys, even if they resemble them, and they do not have to comply with toy safety regulations. Give careful thought to where you display them; place them high up on Christmas trees where they are out of the reach of young hands.

No-one’s saying to go over the top and take the fun out of your Christmas, but these are just some of the things you can do to help ensure that your festivities are not cut short by an accident.

Be aware of slips, trips and falls on ice or snow this winter.

Be aware of slips, trips and falls on ice or snow this winter.

If you head over to our Twitter and Facebook pages, you can help us to share some of our top Christmas safety tips with family and friends. Each picture features some of the many members of staff which make up the RoSPA family – and one very familiar face! We are currently running a “12 days of Christmas” countdown to Christmas day, so why not take a look?

And if you’re heading outdoors this Christmas (fingers crossed that we might get some snow), take note of the driving conditions and be aware of slips, trips and falls on ice or snow. See our winter safety hub for more details.

Have a happy time and enjoy the festive songs! “Our finest gifts we bring Pa rum pum pum pum…”

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser

7 October, 2013

Parents – let us fuel your knowledge on battery risks to children

What do key fobs, musical toy books and calculators all have in common? All three, along with some remote controls and other electrical devices are powered by small button cell batteries.


The poster by Newcastle City Council’s Trading Standards department on button cell batteries.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is warning parents about the dangers of children swallowing these batteries as with more and more compact electronic devices appearing in the home, the risk of children swallowing these small batteries is increasing.

We all know that very young children find out about the world by putting things in their mouths, but what many parents don’t realise is that lithium batteries react with saliva so that they leak acid within as little as an hour.

Therefore, if a child swallows a battery it can cause severe trauma, such as burning a hole in their throat or stomach or further damage to other internal organs within a few hours.

The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit in Australia estimates that four children a week are admitted to hospital after swallowing batteries. Meanwhile, the National Capitol Poison Centre in the USA reports that there are around 3,500 incidents a year where swallowed batteries require urgent treatment. Newcastle City Council’s trading standards officers also launched a safety campaign highlighting this issue this year in a proactive approach to preventing further injuries.

So what can we all do to protect our children from these dangers? Some products (predominantly toys) have lockable battery compartments and these should mean that they are safe for our children to use.

Keep little hands safe from harmful button cell batteries.

Keep little hands safe from button cell batteries.

Other products though, such as musical greeting cards, flameless candles and remote controls do not have lockable compartments, and so it is with these products that parents need to be extra vigilant.

RoSPA advises that children should not be allowed to have access to these products if the battery compartment is not secure. Also, it is a very good idea to ensure that spare batteries are locked away, and used batteries are disposed of correctly.

Most importantly, if your child does swallow a button cell battery you should, seek medical advice immediately. Remember that the saliva in their body will react with the battery and so time is very much of the essence in these cases.

It is always better to be safe than sorry, so please look after your little ones, especially as Christmas is approaching.

For more information about child safety or please see our RoSPA advice pages or RoSPA product safety pages.

Philip LeShirley, RoSPA’s product safety consultant.

20 September, 2013

Accident prevention: we’re in it together

Through the centuries, Glasgow has been a hotbed of both enlightenment thinking and industrial activity. So where better to stage RoSPA’s 57th Occupational Health and Safety Awards?

Michael talks to a 2013 Award winner all about the accident prevention work which RoSPA undertakes in order to fulfill its mission: to save lives and reduce injuries.

Michael talks to a 2013 Award winner all about the accident prevention work which RoSPA undertakes in order to fulfill its mission: to save lives and reduce injuries.

The coming together of hundreds of the world’s best workplace safety practitioners at the city’s Hilton Hotel, yesterday (September 19), allowed RoSPA to reward much dedication and innovation – and to showcase some of the life-saving schemes that the UK’s best-known safety charity run on a regular basis.

As is now customary, RoSPA uses such get-togethers to rally support from those who are most likely to give it.

The same event last year raised enough money to help run two campaigns to stop more young children dying in window blind cord and driveway-related accidents.

This year, guests very generously donated almost £4,400. This money will go some way to ensuring that every child starting primary school in Scotland next year will receive a free book. The publication, penned by popular children’s author Linda Strachan, will help to keep tens of thousands of young ones safe from the hazards that pose the most risk to them.

But it’s a project that still needs the support of others to make it happen.

With your help, we can (and we will) make it happen. Such is the power of prevention – through the coming together of all those who are on the same mission: to save lives and reduce injuries.

Simply email FUNDRAISING@RoSPA.COM to find out more.

Michael Corley, RoSPA’s head of campaigns and fundraising

17 September, 2013

The Birthday Party

What’s a birthday party got to do with the remit at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), I hear you ask? Well, let me tell you a story….

Don't Judge ME 2

Last year, I attended the launch of the Don’t Give Fire a Home initiative, and it was while catching up with fire safety colleagues that I discovered they had been working with the award-winning author Linda Strachan on a novel, Don’t Judge Me.

It involves teenagers and keeps you guessing whether one of them could be an arsonist.

I had gone to this event not long after last year’s RoSPA Scotland Occupational Health and Safety Awards dinner, when guests had donated to help the charity further its projects.

My role includes honouring last year’s pledge to use this money to help prevent further accidents happening to children, particularly for two types of tragedy – children dying after becoming entangled in a blind cord, and youngsters being knocked over and killed on the driveway.

Blind cord safety is one of the RoSPA campaigns that aims to save young lives.

Blind cord safety is one of the RoSPA campaigns that aims to save young lives.

During the awards night, it was the grieving fathers of children affected by these types of accidents who spoke so emotionally that prompted dinner guests to dig deep to help us with our mission.

Since then, I have been involved in the Go Safe Scotland project to launch an educational resource that will initially reach Glasgow children, and eventually all primary schoolchildren across Scotland.

It involves a partnership of organisations coming together to reach children in a unique way with consistent safety messages.

After all, safety and risk education is key to enabling children and young people to interact with their environment, to develop the vital skills they need, and to understand the growing responsibility they share with adults for keeping themselves (and others) safe.GoSafeScotland_logo

As far as home safety was concerned, I was looking for something to put into Go Safe Scotland that would contain age appropriate safety messages that could be delivered in a manner that wouldn’t restrict children enjoying a wide range of everyday activities, wouldn’t frighten them, and, most importantly, wouldn’t bore them either. After all, safety and risk education is key to enabling children and young people to interact with their environment.

Go Safe Scotland was launched this year.

Go Safe Scotland was launched this year.

I decided to find out more about Linda Strachan and realised she didn’t just write for teenagers, but also wrote the very popular Hamish McHaggis children’s books. Who better to write a series of short stories that could be shared as ebooks in the Go Safe Scotland resource?

A few coffees and cakes later with Linda and I was confident she was the lady for the job!

A few months on and three short stories have been completed for three different levels of primary schoolchildren – The Birthday Party,  The Surprise, and The Granny Game. Work also continues with colleagues at Glasgow City Council to have the final electronic versions produced into the educational resource.

However, I could see in my mind’s eye, parents sitting down with their children and them reading the stories together as sometimes only a “real” book will do the job. So, I wanted to see if I could find the funding to have them printed. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a copy of these books in the home of every child starting school? But I can’t do this without having money to print enough copies required to reach all those starting school in a year.

A total of £32,000 is needed to enable this to happen for the first book and at this year’s RoSPA Scotland Occupational Safety Awards on September 19, RoSPA’s chief executive Tom Mullarkey will put this appeal to the guests. I’m crossing my fingers that a good proportion of the funding required will be raised to start us on our way.

The Birthday Party is the first story for the early years, when readers will be introduced to children that will grow up with them in the next stories throughout their primary school years: Jamie, Sophie, the twins – Isla and Lewis – and baby Max. They all help to make a birthday cake, tidy up and get ready for the best party ever – while making sure no accidents are going to happen.

Would you like to be part of my story – and this fantastic initiative – by donating to this project? If so, please contact me on or call on 0131 449 9379.

Elizabeth Lumsden, RoSPA Scotland community safety manager.

6 September, 2013

Tufty, Parliament and stuffing envelopes…

Michael, the RoSPA runner, is too worn out to blog this week. So while he puts his feet up and watches the X Factor, I’ll give you a glimpse of what a RoSPA campaigns officer gets up to from nine to five.

Campaigns officer Helen Halls with Tufty and Policeman Badger

Campaigns officer Helen Halls with Tufty and Policeman Badger

With RoSPA covering road, home, work and leisure safety and public health, there’s real variety to this job. So there’s no such thing as a typical day for me. Since I started at RoSPA a year ago, I’ve done everything from compiling databases and researching Parliamentary bills to scripting videos and overseeing a photo shoot with Tufty!

What’s great about working in a small team (there’s two of us) is that you get to be involved in all aspects of a campaign, in a way you wouldn’t do in a bigger charity. So, while this can mean stuffing multiple copies of our Big Book of Accident Prevention into envelopes, it can also involve helping to launch the publication at the Houses of Parliament.

In April, fundraising was added to my daily diet. So while my boss has been thinking big thoughts, sighing heavily and penning a strategy that will guide us through the next three years, I’ve been taking my pickaxe to the Directory of Grant Making Trusts, mining its packed pages for the trusts and foundations that may fund RoSPA’s life-saving campaigns.

And today I’ve just finished my very first funding bid – so it’s fingers crossed. Wish me luck!

To find out more about our campaigns work visit To find out more about our fundraising work visit

Helen Halls, campaigns officer at The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

23 August, 2013

Marathon man Michael is making big strides for safety

I remember the exact moment, nestled in an easy chair, dipping a custard cream into a cuppa, dreaming up ways of raising cash to tackle the UK’s biggest killer of young children…

RoSPA fundraising

Michael Corley, RoSPA’s head of campaigns and fundraising, prepares for his marathon challenge!

“I know, I’ll run a half-marathon”, I exclaimed, wiping the crumbs from my mouth. “After all, it’s only 13 and a bit miles, isn’t it?”

That was several months ago. Since then the tea and the biscuits have gone*, replaced by bottled water and fruit, the dreaming replaced with the waking realisation that 13 and a bit miles is a lot further than I’d thought**.

American author Mark Twain said the secret of getting ahead is getting started. Mercifully, the organisers of the BUPA Great Birmingham Run had made that bit simple for a flaky first-timer like me by providing a training schedule.

Printing it off and tacking it to the wall was the easy bit. Getting up at 7am on a Sunday and going out after a gruelling day at work is the not-so-easy bit.

With the main event on October 20, several more weeks of this self-inflicted punishment await me. But then when I’m wheezing through bronchial tubes and feeling twinges in my gammy knee something suddenly occurs to me: I’m doing this for a damn good reason.

If you haven’t already guessed (given the nature of this blog), the UK’s biggest killer of young children is…accidents.

Here’s another chilling thought. About 18,000 people will line up alongside me in the autumn. About the same number of people will be wiped out by an accident between the end of this year’s race and the start of next. And almost all of those deaths will be preventable…

I’m running to raise money for RoSPA – the UK’s biggest and best-known accident prevention charity. We conduct campaigns to protect people at every stage of their life. Our work is proven to be low cost and high impact and is welcomed by all those who benefit from it. You can find out more about our life-saving work by visiting our website.

To help, you can sponsor me – or join me. At the time of writing, places were still available for the Great Birmingham Run – and RoSPA would love to see other people pounding the streets on its behalf.

To support our charitable mission in other ways, please visit our fundraising webpage or email FUNDRAISING@RoSPA.COM. We’d love to hear from you.

Now, if you’ll forgive me, I have no time to lose – I must get back to my training *dips another biscuit into a big mug of coffee*.

Michael Corley, RoSPA’s head of campaigns and fundraising

*This is not strictly true. NB Some dramatic licence has been used in the making of this blog.

**This bit is true.

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