Posts tagged ‘accident prevention’

13 May, 2014

Safer Streets for everyone – join the movement, make a difference!

Here at RoSPA, we want to see safer streets that encourage walking and cycling not only because it helps to prevent injuries, but also because it has a positive effect on a range of health-related issues, including heart disease, mental health and air pollution.

PrintMaking these links between safer roads and wider health issues are crucial. They can have a big impact on families too. Imagine being able to make the journey to school by bike, scooter or on foot without fear of being knocked down by speeding traffic. How would your children feel? Energised, happy, healthy…the list is endless.

Helping to make this vision a reality is Sustrans – which aims to help people choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys and enjoy better, safer spaces to live in. This week, Sustrans is launching a new campaign for Safer Streets and needs your support. The campaign is calling for:

  • 20mph default speed limits across built up areas – this will make everyone’s route safer
  • Dedicated funding for active travel – this will provide the resources needed to transform routes and invest in walking and cycling locally
  • Stronger duties and incentives on local authorities to develop routes and promote cycling and walking.

On the Sustrans website, you can find out more about getting support for making your street safer by creating a “DIY Street” – a tool to enable communities to take vital first steps to restore their streets for people and not cars.

Earlier this year, we unveiled new guidance for road safety and public health professionals to help boost the nation’s health. The report reveals that the greatest impact can be achieved when public health and road safety teams tackle shared agendas, such as working together to reduce the speed and volume of motor traffic or introducing road layouts that encourage safe walking and cycling.Sustrans_Safetoschool

And let us not underestimate the benefits of introducing 20mph speed limits in built up areas; lower speeds make crashes less likely and less severe when they do happen and are effective at protecting people, especially children, pedestrians and cyclists from being killed or injured. They also encourage more people to walk and cycle by providing a more pleasant and safer environment.

Councils are responsible for determining where 20mph limits should be introduced and they should take advantage of opportunities to implement them where they are needed. And this is where you come in! As part of the process, councils consult and engage with local communities and other stakeholders to make sure that safer roads are prioritised where needed and that residents have input into the schemes’ development. What are you waiting for? Get involved!

Duncan Vernon, RoSPA’s road safety manager

27 November, 2013

Bunk beds – are your children sleeping safely?

New arrivals in the family are a joy, but they soon need their own bed. Often this will mean smaller rooms being turned into bedrooms or siblings sharing a room.  In this edition of my blog, I will look at how parents can safely use bunk beds for their children to sleep in.

ClimbingIt is estimated that there are seven bed-related fatalities a year in the UK, along with 1,000 children injured after falling from beds.

Unsurprisingly, most accidents involving bunk beds occur when children are playing on them and so they should be discouraged from doing so.

At the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), we recommend that no child under the age of six sleeps in the top bunk.

In one study of accidents involving bunk beds, the age group found to be most at risk was between two and six years (which represented 57 per cent of the accidents studied).

Of the accidents, 40 per cent resulted from “children playing”, but entrapment leading to strangulation has also been recognised as a particular hazard and is dealt with by the safety laws.

We want families to keep bedtime safe and happy.

We want families to keep bedtime safe and happy.

In fact, the harmonised European standard for bunk beds requires that the manufacturer’s instructions provided with new bunk beds contains the phrase “be aware of the danger of young children (under six) falling from the upper bunk”.

Sadly, it is not just the top bunk that can be dangerous. Earlier this year an eight-month-old girl accidentally hanged herself when she became wedged between a mattress and ladder while wriggling in her bunk bed.

She had been sleeping in the bottom bunk for two months after a health visitor said she should be given her own room.

Her parents fitted a bed brace to ensure the baby didn’t fall out, but somehow she managed to wriggle between the bars of the ladder leading to the top bunk and got stuck against the mattress.

Our advice here at RoSPA is very clear – bunk beds are perfectly safe for kids as long as safety checks are in place.

Children under six should not be allowed on the top bunk, although they may seem safe and be responsible. It can only take one awkward fall to sustain an injury.iStock_000012073096Large

Parents should consider very carefully whether allowing a child younger than six to sleep on the bottom bunk is safe for them.  Babies should always have their own cots, and toddlers can get trapped, as we have seen, so please don’t think that just because your child is under six, they will automatically be safe on the bottom bunk.

Another thing to consider is a thinner mattress for the top bunk as a standard single mattress may be too thick and will allow the child to roll over the safety barrier.

Importantly, do not allow any type of cord, rope, belt, scarf or anything similar to be hung from the top bunk. Also, do not place bunk beds near windows which have cord operated blinds – it is safer not to have this type of window covering in a child’s bedroom. This is because children can be strangled quickly and quietly by looped blind cords, sometimes with parents or carers in close proximity, potentially unaware of what is happening.

red_houseI know only too well from my own children that youngsters love to play on bunk beds, but climbing and bouncing around on the top bunk should not be permitted.

Every part to a bunk bed is important, so when assembling bunk beds, ensure that all safety barriers are in place, especially if buying a second-hand one.

Finally, when booking your holidays, please check what the sleeping arrangements for your children will be.  RoSPA has received reports in the past of holiday firms booking rooms for children under six with bunk beds.  My advice is to be very explicit at the point of booking whether or not bunk beds will be suitable for your children.

I hope this blog has been of use to you, so sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

Philip le Shirley, product safety consultant at RoSPA.

29 August, 2013

Share your training tips with our RoSPA runner

Michael Corley is a man on a mission – to save lives and reduce injuries. That’s why he’s raising funds for RoSPA in the BUPA Great Birmingham Run. He’s sworn off the crisps, blown the dust off his trainers and got cracking on a gruelling training regime that would bring Mo Farah out in a cold sweat.

TuftysmallBut there’s an awful lot of pavement to be pounded before Michael hits the mean streets of Birmingham on October 20. And with the summer nights giving way to autumn mists, he’s going to need all the inspiration he can get to keep reaching for the stars and not the pies.

Which is where you come in. Whether you’ve raced for a charity or run for fun, we need to know what’s kept you going on those cold, damp nights when the sofa and EastEnders have never looked so inviting. Was it a jogging buddy? The promise of a treat when you got back from the run? Or a bumper bottle of energy drink? Share your tips with Michael here.

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.

18 June, 2013

Cycling Coast to Coast for RoSPA

Earlier this month, I set off on a Coast to Coast cycling challenge to raise money for RoSPA’s first “safe community”, a place where no-one need suffer an accidental injury.

Errol Taylor RoSPA Coast to Coast

Errol all ready to go – equipped with his hi-viz jacket and a big smile!

Today’s A&E departments are bursting at the seams partly due to the numbers of accidents we suffer in our homes and during our leisure time. We can’t afford for the NHS to keep investing in more doctors and nurses. Instead, people need to be made aware of everyday hazards so that they can take better care of themselves and their loved ones. This is where injury prevention comes in; it is low cost and highly effective, especially when it is tailored to the needs of people as they travel life’s journey.

The 140-mile challenge from Whitehaven on the west coast of beautiful Cumbria to Gateshead on the east coast was also an opportunity for me to aid my recovery from an operation to repair my right knee, which was damaged after years of playing squash, tennis and badminton.

Here are a few diary entries to give you some idea of how I got on during the six-day adventure:

Thursday evening

Late home from work. Must load the bike on the car and pack some clothes. Cumbria’s weather is so unpredictable, I’d better take the kitchen sink…winter waterproofs, heavyweight fleece, lightweight hi-viz waterproof and fleece, T-shirts, padded cycle shorts, undies, trainers, comfy shoes, sandals, umbrella and wellies.

Friday

Off early to collect my pals Andy and Ian, their bikes and luggage. Their bags are much smaller than mine, suggesting a far more efficient approach to packing. Worryingly, their bikes look shiny and much more impressive than mine – a venerable Dawes Sarratoga mountain bike with slick tyres for asphalt.

We set off on our four-hour drive to Gateshead in glorious sunshine. The drive up the A1 (M) is uneventful and easy because we share the driving…saving energy for the days to come.

In Gateshead, we rendezvous with our tour guides and the nine other cyclists. Everyone is keen, happy and looks extremely fit. We transfer bikes and luggage and drive west to Threlkeld in Cumbria. This gorgeous little village, with delightful lambs and calves enjoying the lush grass, nestles in the foothills of the massive Blancathra. We enjoy a tasty meal – ale and cider – before a restful night in an ancient coaching inn.

Saturday  

After a lavish cooked breakfast, we’re driven to the start of the C2C in Whitehaven. We all have cameras, so every photo has to be taken 12 times. Rear wheels are dipped in the Irish Sea and I almost go for a swim after slipping on treacherous seaweed. At last we’re set free to start climbing all the way back to Threlkeld. The C2C starts off gently and we speed off towards the open countryside. The tranquillity of the first tea stop is marred by an outraged homeowner who bemoans the way in which we line up to overlook her garden and admire the views of the countryside. Is this a one-off or the first taste of hostility towards cyclists?

We set off again and enter the Lake District National Park. Hills are getting a bit steeper but nothing to worry about. A healthy lunch awaits us in a layby next to Loweswater where we spot a handful of hardy swimmers splashing through the icy water. On to Keswick by way of Whinlatter Pass – flanked by Broom Fell (509m) and Grisedale Pike (790m) – and enticing Derwent Water. The guides do a great job of steering us through Keswick and on to the disused railway track between Keswick and Threlkeld. However, we suffer a big disappointment by having to cycle past an ice cream van. Warm water has to suffice until we reach the coaching inn where the first refreshing pints are downed rather quickly.

Sunday

This is the Big Day with the biggest hill and where we cover the biggest distance. Again, we set off in glorious sunshine and surprisingly, we’re not too saddle-sore. Those padded shorts were a superb investment! My back tyre suddenly goes soft and after a quick repair I show a tiny flint arrowhead to the group. I’m lucky with the single puncture because another member of our party suffers four on the same day! The enforced breather means that we make light work of the ride through “Tuftyland” (the Lake District is one of the last refuges of our charismatic red squirrel) and reach Greystoke for our second healthy lunch of salad, quiche, sausages and fruit. Our guides get another mouthful of abuse from a local, for parking the support vehicle in front of his house “and blotting out the sun”. Cumbrians clearly are very keen to make the most of every little bit of sunshine…

RoSPA Errol Taylor Coast to Coast

Errol makes time for a quick photo while on the way through “Tuftyland” (the Lake District is one of the last refuges of our charismatic red squirrel).

Next we raid the “naughty box” – full of assorted chocolates and old-fashioned sweets – before setting off again, through the metropolis of Penrith and on to Hartside Cafe. At 624m above sea level, this cafe is England’s highest and very popular with motorcyclists. Feeling elated at having reached such a dizzy altitude, we head off in search of a cream tea. Alas, there is no more cream and a member of staff grumbles when we take their last cheese scone, muttering “that it has been a busy day”. Parisian waiters seem polite in comparison!

Fortified by the tea, we whizz down the hill to Alston, looking forward to a shower, a good meal and plenty of alcoholic lubrication. The shower is surprisingly invigorating, intermittently scalding and freezing but the food and drink ensure that we get off to another good night’s sleep.

Monday

The shortest day in terms of miles but with a set of “cheeky” (i.e. really challenging) climbs. Not quite as sunny as before, so we all wrap up for a pleasant cycle to the attractive village of Garrygill on the Pennine Way. That saddle is becoming more uncomfortable but it is still OK. One has to “wiggle” to get completely comfortable. The hill out of Garrygill is a shocker! It is so steep that despite using really low gear ratios we have to zig-zag (or walk) our way up the first 100m. After that, it teases by rising steeply, levelling off, curving and rising steeply again. Though much shorter than Hartside, this hill seems to go on and on until we eventually reach the summit at Flinty Fell (591m) and admire the view of open moorland. The descent is equally steep and I bless the fact that I take it gently and have always taken care over the maintenance of my brakes. There’s a smell of burnt rubber in the air by the time we drop down to the old mining village of Nenthead.

We raid the “naughty box” for sustenance before climbing to the Cumbria/Northumberland border and the highest point on the National Cycle Network (609m). The views of the open moorland are breathtaking (or maybe we’re breathless from all that climbing?) but the bleakness spurs us on across Allendale Common to the attractive village of Allenheads for lunch, where we admire the hydraulic engine and try out the stocks.

This was mining country where people toiled to extract silver and lead. The Lintzgarth Arch is all that remains of a horizontal flue used to take poisonous fumes away and allow precious metals to condense. Apparently small children were sent into the flue to scrape off the toxic metal deposits. Thank goodness for modern health and safety legislation!

After some off-road fun, where carbon-fibre bikes with full suspension and nobbly tyres come into their own and for the first time make my trusty steed seem a bit inadequate, we reach a guest house. We are warmly welcomed and make the most of the snug lounge and plentiful supply of ales and ciders before eventually retiring for the night.

Tuesday

Errol Taylor RoSPA Coast to Coast

The team (and Errol, front, bottom right) reach Hadrian’s Cycleway in north England.

Final day. All downhill! The weather is starting to close in, so we wrap up in cycling fleeces and hi-viz waterproofs. Sitting on the saddle is becoming more uncomfortable and wiggles are becoming more pronounced. The ride down the Waskerley Way – a converted railway track – is almost too easy for seasoned cyclists who have just conquered the Pennines!

We cross Hownsgill Viaduct – now “adorned” with ugly fencing to discourage suicide attempts – before admiring the Terra Novalis sculptures on the outskirts of Consett. The Waskerley Way morphs into a succession of traffic-free routes: Derwent Walk, Keelman’s Walk and then Hadrian’s Way. Lots of photos are taken in front of Newcastle’s Tyne bridges before a final lunch in front of the Cycle Hub and a short ride to the pebbly beach at Tynemouth where we proudly dip our front wheels in the North Sea.

I’m really pleased that my knees and venerable old bike have performed magnificently throughout the 140 miles, helping me to disprove Bob Hope’s assertion that “middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle”.

Finally, I’m so grateful to everyone who has contributed to the amazing total of over £3,100 that we have managed to raise for RoSPA.

Errol Taylor, RoSPA’s deputy chief executive

www.justgiving.com/Errol-Taylor

Did you know that RoSPA has been at the heart of accident prevention in the UK and around the world for almost 100 years?

Do you fancy taking action on accidents by helping to further RoSPA’s mission “to save lives and reduce injuries”?

Whether it’s scaling mountains, staging coffee mornings or swimming in a bath of cold beans, we want to hear from you and get you on board. Visit www.rospa.com/fundraising/ for some ideas and tips to get you started. For further details, email fundraising@rospa.com.

5 June, 2013

Let the buggy take the strain!

After the worst winter in recent memory we are all keen to get out and about in the sun. For those of us with new babies this can bring its own challenges as they can be heavy!

One of my previous blogs looked at baby slings and in this one I offer advice on the safe use of buggies and pushchairs.

Two mothers

It is fair to say that modern pushchairs and buggies are made to very high standards and provide a very high level of safety for babies, although injuries to children in the past have been caused by faulty brakes, flammable materials, unstable carriages and finger entrapments.

When buying new or second-hand, look for reference to a safety standard, typically BS 7409 or BSEN 1888:2003.  High street retailers are very good about ensuring that the products they supply meet the latest safety standards. Of course, as my blog on second-hand goods explained, not every parent can afford to buy products new.

RoSPA supports the supply of second-hand buggies and prams but advises parents to exercise caution before doing so.  For example, Maclaren recalled more than a million pushchairs in the US due to finger entrapment hazards a few years ago.  Here in the UK, safety packs were offered to parents. It is important to always check that the product you are buying is safe in this context and that it is marked as complying with the standard(s).

There are also some general rules for all parents who already own buggies and pushchairs:

  • Keep your child harnessed in at all times and never leave them unattended
  • If making adjustments, keep the child well away from moving parts
  • Buggies and pushchairs require regular maintenance
  • Overloading can be dangerous – don’t put coats and bags on top of the buggy as these can cause it to tip over
  • Handles are not for carrying shopping bags – these can also cause instability
  • If using a “buggy board” for older children to stand on while you push, please ensure that it is suitable for the buggy and fitted correctly
  • Incorrect folding can damage the product
  • Avoid using non-approved accessories which can cause damage
  • ALWAYS read the instructions before assembling and using the product.

Baby with soother

If family members or friends kindly pass on buggies or pushchairs that are no longer needed, parents also need to check that all harnesses have five straps.

Also, be aware that non-reclining seats are not suitable for children under six-months-old.

And before you put your child in a buggy or pushchair:

  • Check the brakes (lock and unlock them and then push)
  • Check that the product is properly unfolded and “locked” together correctly
  • Check that there is no damage, including sharp edges and torn fabric.

Most important of all, have fun out there this summer with your children and make the most of these special times when they are always with you – they grow up fast!

For more child safety tips, please go to the RoSPA website at: www.rospa.com/childsafety/

Philip LeShirley, RoSPA Product Safety Adviser

8 August, 2012

The importance of communicating home safety messages during health visits – guest blog

Student health visitor Sally Tilley recently visited RoSPA to spend some time learning more about the charity, its work on child safety in the home and current campaigns. Here she shares her story:

For health visitors a child’s welfare is of ultimate importance; it is why we are here to do the job we do. Part of our role is to support parents to do the best for their children, promote health and safeguard. It is common for people to immediately think of us and our role in safeguarding in terms of preventing neglect, both physical and emotional. In fact, the definition of safeguarding is as follows:

  • Protecting children and young people from maltreatment
  • Preventing impairment of children and young people’s health or development
  • Ensuring that children and young people are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • Undertaking that role so as to enable those children and young people to have optimum life chances to enter adulthood successfully.*
baby child safety in the home

“Health visiting is not about telling parents what to do, but more about supporting them to make changes, equipping them with the skills they need and empowering them with the information to do the best thing for their children.” – Sally Tilley.

When I visited RoSPA, I was surprised by the statistics, in particular the sheer number of accidents that happen to children in the home. It got me thinking, that as public health home visitors, we are in a prime position to offer advice on home safety and so by getting our message across, we may each be able to prevent just some of the many accidents that happen every year. For example, if we alert a family to the risks of hot drinks, medications and blind cords, we may be able to fulfil most of the above and reduce the costs both financially and emotionally to society and individual families. We already routinely give sleep safe advice to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death, as part of our standard care packages, so I thought why not do the same with blind cords?

Families are busy and having a new baby to look after can be both tiring and stressful, toddlers even more so! Most parents want the best for their children, but simply may not have considered the risks their home may pose or how their children’s natural inquisitiveness and development stages could lead to an accident.

Health visiting is not about telling parents what to do, but more about supporting them to make changes, equipping them with the skills they need and empowering them with the information to do the best thing for their children. That’s not to say that we would not bring up issues of safety if asked; we would help people to understand the risks and provide them with the information on how to minimise them. For example, at an antenatal visit we might say, “Have you had any thoughts about safety in the home?” or “What do you know about making the home safer for children?” to get them to talk about what they already know. They may say, “Well we’ve thought about buying safety gates and a child car seat”. We can then compliment them on what they already know, by talking about the correct use of safety gates and child car seats, saying something along the lines of, “I can see you’ve already thought about this, although you may not have been aware that blind cords can also pose a safety risk, however I have some information on how you can manage that too”.

At postnatal visits we might also talk about development and relate that to possible safety risks. A conversation may go something along the lines of, “I see your baby is rolling now, which is great, although it does mean he will keep you busy. Make sure he doesn’t roll into or off things, in fact, changing him on the floor is a lot safer” or “It looks like he’ll be walking soon, I can give you some tips on how to get ready for that by making your home safer”.

We have guidelines as to what to cover at standard visits, although visits are never the same and the process is not a tick box approach. Each family is different and a family may have different needs at each visit or at different stages of the child’s development. Often, there may be an unexpected crisis that needs to be dealt with. However, I think health visitors are always considering whether there are any concerns; it is part of our standard assessment framework to look at a child’s developmental needs, parenting capacity and family and environmental factors. Child safety in the home is encompassed by this framework and health visitors are generally skilled at searching for health needs and recognising where prevention or promotional advice is required.

child safety in the home

“The RoSPA leaflets that I was able to take away with me have been very useful for striking up a conversation about safety with clients. If I can pass on this valuable information to a family, it may just make a difference to the health and wellbeing of a child by helping to prevent an accident” – Sally Tilley.

Most families are receptive to advice and grateful for suggestions but, of course, if a situation is considered as dangerous and families are not receptive to advice and do not put the needs of the child first (and very often there are other concerns in a case like this) we can express our concerns to social care who would look at the whole picture before deciding on any action. This would generally be discussed with the family before enabling them to understand what the concerns are. A referral may actually mean more support can be offered if a family is struggling to keep their child safe from harm.

We may not be able to cover everything in one visit, but we can develop relationships and tackle things in several visits, through leaflets and at clinics. Sometimes the team organises group sessions that cover safety issues and we promote these sessions on visits. However, we can only advise within the scope of what we know and that’s where evidence-based, standardised information and advice from an organisation such as RoSPA could come in.

I have been lucky to undertake a study day on child safety in the home with RoSPA and it has equipped me with the knowledge and skills to recognise risks and to know how to minimise them. In fact, the leaflets that I was able to take away with me have been very useful for striking up a conversation about safety with clients. If I can pass on this valuable information to a family, it may just make a difference to the health and wellbeing of a child by helping to prevent an accident. After all, that’s what we are there to do.

Do you want to find out more and to support RoSPA’s public health campaign? Visit www.rospa.com/about/currentcampaigns/publichealth/

*Taken from The Children’s Act, HM Government, 2004.

By Sally Tilley, student health visitor

15 July, 2011

A childhood scald can be a life sentence

We were recently made aware of a good video by North Bristol NHS Trust called “Hot Drinks Harm”, produced to highlight the scalding risk to children posed by hot tea and coffee.

Every 90 seconds someone in the UK is burned or scalded in an accident. That’s quite a shocking statistic, particularly when you realise just how serious it can be.

Most people are well aware that a scald or burn is extremely painful when it happens. However, not many know that a serious scald in childhood is a life sentence for the individual – and one that can be easily avoided.

It’s relatively well known that hot bath water is the number one cause of serious scalding injuries among young children. Every day, at least one child under five is admitted to hospital with serious scalds caused by bath water. Thankfully, the fitting of thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) is reducing the incidence of bath-time scalds.

Less well known, though, is the fact that many children go to hospital each day with scalds caused by hot drinks.

Under-fives make up six per cent of the population but receive a much larger proportion of scald injuries. Given children’s smaller size, they are more damaged, proportionally, than adults by the same amount of hot water. Children’s skin – and particularly babies’ skin – can be up to 15 times thinner than adults’, making it far more delicate and susceptible to damage. Did you know that a hot drink can still scald a child up to 15 minutes after being made?

So what are the costs?

Scalds make up around 70 per cent of all burns injuries to children. From a purely financial point of view, the cost to the NHS is an average of £1,850 per child scalded – in really severe cases, up to £250,000.

However, the implications of a childhood scald go far beyond monetary costs: a burn injury takes seconds, but stays for life. A child who receives a burn or scald can look forward to years of painful treatment; and in the most serious cases, they face hundreds of operations to release the scar tissue as they grow.

With serious burns, it’s not just a case of patching up a child with protective bandages and antiseptic – skin grafts are required, and a toddler may need further grafts until they stop growing 15 or 20 years later.

The psychological impact of a burn injury is also immense, particularly when children reach their teenage years and have to cope with their scarring alongside the usual teenage image and self-confidence issues. Some children are disfigured for life, with their parents experiencing a prolonged sense of guilt.

Support is available for families who have experienced scald injuries; but it’s far better to prevent them occurring in the first place.

What can be done?

A few simple precautions can prevent a lifetime of pain:

  • Don’t hold a hot drink and a child at the same time
  • Never leave young children alone in the bathroom
  • Put hot drinks out of reach and away from the edges of tables and worktops – and beware of tablecloths! A drink in the middle of the table can quickly be a danger to a toddler grabbing at the edge of a tablecloth
  • Encourage the use of a coiled flex or a cordless kettle
  • Keep small children out of the kitchen whenever possible
  • Run the domestic hot water system at 46°C or fit a thermostatic mixing valve to taps
  • When running a bath turn the cold water on first and always test the water temperature with your elbow before letting a child get into the bath or shower
  • Always use rear hotplates and turn the panhandles away from the front of the cooker
  • Keep hot irons, curling tongs and hair straighteners out of reach even when cooling down – or use a heat-proof bag.

We need to make people understand that these are largely preventable injuries, emphasising that the cost of treatment is far greater than the cost of prevention. Nobody wants their child to come to harm, so in most cases, a little education goes a very long way.

Jane Trobridge, home safety officer for RoSPA

12 July, 2011

Scramble your way to a coastal adventure

As promised in the last blog on tombstoning, we’d like to introduce coasteering: a popular and developing activity that involves traversing the intertidal zone – or, in everyday language, scrambling around the coastline having fun.

Those taking part in the activity use a combination of scrambling, walking, swimming and jumping to complete the

The idea is NOT to stay dry...

journey – if you set out with the intention of staying dry, you’re not coasteering!

In its early days, coasteering was a niche activity which began in Pembrokeshire, south Wales, where there are miles of wild, rocky coastline to explore. It was run by a small number of well-managed outdoor centres; but since then the activity has spread around the UK. This growth in the sport’s popularity has brought new activity providers onto the scene.

In the summer of 2007, primarily as a result of several incidents and near misses, members of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) began to think about the management and development of coasteering – and, in parallel, approaches to managing “tombstoning” incidents.

In response to these incidents, a joint project was launched with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS). Under the direction of the NWSF beach advisory group, an industry working group was established involving some 120 organisations and individuals providing commercial coasteering services to the public. The project aimed to reduce the number of accidents, and implement an industry standard for organisations offering coasteering activities.

How did we address the issue?

  1. Developing an industry group. Bringing the providers, regulators and rescue organisations together has been the key activity over the last few years.

New and emerging sports often have local pockets of knowledge and excellent practice; sharing this and embedding good practice was the objective, along with helping the industry to formalise the knowledge that was sometimes locked away.

One of the early achievements was the development of a workable definition of coasteering:

Coasteering involves traversing along a stretch of intertidal zone, often as part of an organised group activity. Participants travel across rocks and through water, using a variety of techniques including climbing, swimming and jumping into water. Coasteering guides and participants wear appropriate clothing and equipment while undertaking coasteering activities.

  1. Agreeing industry standards and common practice. This was no mean feat. Many of the providers had to sacrifice some of their hard-earned commercial experience and compromise.

The maxim of “not allowing excellence to be the enemy of good” proved true; many providers had first rate standards and operations, which were beyond the capability of smaller companies. The working group addressed this by developing a “safe as necessary” standard that was achievable by everyone in the industry. The group put together two documents outlining the agreed practice and information.

The guidance has proved to be influential and both documents have been adopted by the outdoor industry regulator, the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA).

  1. Developing capacity. One of the issues identified early in the project was the number of organisations involved in developing the sport, who were doing a good job in terms of promoting good practice, but had little resource to scale this nationally.

The original industry group has now progressed from being a NWSF working group into the National Coasteering Charter (NCC), which now includes the majority of providers and training bodies. This group will take forward the sharing and embedding of good practice across the sport.

Adventure is beautiful

Did the project deliver everything we wanted?

No. Not all the training providers are currently involved, nor are some of the other wider industry groups. But, and this is an important “but”, the key providers are involved and they have a common vision of improving the safety and quality of the sector.

However, the wider impact of the project shouldn’t be underestimated.

The process itself and the fact that an industry group overcame its difficulties to work together through what were contentious issues and achieve a good number of excellent outcomes have been noted both in the UK and internationally.

The coasteering project was presented at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Vietnam (look out for a blog on this event soon!).

So, what next?

The NCC will take over governance of the key documents with RoSPA, the RNLI, the MCA and other members of the NWSF taking more of a watching brief. The NCC, if it grows as promised, looks to be the best forum for managing the issues associated with coasteering and as such it will have a formal reporting route through the NWSF and, we hope, through other groups.

For more information about coasteering:

Coasteering is great fun, and a unique way of experiencing our country’s beautiful coastline. Get out there and have a go!

David Walker, RoSPA’s information manager and NWSF member

This blog was based on an article in RoSPA’s Staying Alive journal. Take a look at RoSPA’s Flickr account for more coasteering photographs (all owned by John Paul Eatock and Keirron Tastagh).

8 July, 2011

Don’t jump into the unknown!

It’s that time of year again – the weather is (sometimes!) beautifully warm, people are on holidays, and perhaps a touch too much alcohol may have been consumed. Inhibitions are lowered, and somebody decides to jump off a pier or a bridge.

I can see the attraction of tombstoning, being a bit of an adrenaline junkie.

However, there is a really simple message for people to keep in their minds: don’t jump into the unknown!

Look before you leap

Last week’s newspapers wrote about a man in his 20s who jumped 30 feet off Brighton Pier into just three feet of water. Unsurprisingly, he suffered serious head and spinal injuries – hopefully he will make a full recovery, but others have not been so lucky.

Sadly, it’s not difficult to find many stories of deaths and serious injuries caused by tombstoning in recent years.

Tombstoning offers a high-risk, high-impact experience but it can have severe and life-threatening consequences. Some of these reasons may seem obvious, but they’re worth emphasising – as the accident stats show!

Injuries and deaths as a result of tombstoning are a growing problem. Over the five year period 2004-2008 – 139 incidents required a rescue or emergency response and 12 of them ended in a fatality.

We looked at 41 of the most serious cases in more detail, and the stats may surprise you.

  • Most of those involved in the most serious cases were male (85%)
  • Teenagers were involved in just over half the cases (55%), followed by those in their 20s (25% with the remainder of incidents involving people aged over 30 years
  • All of the known alcohol-related incidents involved males aged over 40 (which accounted for three of the fatal incidents)
  • Of the non-fatal incidents, spinal and limb injuries (both at 20%) were most commonly reported.

So, perhaps counter intuitively, it’s not just teenage boys who are the problem. And it’s not the teenagers who are putting their lives in danger after drinking – that is reserved for those who are old enough to know better.

Many of the non-fatal incidents have resulted in life-changing injuries and they required significant resources from the rescue services. As well as the costs to the authorities, these people are now going to require lifelong care from family and friends – it’s not just their own quality of life that has been reduced.

Young and older fathers were among the fatalities, along with at least three teenagers. The coastguard has produced a video clip highlighting the consequences.

So what’s RoSPA’s advice? You may be expecting me to wave my arms and say, “Don’t do it!” But this is the real world. People are going to do what they feel like doing – and most of the time, that’s fine. So all we are saying is that people should arm themselves with information, and know what they’re getting themselves into.

Taking a moment to think through what you’re about to do may save a lifetime of pain and regret – or it may simply save your life.

Don’t jump into the unknown. Consider the dangers before you take the plunge:

  • Check for hazards in the water. Rocks or other objects may be submerged and difficult to see
  • Check the depth of the water. Remember tides can rise and fall very quickly – as a rule of thumb, a jump of ten metres requires a water depth of at least five metres
  • Never jump while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Check for access. Can you get out of the water once you’re in?
  • Consider the risks to yourself and others. Conditions can change rapidly – young people could be watching and may attempt to mimic the activity. And, if you jump when you feel unsafe or pressured, you probably won’t enjoy the experience.

Jumping in is the easy part; getting out of the water is often more difficult than people realise, and don’t forget that strong currents can rapidly sweep people away – even strong swimmers cannot swim against the tide.

The best way to learn about the risks involved and have a good experience is to try coasteering – a mix of scrambling, climbing, traversing and cliff jumping around the coast with a professional guide.

Stay tuned to the blog next week for an article on coasteering!

Vicky Fraser, RoSPA’s press officer/web editor

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