Posts tagged ‘alcohol’

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

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

2 June, 2011

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. So said former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, at a time when healthy scepticism in the rhetorical use of numbers was all the rage – as well as stovepipe top hats and brightly striped pantaloons.

But much has changed since the late 19th-century – and not just the fashion.

Nowadays, the robust analysis of data is essential if your argument is to get a toe-hold in the collective consciousness (competing as it must with the X-Factor, Pippa Middleton, and the off-field antics of celebrity footballers).

But seriously, in an age of scarce resources every organisation worth their salt must now be providing a sophisticated response to the riddle, “where do we target resources?”

Here, at RoSPA, the answer to that question is staring us full in the face.

Accidents are responsible for 14,000 deaths and millions of injuries across the UK each year, costing the country an estimated £150billion. Yet, prevention is fairly easy to implement and inexpensive to deliver.

That’s why it is one of our key campaigns to make accident prevention a public health priority.

In a nutshell, here’s what we know about this “hidden epidemic”:

  • Accidents are the principal cause of death up to the age of 39 in the UK
  • Accidental injury continues to be the main cause of death for children after infancy
  • In 2009, one death in 40 in England and Wales was caused by an accident. Roughly three times as many people suffer a serious, life-changing injury as are killed
  • Among the causes of accidental death that have been increasing in recent years are falls, and accidental choking, strangulation and suffocation, particularly among older people
  • Accidents are financially costly to Government and society
  • Accident prevention is, compared to other potential public health interventions, easy to implement and inexpensive to deliver
  • The return on accident prevention investment, measured in Quality Adjusted Life Years, outstrips every other potential public health intervention.
  • Accidents diminish the lives of nearly a third of people in England

Following a lot of hard work in recent decades, big strides have been made in bringing down the number of people accidentally killed or injured on the road and at work. Yet, despite these significant gains, mortality statistics show that the overall trend for accidental death in the UK has been generally upwards in the last few years.

Accidents do not just cause immediate pain and suffering to the victim. Grief can last a lifetime and divorce and family breakdown are recognised as potential consequences of serious accidents. Families can suffer extreme financial hardship and the stress and strain of caring for an injured loved one should not be underestimated.

Despite RoSPA’s consistent lobbying – along with the work of many other organisations – accident prevention has remained a worryingly low priority for successive governments and has still not received the level of attention it deserves.

Several times in the last two decades, accidents have been listed as a priority by the Department of Health. But when there is a change of minister, the impetus often slows and suddenly the topic is dropped. Without government leadership and vocal support, others will not keep up the momentum.

In November 2010, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced the Coalition Government’s plans for public health in England, including the establishment of a new integrated service, called Public Health England.

RoSPA welcomed the opportunity to respond to the White Paper, Healthy Lives, Healthy People: our strategy for public health in England, and two associated consultations. However, the White Paper’s lack of recognition of the accidental injury problem, including its distribution, severities, costs or preventability, was of great concern. The focus instead was on other issues, such as alcohol-related ill health, diet, exercise and mental health.

In responding to the consultation, RoSPA put together the most comprehensive policy paper about accident prevention as a public health issue in its 94-year history. You can read RoSPA’s full consultation response (PDF 343kb) here.

RoSPA urges the Government and other leaders in the public health field to reflect on the many arguments which, taken together, constitute an unassailable case for developing fresh action on accident and injury prevention. Only by making such action a permanently-embedded feature of public health policy and practice in the UK will we be able to get on with our mission: which is to save lives and reduce injuries.

If you are as concerned as we are by this lack of action, please visit our public health campaign webpage and click on the big red “Support Our Campaign” button.

Your support – and the support of your friends and colleagues – would be much appreciated.

Michael Corley

RoSPA’s Campaigns Manager

29 March, 2011

A crushing punishment for recidivist drink-drivers

The Government’s response to the North Report on Drink and Drug Driving was published this week, and sets out a raft of new measures to tackle the problem.

In 2009, 380 people were killed and a further 11,610 were injured in drink-drive accidents on our roads.

There were 53 fatalities and 1,007 other casualties in reported road accidents in which impairment due to illicit or medicinal drugs was recorded among the contributory factors – although the true casualty figures are likely to be higher.

More worrying, though, was the number of motorists who received at least their second ban for driving under the influence of alcohol in 2009: a shocking 19,605 motorists. The problem of recidivism seems to be worsening – 13,299 motorists were banned in 2000 for a second (or third or fourth) time.

Nearly one in four motorists banned for drink or drug driving will have at least one previous conviction for the same offence. It appears that the message is not getting through to a hardcore section of society who shows flagrant disregard for the safety and wellbeing of other road users.

As part of the new measures, the Department for Transport hinted that it may follow the example of Scotland when it comes to tackling the problem of drink and drug driving. Serial offenders could have their cars seized and crushed.

The reasoning behind this is twofold: firstly, it removes the temptation and opportunity for banned drivers to blithely carry on; secondly, it impacts on other family members, putting more pressure on offenders to change their behaviour.

Other new measures to be introduced to tackle drink driving include: streamlining procedures and closing loopholes to make it easier to conduct breath tests at the roadside and in police stations; improving testing equipment; and more robust drink-drive rehabilitation schemes.

This means that people who are a little over the limit will no longer be able to ask for a blood test, thus giving them time to sober up enough to pass it. It is hoped that improved testing equipment will remove any doubt with borderline cases.

As the figures on reoffending show, the current punishments do not seem to be working, so we at RoSPA welcome more robust rehabilitation schemes. In this, as everything, education seems to be key.

On the subject of drug driving, the Government will examine the case for a new specific drug-driving offence – alongside the existing one – which would remove the need for the police to prove impairment on a case-by-case basis where a specified drug has been detected. In addition, preliminary drug-testing equipment will be approved, and procedures will be streamlined.

Drug driving is very much a “hidden” problem. With legitimate medicines, side-effects are often ill-understood and not explained clearly enough; whereas with driving under the influence of illegal drugs, the fact of their illegality means that access to facts and figures is limited. We hope that these new measures will begin to shed some light on the problem, and enable road safety professionals and lawmakers to begin to solve it.

RoSPA welcomes all the new measures set out in the Government’s response to the North Report – but they don’t go far enough.

For many years now, we have called for the drink-drive limit to be reduced from the current 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. This move was also recommended by Sir Peter North when he wrote his report following an independent review of the law.

Any alcohol impairs drivers to a greater or lesser extent, and lowering the limit would reinforce that message. The vast majority of people are well aware that driving under the influence of alcohol is anti-social and dangerous; we need to get that message through to the minority who continue to flout the law. We also need to reinforce the message that any alcohol is risky to each new generation of drivers who may think that “just the one” is perfectly safe.

RoSPA urges the Government to reconsider lowering the drink-drive limit – and not to forget that the messages need to continue for future generations.

Kevin Clinton

RoSPA’s head of road safety

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