Posts tagged ‘casualties’

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

1 November, 2012

Remember, remember, the real facts about fireworks…

Remember, remember, the fifth of November is an apt saying for Bonfire Night.

Firework Code Bonfire Night safer fireworks

“For those who are organising their own display, make sure your audience are well away from the bonfire and fireworks, plus keep to hand a torch, buckets of water, eye protection, gloves and a bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in” – Sheila Merrill.

For a start, it stirs up the fondest of memories – screeching rockets bursting neon colour into the dark sky with a faint aroma of smouldering cinders; families cooing around a glowing fire; and small gloved hands swirling sparklers.

Then there is the remembrance of Guy Fawkes and his failed gunpowder antics under the House of Lords.

But what I really want people, particularly teenagers, to remember is exactly what a firework is – an explosive, an unpredictable charged fuse, something that can scar for life or even kill if recklessly used as a toy or a missile.

Of course I want young people to enjoy Bonfire Night and all its sizzling revelry, as public health adviser for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), but I also want them to stay safe by being aware of the risks and knowing the facts.

Like, did you know that three sparklers burning together generate the same heat as a blowtorch? Or that a firework rocket reaches a speed of 150mph after being ignited? They are just some of the striking facts being highlighted by NHS Choices in the run up to Bonfire Night when A&E medics feel the full impact of firework injuries.

The NHS is also warning how sparklers get five times hotter than cooking oil, which is why RoSPA advises families using sparklers to wear gloves, not give them to very young children and not to hold one while carrying a baby.

Scarily, around 1,000 casualties are injured by fireworks, sparklers and the like in the four weeks around Bonfire Night every year, and half of these victims are under the age of 18. While in Northern Ireland, more than half of the 25 people injured by fireworks at this time last year were aged between 11 and 15. Despite overall casualty numbers being much lower than previous years, the rate of firework injuries among under-18s rose to four in every five victims.Firework Code Bonfire Night safer fireworks

It is against the law to sell fireworks to anyone younger than 18 in the UK, and the reason for that is because they are far from child’s play. They may dazzle and delight the young, but without proper planning and precautions, fireworks are something that commonly blind, maim or leave an unforgiving burning memento when they sadly fall into the wrong young hands. If you are asked by younger members of the family of friends to buy fireworks on their behalf, please think about this carefully as you could be putting their life at risk.

So my advice is simple, with roughly half of firework victims struck at a family or private party and many others injured in the street or park, enjoy the night at the safest place – an organised firework display.

For those who are organising their own display, make sure your audience are well away from the bonfire and fireworks, plus keep to hand a torch, buckets of water, eye protection, gloves and a bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in.

But if there is one thing you remember this Bonfire Night, remember, remember to follow the Firework Code, which can be found at RoSPA’s fireworks website – www.saferfireworks.com.

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser

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