Posts tagged ‘child safety’

14 January, 2016

How safe are baby slings for a newborn? A mother shares her tragic experience.

Marianne Matthews, from Harrow, was celebrating the birth of her first child Eric when, within weeks, he had died after having been carried in a baby sling. Marianne explains what happened.

I write this blog in memory of my first child Eric, and with the hope that this message will help prevent more tragedies like ours.

Baby Sling story Eric Matthews first days with parents Marianne and Bob Matthews

Parents Marianne and Bob Matthews with Eric when he was first born.

Eric was four-weeks-old when he became unconscious while I was carrying him in a stretchy wrap baby sling – soft fabric that wraps around the chest and waist and holds baby, allowing a parent to keep their hands free as they go about their everyday tasks.

As a new parent, you get marketed at relentlessly with baby products. I wasn’t fully aware of the risks involving baby slings, and you never think these kinds of tragedies are something that will happen to you. The dangers of slings were not mentioned in the antenatal classes we attended, or in any of the baby books we read. Maybe because baby slings are newly popular, safety warnings aren’t yet part of the standard information given to expectant parents.

I bought a stretchy wrap sling online. It came with minimal instructions and had no safety label.

baby carrier baby sling

The safest method is in a carrier that keeps the baby solidly against the parent’s body, in an upright position.

It was Christmas Eve 2013 and Eric was quite unsettled so I put him in the sling and took him out for a walk to the local shop. He started to get a bit hungry and I tried to breastfeed him whilst carrying him. I then decided to go home. At the time I thought Eric was just falling asleep.

Everything happened so quickly and quietly I didn’t realise that something was very wrong. He had either choked or got into difficulties. By the time I got back, he had stopped breathing.

We called 999 and tried to resuscitate him. Sadly Eric never regained consciousness, and passed away in our arms a week later on New Year’s Day 2014.

We loved Eric so much and wonder how things went so wrong. Eric was our first child, and as new parents, we were finding out what to do for the first time. Our inexperience was to have tragic consequences, sometimes love just isn’t enough.

Eric is now a big brother, our little girl Sola Eden was born in October 2014, and she really is a miracle for me and my husband Bob, especially as we had her when we were still grieving. I have learned a lot from Eric. I’ll never use a baby sling again. Safety is an absolute priority.

Baby sling story Marianne Matthews with husband Bob and daughter Sola Eden

Marianne and Bob Matthews have celebrated the birth of daughter Sola Eden since the tragedy.

My advice is not to use a baby sling for a newborn baby – wait a few weeks until they are stronger and have more neck control. Don’t be tempted to multi-task by feeding a baby in a sling and check for safety standards and warnings before choosing a product.

The part that concerns me most is that some slings are marketed as ‘breastfeeding slings’. In my opinion, the feeding position is unsafe for baby (particularly a newborn) to be carried in, as they need to be kept upright to keep their airways clear. A baby trying to feed may make similar sounds to a baby struggling for breath, or make no sounds at all, and tragedy can occur in a minute or so. Added to this, the use of a sling while out and about may mean there are more distractions, and parents may not be fully aware of what’s happening.

I hope other parents find our story helpful, and it can in some way prevent another avoidable death like Eric’s from happening.

Marianne Matthews.

You can read more on RoSPA’s detailed advice on baby slings at the RoSPA website.

amber teething necklace baby

RoSPA is aware of risks attached to these products because a sling’s fabric can press against a baby’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s airways and causing suffocation within a minute or two.  Suffocation can also occur where the baby is cradled in a curved or “C-like” position in a sling, nestling below the parent’s chest or near their stomach.

Because babies do not have strong neck control, this means that their heads are more likely to flop forward, chin-to-chest, restricting the infant’s ability to breathe. RoSPA advocates products that keep babies upright and allow parents to see their baby and to ensure that the face isn’t restricted. Your baby is safest travelling with you in a pram or pushchair in which they are lying flat, on their back, in a parent-facing position.

20 May, 2014

Aching bones can’t thwart charity Highland trek

For the past few months, Liz Lumsden has been sharing preparations for her West Highland Way walk in aid of a RoSPA child safety project. Here, she blogs about the tough 50-mile two-day trek itself.

Liz (far right), Donald (centre) and friends at the start of the walk.

Liz (far right), Donald (centre) and friends at the start of the walk.

Not many people will walk 25 miles in one day – and then get up the next morning and walk another 25! For me, that was the biggest challenge. I have done walks before of a similar length, but always had a day to recover before going back to work. To repeat the experience on a second day was not easy.

My son Donald and I had agreed to walk 50 miles of the West Highland Way to raise funds for the printing and distribution of The Birthday Party, a children’s book about safety. RoSPA wants every child starting school in Scotland this year to get a copy.

We began at 7am on day one with a climb out of Crainlarich before the terrain flattened out for a while during the seven miles over to Tyndrum. After a coffee we headed off over to Bridge of Orchy in time for lunch. We needed it – the next stage was a real climb and ended up on Rannoch Moor – 10 miles of desolation – before the long walk down the mountains to the only hotel for miles – the Kingshouse. We could see it from it about three miles away and kept thinking about the bath and the hot meal that were waiting for us.

I ached from head to toe by the time I crawled (almost literally) into bed that night. I didn’t feel much better the next morning, but there was no going back. It wasn’t a very appealing thought to get started as the rain had been pouring down most of the night and had only eased off a bit by 8am.

The group reach the all important half way point and stop for a spot of lunch!

The group reach the all important half way point and stop for a spot of lunch! Well deserved we say!

Waterproofs on, we were ready to complete the challenge. After a fairly flat start we had to climb the Devil’s Staircase. It’s tough, but thankfully doesn’t last for long and the following section is mostly flat or downhill into Kinlochleven. The sun even came out for a while.

We were able to enjoy lunch in the sun before popping into a cafe in Kinlochleven for coffee and white chocolate “rocky road” (my favourite!). The sugar rush kept us going on the long climb out of Kinlochleven and down through the most amazing valley before the final slog to Fort William.

Like the previous day, we could see where we wanted to be long before we reached it. The last section of the West Highland Way is on surfaces that are very unforgiving and our bones started to really ache with about five miles still to go.

We walked with friends who were fundraising for other charities and had a real sense of achievement when we crossed the finishing line. We all had friends and family to meet us and were receiving text messages during the last few hours encouraging us to “keep going”.

Donald and I love to walk, but this was certainly his biggest challenge to date and he completed it suffering from only one blister (I managed to avoid having any – thanks to the amazing properties of Vaseline!).

I managed to exceed my fundraising target, but we still need money for the project. Every £1 raised will mean three parents can share home safety messages while reading The Birthday Party to their children. You can still donate at www.justgiving.com/elizabeth-lumsden2 or by texting WWHW50 £2, WWHW50 £5 or WWHW50 £10 to 70070.

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.

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.

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

17 October, 2011

Is there an app for that?

Do you have an interest in child car seats? Have you bought a car seat in the past, or do you need to buy one, and are baffled by the choice?

We at RoSPA would like to know what you think about the process of buying child car seats, with a view to making it easier for parents and carers to choose the correct seat for their needs.

Please spare a few moments to visit www.childcarseats.org.uk and take part in our online survey. As a token of our gratitude, we’ll enter you into a draw to win an iTunes voucher.

Thank you!

15 September, 2011

A slippery situation

As disastrous as it can be, at one point or another you’re going to take your children on holiday. Though you hope for some relaxation and an afternoon beside the pool, reading a book and catching that perfect golden tan, time is often taken up building sand castle after sand castle, the complete crazy golf experience, the hunt to find the right factor sun screen (because you always forget something) and the worry of your children… well, being children.

From experience I can tell you that us teens are often as worried as you are; who do I talk to? Where will I go? What shall I do? Will they like me? How do you say “Hi” in Portuguese? As a teen you stroll down to the resort’s pool, slapping on your most friendly and sociable face and remove your towel from around you with poise. You’re trying to remember that one foot in front of the other results in walking whilst attempting to maintain the fake cheerfulness that’s plastered across your face. Meanwhile, the wet pool edge is just too much for the clumsiness you’re trying to disguise, and in your rush you fall straight on your bum, all eyes on you. Embarrassing just isn’t the word.

You were that awkward teen once, and you know what it’s like to be thrown in the deep end (sometimes literally). Trying to be careful in times like those is hard, especially when you’re attempting to up hold a positive first impression, but accidents happen, right? Falling on your backside is thankfully one of the least of your worries whilst visiting the pool, and parents can’t prevent us teens from stumbling across social hiccups, nor can they make them any less embarrassing. But, there are worse situations to encounter if you’re not fully aware of dangers by the pool and in the pool itself – that’s where you come in.

You should always let teens know where they should be and the rules concerning the pool area. I often joke around with my best friend and we can be the most competitive of people (let’s face it I can swim much quicker than her) and being on holiday is no exception. Sometimes, this is how accidents occur. Showing off is more common in boys than girls, and it can be hard to distinguish a clear line where it should stop. RoSPA offers loads of information on everything safety concerned, so if you’re unsure of what to tell your kids, log onto to the website and get smart on all things holiday, water sport and pool related.

And yes, although we teenagers repeatedly claim we know best, it is best to let us know the difference between right and wrong, and tell us off when we’re running near the pool, because although we don’t seem like we are listening, you’re planting a seed in our minds so it can grow and we’ll think about it later. So, when we are about to run at the side of the pool we’ll also think back to that painful and embarrassing slip we had last year (wince) and never do it again.

Kathryn Griffiths, aged 15, work experience student with RoSPA

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

27 June, 2011

Join the battle against darkness

The intergalactic battle betwixt the forces of darkness and light is about to mobilise us Earthlings… again.

Though this tussle isn’t likely to involve Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker (he’s yet to respond to our letters), you can bet your bottom drachma that sabres will soon be swooshing/rattling in the labyrinthine corridors of the Death Star – I mean Parliament.

That’s because the plan to give us Brits lighter evenings all year round – by adopting Single/Double Summer Time (GMT+1 in winter and GMT+2 in summer) – is about to be debated by MPs… again.

You may recall that in December a Private Members’ Bill, put forward by Rebecca Harris MP, passed its second reading in the House of Commons with a huge majority.

Once we’d stopped jumping up and down and punching the air we realised there were still a few more mountains to climb. The next Everest will see the PMB go before a committee of all-party MPs. This stage is as crucial as it is imminent.

If Ms Harris’s Bill eventually conquers all, it will lead to the Government carrying out a cross-departmental analysis of the benefits of SDST – which in turn could trigger a three-year trial.

Why, you might wonder, are we getting so hot under the collar about fiddling with the clocks?

RoSPA has been at the forefront of the crusade to bring brighter nights to the UK for decades – citing research that shows they would save 80 lives and prevent more than 200 serious injuries on the roads each year.

A look in the rear-view mirror is quite disturbing. We estimate that about 5,000 deaths and 30,000 serious injuries have been caused needlessly in the UK since a similar, three-year experiment was concluded in 1971.

In addition to the avoidance of grief, suffering and hardship, another positive consequence of fewer road accidents would be considerable annual savings to taxpayers.

The Department for Transport estimated in 2009 that it would only cost £5 million to implement Single/Double Summer Time – but would save more than £138 million every year thereafter.

Some of the other benefits of SDST include a cut in annual CO2 emissions by nearly 500,000 tonnes, and a boost to the UK tourism industry of up to £3.5 billion per year – as well as more opportunities for people to play sport and to enjoy outdoor activities.

You can do your bit to convince the UK’s movers and shakers of this plan’s worthiness by clicking the big, red “Support Our Campaign” button on our campaign website.

Cliché alert: We need your force to be with us on this one!

Michael Corley, RoSPA’s campaigns manager

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