Posts tagged ‘falls’

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

22 November, 2012

Keep the Christmas cheer alive this year – ensure your home is free of fire hazards

I was delighted to have been invited to attend the official press launch of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Services’ marketing campaign recently.

Don't Give Fire a Home Chief Fire Officers' Association of Scotland RoSPA

At the press launch, from left to right, Jacqui Doig (Scottish Community Safety Network), Alex Clark, the new deputy chief of the new (single) Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Elizabeth Lumsden (RoSPA Scotland), Roseanna Cunningham (Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs) and Colin Keir, MSP (Member for Edinburgh Western).

The “Don’t Give Fire a Home” campaign supports the Chief Fire Officers Association of Scotland’s 2012-13 marketing and publicity strategy. The backdrop to the event was a map illustrating the number of fires within domestic dwellings in Scotland. The launch also promoted the roadshow events currently being held around the country, which generate referrals to the Fire and Rescue Service’s free home fire safety visits. Further information on the fire data by local authority area is available at www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice/Datasets/DatasetsFire.

The launch was covered by STV and there was also interest from various radio stations as well as the printed press. The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Roseanna Cunningham, attended the event and urged householders not to be complacent as the festive period approaches – a time that traditionally presents a variety of new fire hazards in the home. Ms Cunningham also mentioned the need to have a working smoke detector and urged people to take up the offer of a free home fire safety visit – available from all of the local fire and rescue services.

There were 6,149 dwelling fires in Scotland in 2011-12 and sadly dozens of people die each year.  But what types of fires are happening?  Well, most of the deaths were due to careless use of smoker’s materials and many of the non-fatal casualties happened because of chip pan fires. When we, at RoSPA, speak to people about chip pan fires, the majority will say, “I don’t know anyone who still has a chip pan”. But people do still have them – and leave them unattended for different reasons. One reason is that they have consumed alcohol and fallen asleep in another room while they wait for the pan to heat up. Much safer to collect a bag of chips from the local chippy on the way home!

RoSPA's home safety advice includes the safe use of candles

RoSPA recommends that lighted candles are never left unattended and that they are never positioned in a draught, anywhere near curtains or near any materials, which could ignite.

At RoSPA, we will do what we can to support the Fire and Rescue Services’ campaign again this year. Our advice includes the safe use of candles (a popular Christmas gift) and the dangers of overloading sockets. However, we also draw attention to the fact that being injured in a fire, although causing one of the most serious types of injury – a painful, often life threatening burn – is just one of the many types of accidents that can happen in the home. Falls remain the biggest cause of home accidents – involving all age groups – but we also see incidences of poisoning, choking and drowning. You can see all of our Christmas safety tips at www.rospa.com/homesafety/adviceandinformation/christmassafety/safety-tips.aspx.

So, keep safe over the festivities this year. Many of you will be spending extra time in the home while you are away from work. Plan in advance to ensure that you can enjoy a great time without ending up at A&E – or worse…

Elizabeth Lumsden, community safety manager for RoSPA Scotland

1 July, 2011

Falling for accident prevention

“The NHS treats elderly patients with broken hips as a ‘low priority’ by failing to give them prompt and high-quality treatment that could extend their lives,” reported the Daily Telegraph on June 22.

This may be true – indeed, this information was provided by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) – and it’s worrying that the older population is growing, so the problem is not going to go away.

However, on this issue, the media appears to have missed the obvious – in that scant, if any, mention is made of preventing these injuries in the first place.

According to NICE, up to 75,000 people suffer hip fractures each year. This figure is expected to rise to 100,000 by the end of the decade – a consequence of an ageing population.

To put the issue into perspective: broken hips affect more women than breast cancer does.

People’s quality of life is vastly reduced following a fall-related fracture, and older people’s independence is often curtailed. Health problem follows health problem, and about 10 per cent of people with a fractured hip die within one month – and around a third will die within 12 months. Add to this the stress and worry to family and friends, and the increased burden of care, and we have human tragedy on a massive – and increasing – scale.

If the human costs of fall-related injuries aren’t enough to convince you that things need to change: in terms of financial costs – at the forefront of everybody’s minds at the moment – hip fractures are estimated to cost £2 billion a year in medical treatment and social care.

What about preventing the fall in the first place? Accident prevention can and should play a starring role in the UK’s public health plan.

At the moment, accident prevention advice and information is being delivered by numerous smaller, extremely dedicated and hard-working organisations around the country.

There have been some great examples of successful working between local NHS organisations and local authorities. In Dudley in the West Midlands, for example, a falls prevention initiative, the £158k a year costs of which were funded by the Primary Care Trust and the council, saved £3 million over five years due to the corresponding reduction in hip fractures.

The problem of falls among older people was highlighted during Northern Ireland’s recent Home Accident Prevention Week (June 6-10).

Accidental falls claimed the lives of 155 people across Northern Ireland in 2009, of whom two thirds (103 people) were aged 65 or over. The most serious accidents usually happen on the stairs and injuries can have long lasting and life limiting effects – as we have seen.

We know that the risk of falling in the home and of suffering a serious injury as a result increases with age. We hope the simple prevention tips shared below will be shared among communities and families and reach as many people as possible.

  • Keep landings, stairs and hallways well lit
  • Insert a dual handrail on stairs where possible
  • Replace worn carpets and remove loose rugs and mats (or use non-slip backings)
  • Wear suitable footwear
  • Remove clutter from floors and stairs
  • Use stepladders for household jobs instead of climbing on chairs
  • Store everyday items in easy-to-reach places
  • Review medication with your GP/pharmacist
  • Wipe up spills straight away, and use bath/shower mats
  • Ensure you get your eyes tested
  • Keep active!

These last two points deserve to be expanded upon a little.

The Daily Express reported last week that two million over-60s have not taken advantage of free eye tests, even though 270,000 older people have had falls as a result of poor vision in the past two years. These figures came from a study to mark Age UK’s Falls Awareness Week.

Age UK is rightly concerned that many older people are not aware that they are entitled to free eye tests. Their study found a range of reasons were given for not going to the optician: 42 per cent felt there was nothing wrong with their eyes, nine per cent were concerned about the cost of buying glasses, and six per cent simply said they forgot to go and have a sight test.

Raising awareness of the connection between poor eyesight and falls may encourage more older people to take advantage of this free service.

As far as keeping active goes: this is extremely important in improving mobility and balance among the older population. However, it goes deeper than that. Keeping fit and active from a young age and throughout life will help to ensure that you stay fit and healthy into old age.

These issues highlight the fact that accident prevention is intimately linked to many other areas of healthcare – and could save a lot of pain in the long run.

So why is it underreported? Why is the media missing the obvious when reporting on falls, and ill health relating to accidents? I guess it’s not “sexy”, not headline grabbing enough. Perhaps. Then it’s down to accident prevention charities and organisations to make the subject newsworthy – spread the word.

Everyone has parents and grandparents or elderly friends and neighbours – not to mention the fact that we are all (hopefully!) going to live to a ripe old age, and reap the benefits of this type of accident prevention advice ourselves.

Ita McErlean, RoSPA’s home safety manager for Northern Ireland

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