Posts tagged ‘hazards’

6 December, 2012

Don’t be caught out this winter – keep yourself and others safe on the road

It’s that time of year again, when it’s cold, dark and damp outside. Spirits can wain but we happily replace all of our negative energy with that of festivities and happiness. However, it is always worth bearing in mind that you do not want your festivities to be spoilt by an accident that could have been prevented.

RAM Tracking Road Safety Week

Driving in the winter months throws up more potential hazards that you may not be used to if you have not driven in these conditions before.

Running from November 19-25, Road Safety Week was held in the UK to help improve the safety of the roads. Citing from the Road Safety Week website, road crashes are not road accidents; they are preventable and must be stopped.

I think the main thing I would want you take away after reading this post is the fact that even though Road Safety Week finished on November 25, it doesn’t mean that the problem has disappeared. I’m sure you will agree with me. The idea of the week was to raise awareness but it also brings up some key points that are relevant especially in conjunction with the upcoming festive period. As a driver on the roads you have a responsibility to keep yourself and others safe.

Do not be tempted to take the stress of Christmas shopping out on the car. We all know the problems that can be caused from this. It’s December, one of the busiest shopping months of the year and this can raise blood pressure due to the stresses of long queues, unavailability of requested gifts, high prices and busy shops. Make sure you drive calm; if you drive whilst feeling pent up then you are more likely to be involved in an accident due to your lack of concentration. Focus yourself when you are in the car and do not let the stresses get to you. Take deep breaths, and ask yourself are you safe to drive? Remember that a momentary lapse of reason from you could potentially ruin somebody’s life; it’s just not worth the risk. Other drivers will be on the road and you must be aware of them.

Your defensive driving skills are extremely important and have to be used to your advantage. Be aware of other drivers who may not be as experienced on the roads, such as learner drivers and those who seem to be driving in a dangerous manner. You should not have to tolerate this on the roads however, if you are prepared to deal with these other badly behaving drivers, you will be able to keep yourself safe.

Ram Tracking Road Safety Week

“Beware of snow covered roads this winter. Children are likely to be playing in the street, making snowmen and running about. Be alert when driving past the bottom of hills, because sledging children may not be able to risk assess as well as a driver and will have difficulty in bringing their sledges to a standstill” – Matt Jones.

Driving under the influence of drink or drugs is rightly illegal and should not be done. This is an important fact to remember, especially at Christmas, as what could be seen by someone as an innocent mistake could result in tragedy. What I’m trying to get across here is that you may not even realise you are over the limit; but that is no excuse in the eyes of the law. If you are drinking the previous evening then this action could result in you still being unsafe to drive in the morning. The best advice I can give you is not to drink anything at all if you are going to be driving and monitor your consumption if you will need to drive the following day to make sure you are safe.

Laws and speed limits are there for a reason and they are not something that you can ignore. In fact, when driving at this time of year, you should be slowing down as the roads will be busy, but also conditions are more likely to be bad. Bad driving conditions are a critical factor at this time of year; black ice could result in you losing control of your vehicle, so make sure you are prepared for this. Driving in the winter months throws up more potential hazards that you may not be used to if you have not driven in these conditions before.

Visibility can be noticeably poor, so make sure you de-ice fully and can see out from the entirety of your windscreen, as even with a clear windscreen you will still have blind spots.

If you ride a bike, remember to use your lights and make yourself as visible as possible. High visibility jackets are available to buy and are definitely worth the investment as I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be sat in a hospital bed over the festive period.

Plan for long journeys, make sure you set out a decent time scale and take regular intervals at this time of year as it can be tiring driving in dark conditions. You need to keep yourself and your passengers’ safe as you have a duty of care to them.

Beware of snow covered roads this winter. Children are likely to be playing in the street, making snowmen and running about. Be alert when driving past the bottom of hills, because sledging children may not be able to risk assess as well as a driver and will have difficulty in bringing their sledges to a standstill.

If you can understand the dangers, then you will be in a better position to avoid accidents and drive safely. I hope you have an excellent and accident-free Christmas season. Drive safely and remember a moment of madness is not worth a lifetime of regret.

Matt Jones, on behalf of RAM Tracking

20 July, 2011

Babysitting: a hazardous occupation!

Babysitters can be absolutely invaluable to busy parents: like angels they swoop in, sometimes at short notice, to care for your children and relieve you of chocolate biscuits.

However, it’s not always possible to hire a babysitter from outside the family, especially if the requirement is urgent! So the oldest child is often drafted in to take care of the younger ones.

With media coverage earlier this year of the mother investigated for leaving her 14-year-old son in charge of his three-year-old brother, this is an issue likely to be at the forefront of many parents’ minds.

So, what does the law say? Well, not a great deal. While children who choose to work on newspaper delivery rounds, on farms or in retail jobs are covered and hopefully protected by general and specific health and safety law – notably the Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations 1997 – those who choose babysitting as a means of earning money fall outside these laws.

With this in mind, RoSPA and the NSPCC recommend that no one under the age of 16 should be left to care for a baby or toddler. The British Red Cross, which runs babysitting courses, states that participants must have reached their 14th birthday by the time of their final assessment.

However, parents usually know their children best, and will make their own judgements as to whether or not their eldest is mature and responsible enough to look after the young ones. We all know younger children who are wise beyond their years; and equally, we know those in their twenties who shouldn’t be left to care for a pot plant!

Will your babysitter spot the hazards?

So how can parents minimise the risks involved in leaving their older children to care for younger siblings? There’s a good deal of useful information on our freshly updated webpages, so head over there and take a look.

What’s particularly interesting, though, is a relatively new piece of research undertaken at the University of Guelph, Canada, and published in 2010. The original article appeared in the BMJ’s Injury Prevention journal, and the abstract can be viewed online.

The research, entitled “Please keep an eye on your younger sister”: sibling supervision and young children’s risk of unintentional injury took a look at how and why young children were more likely to suffer an injury while being cared for by older siblings than by their parents.

What did the research find?

The study explains why children are more likely to be injured when being supervised by a sibling or young sitter rather than a parent. The research shows how parents identify and remove hazards (such as small objects which could cause choking), while siblings left in charge of their younger brothers and sisters are more likely to play with the objects. This behaviour is then imitated by the younger child, with potentially harmful consequences.

Research objectives: Parental supervision reduces young children’s risk of unintentional injuries, but supervision by older siblings has been shown to increase risk. This study explored how and why this may be the case.

Methods: The supervision behaviours of mothers were compared to those of their older children when each was supervising a young relation in a setting having “contrived hazards”.

The researchers found that mothers were more proactive in supervising their children by actually removing hazards from the vicinity. Older siblings, however, tended to interact with the hazards in front of the children – effectively teaching them to do likewise.

It’s fairly well known that young children copy – particularly their older siblings. It’s how they learn, and the little ones tend to want to be “just like my big sister/brother”.

Indeed, the study found that this took place – children under the supervision of their older siblings were more likely to interact with the hazards in a similar way to their older supervisors.

Compounding this tendency of young children to behave in a more risky manner when supervised by a sibling, their older siblings were less alert to this behaviour than their mothers.

Everyone with younger brothers or sisters will be aware of the “you’re not my mom!” phenomenon; and again, the research bore this out. It showed how younger children have less respect for the authority of older siblings and are actually likely to behave in more risky ways when a parent is not present.

Could you keep your charges occupied?

The study concluded that the behaviour of both the young child and the supervisor contributed to increase the risk of injury when older children babysit for younger ones.

So it’s not necessarily a simple matter of raising awareness of risks among older children; it’s important for parents to also sit down with the younger child and explain that, in your absence, the older sibling is in charge.

It’s very common for older children to care for younger children within families, and this practice will not stop any time soon – particularly in such difficult economic times, when families can ill-afford to pay a babysitter.

However, research such as this is invaluable in helping parents to understand not only what the risks are when leaving older children to babysit younger ones – but why this should be the case.

Of course, the ideal solution is to employ a professional. But this just isn’t an option for many, so making information and guidance available to as many people as possible is vital. Parents should ensure that they know what they’re asking of their eldest – it’s a big responsibility, and providing them with as much information as possible will help to reduce the likelihood of injury occurring.

So parents: don’t be afraid of taking some time out, whether for work or for leisure – everyone needs time away from primary colours and Justin Bieber – but make sure you talk through what babysitting entails with all your children first.

RoSPA would love to hear from young babysitters about their experiences, especially examples where the intervention of a babysitter has prevented a serious injury to a child in their care. Please email Cassius Francis at if you think you can help.

Jenny McWhirter, RoSPA’s risk education adviser

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