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Stewardship and Household Safety

Stewardship describes the shared responsibility of all Christians to be thankful for everything in our lives. Everything we own and use is a gift from God. We have a responsibility to maintain and preserve all our gifts, to manage our time efficiently, to protect our health and safety, not to waste anything from a safety pin to a life.

Just as household stewards are responsible for the smooth and efficient management of the kitchen, they are also responsible for the smooth and efficient management of the rest of the home. This issue's Stewardship column discusses emergency preparedness in the home.

I learned in cadet training* that 'a SAFE exercise is a FUN exercise.' I have also learned from my years as a mother that a safe house is a comfortable house. If you can find a light switch easily, walk through a room without tripping, reach for a book without knocking over a lamp, sit on a chair and know that it won't collapse, carry out routine chores and maintainance without injury, and leave a child in a room for a few minutes, you will be more relaxed and comfortable because you know you and your loved ones are safe.

* Cadets is a youth organization jointly sponsored by the Canadian military and a civilian non- profit league, similar to the Scouting movement. It offers instructional and leadership training, sports, music and survival activities, summer camps and element specific experiences ie: air cadets receive radio, air traffic controller, and pilot training.

But a home is not necessarily or automatically a safe place. Some areas of concern or dangers are:

  • electrical dangers
  • hazardous chemicals and medications
  • heights, traffic hazards, stairs and falling
  • water
  • sharp objects
Electrical Dangers:

Get down on your hands and knees and view your home from a child's eye view. Are there any dangling or running cords, octopus plugs, loose plugs, bare wires, and uncovered electrical circuitry (ie: the back of the dryer) in your home? Stand up. Does your toaster have a loose connection, are there wires rubbing anywhere, do any plugs have the grounding prong cut off?

Any one of the situations mentioned above can cause a fire or an electrical burn. Electrical burns are nasty. The electricity doesn't necessarily cause much pain, but the flesh damage and death can be extensive. Several days are needed to determine the extent of an electrical burn as dead flesh dries and falls off. Nerve damage can also be extensive.

Hazardous Chemicals and Medications:

A survey conducted by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) revealed that 47% of households with children under the age of five had at least one pesticide stored within reach of children, either in an under- counter cabinet or unlocked storage room. In households without young children, approximately 75% of homes had dangerous chemicals stored improperly. Statistics from the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP) reported 220 pesticide related injuries and poisonings among children in Canada during 1990- 94.

A new leaflet from the EPA, "Ten Tips to Protect Children From Pesticide and Lead Poisonings" contains practical, common- sense recommendations for child- proofing your home to prevent poisoning incidents. They include:

- Always store pesticides and other household chemicals, including chlorine bleach, out of children's reach - preferably in a locked cabinet.
- Always read directions carefully because pesticide products, household cleaning products and pet products can be 'dangerous' or ineffective if too much or too little is used.
- Never transfer pesticides to other containers that children may associate with food or drink (like soda bottles) and never place rodent or insect baits where small children can get to them.
- Wash children's hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often, and regularly clean floors, window sills, and other surfaces to reduce potential exposure to lead dust.
- If you suspect that lead- based point has been used in your home or if you plan to remodel or renovate, get your home tested. Do not attempt to remove lead paint yourself.

Childhood poisonings by medications occur in one of three ways: accidentally at home, when a child 'helps themselves' to improperly stored medications; accidentally while visiting when a child investigates a guest's baggage or a host's home that is not child proofed; or deliberately in a suicide attempt (See Teenage Depression). In all cases, improperly stored medication is the main cause. Don't depend on childproof packaging, and don't tell your child that medications are just like candy.

Falling Hazards:

It's not just children who are injured by falls in the home, though they are the ones most often injured by falls. According to the CHIRPP Newsletter (Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program) falls are the most common cause of injury in all age groups from 0 to 14 years. After 14, motor vehicle accidents become the leading cause of injury in males and self-inflicted injury in girls. (Driver Safety Programs not only reduce accident rates, they reduce insurance costs.)

Falls can occur from counter tops and chairs, out of windows, off roofs (common in men), down staircases, in bathtubs and bathrooms, almost anywhere in the home where someone can slip, trip, lose their balance and fall.

A properly installed gate will keep a baby or toddler from falling down stairs, but can't protect older children or adults. Objects piled on stairways, loose carpet, poorly fitting footwear and bad lighting all contribute to falls by these family members.

Throw rugs, toys and shoes on the floor, and running electrical and telephone cords are common causes of tripping injuries in the home. Try to keep traffic areas clear of objects, confine play areas away from high traffic areas and rearrange appliances to avoid long runs of cords.

Other tips to avoid falls include:

- Install anti- slip mats,strips and grab bars in bathtubs and bathrooms.
- Never sit on a window sill by an open window.
- Do not store commonly used objects beyond your reach.
- If you must climb to reach an object such as a light fixture, use a step stool or ladder instead of a chair.
- Never pile objects on stairways, make sure stairs are well lit, and clear of obstructions at all times.
- Take a tour of your home looking for traffic hazards. Rearrange furniture and improve lighting as much as possible.
- Don't forget outside! Keep walks and paths shovelled clear of snow and ice. Hire a professional to clear your roof of snow, or secure yourself with rope and a safety harness before beginning the job.
Water:

It's more than just bathtubs and swimming pools that pose a danger to young children, though these are serious hazards. A toddler can drown in a bucket of water, a toilet, a water trough or a puddle. They are 'top- heavy', meaning that their heads are proportionally bigger and heavier than those of adults. Once they over- balance and fall into a container, they often do not have the strength or co- ordination to pull themselves out. Drowning is the second most common cause of death in children between the ages of 1 and 9 years of age.

- Never leave a child under the age of 4 unattended in a bathtub.
- Be sure that all swimming pools within walking distance of your child are fenced with locked gates (children leave the home while an adult is napping and fall into pools.)
- Never leave a bucket or other receptacle containing water unattended.
- On farms, and near bodies of water, have a fenced and gated yard for children to play in.
- Always put the toilet cover down and keep the bathroom door closed. (This foils the flush- happy kids too)
Sharp Objects:
- Knives should never be stored in a drawer. Keep them on a magnetic strip or in a knife block instead.
- Keep knives sharp. A sharp knife cuts instead of slipping and makes a cleaner, faster healing cut in case of accident.
- Put knives in use well away from counter edges.
- Train children in the safe usage, storage and carrying of sharp objects.
- Store axes, saws, and other tools with their blades covered or pointing downwards, out of reach of young children.
- Always wear appropriate safety equipment while using any sharp tool.
- Sticks are sharp objects too.
Burns:

The most common burn injuries in the home are caused by touching a solid hot object like a pot or stove element, knocking over or spilling hot food or beverage, pulling down a hot liquid on self, and immersion or splashing. Hot objects and substances include range elements, oven doors, wood stoves, heat radiators, hot tap water, boiling water and steam, hot cooking oil, food and beverages. These are all common household objects and situations.

Simple preventative measures and routine vigilance are usually sufficient to avoid burn situations in the home, but the ever- present hazard must never be forgotten or taken for granted.

- Place small electrical appliances such as kettles and their cords well away from the edge of counter tops and tables
- Turn pot handles away from the edge of stove or counter top.
- Don't let children crawl and toddle around the kitchen during food preparation and serving. Avoid carrying infants during hot food preparation.
- Don't drink or hold hot drinks while holding a child.
- Make sure hot beverages are out of reach of the children.
- Train older children in safe hot food preparation, and do not allow cooking, including by microwave, at too young an age.
- Lower the thermostat on the hot water tank.

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