Whoops! We Could’ve Prevented That
—10 Ways to Make a Safer Home
When I came home from the gym, all four limbs were working fine. But not for long. Moments later, I got out of the shower. While grabbing a towel, I dripped water on the floor. My labradoodle was napping nearby in the doorway between my bathroom and closet. Because heaven forbid I should disturb him, I took one giant step over his lazy body with my left foot. I planted my bare heel on the wood floor, hit water, and did not stick the landing. I skidded like a cartoon character on a banana peel and crashed straight down onto my right knee.
And that, my friends, is how you break your kneecap.
Thanks to that one-second misstep, I am sporting a fashionable leg brace, crutches, and a humble-pie attitude for four-to-six weeks. Oddly, I am grateful. I don’t mean to sound dire, but what if I’d slipped down a flight of stairs or fallen backward and hit my head on the bathtub? My knee will heal. I’ll be fine. But this little slip is a painful reminder of how quickly injuries at home can happen, and how easily they can be avoided. Which brings me to today’s lecture.
According to the National Safety Council, in 2021, the last year numbers are available, Americans suffered 36 million preventable injuries at home. That is one out of every nine U.S. residents suffered an accident at home that was serious enough to result in a medical consultation.
“The number of medically consulted injuries occurring in the home is greater than the total number that occurs in public places, the workplace, and motor-vehicle crashes combined,” according to the safety council. The numbers have been steadily rising for two decades.
That’s scary. Even scarier is that 128,200 death-related injuries happened in homes in 2021. Yikes! Slips, trips, and falls accounted for nearly one quarter of all home injuries. Water, rugs, cords, clutter, loose stair treads, and poor lighting are among the culprits.
Team, we need to be more careful. Although you may say I don’t have a leg to stand on, and you would have a decent argument, trust me, you do not want to be part of these statistics. So, listen to your hobbled correspondent and practice these 10 safety measures at home:
1. Secure area rugs. Tripping on the edge of an area rug is one of the leading causes of falls. Use rug pads or double-sided rug tape to keep rugs in securely in place.
2. Clean up spills the second they happen.
3. Light the way. Low light may be moody and romantic, but it can also be dangerous. Be sure dark halls, stairways and shaded corners of your home and yard are well lighted.
4. Make showers and baths safer. Non-slip mats in bathtubs and on shower floors can help prevent accidental falls for people of all ages. So can non-skid bathmats outside showers.
5. Cut clutter. Besides making your home look a lot better, eliminating clutter will also make your home safer. Don’t let items pile up, especially on the floor. Have everyone in your home get in the habit of keeping clothes, shoes, books, and toys put away, especially in high traffic areas. Never leave items on or around stairs or steps.
6. Manage cords and cables. When not properly secured, cords can act like trip wires and send folks tumbling. Get cord clips and channels to keep cables corralled, off the floor and looking better, too. Keep your home’s wiring in good repair; faulty wiring in homes is a common hazard.
7. Use stools and ladders properly. Please don’t stand on tables, chairs or other furniture not designed for you to stand on. Use a step stool or ladder, and be sure it provides you enough lift, so you’re not overreaching. Be sure ladders are properly opened and set on a stable even surface.
8. Make stairs safe. Stair falls are among the most common and often most serious home accidents. Make sure staircases have secure handrails, have no loose treads or loose carpet, and are uniform, that is every step has the same rise and run. Adding non-slip strips to your stairs can also prevent falls.
9. Practice poison control. Home poisonings outnumber falls as the leading cause home injuries and deaths. Have carbon monoxide alarms installed and make sure they’re working. Make sure toxic or flammable cleaning supplies, chemicals and medications are safely stored and out of children's reach.
10. Tell your dog to move.
CAPTION: Better safe than sorry — After accidental poisoning, falls are the second leading cause of preventable injuries that happen at home, according to the National Safety Council. With a little extra care and common sense all could be avoided. Photo courtesy of Andrey Popov/Dreamstime.