Erie County Department of Health offers common-sense ways to reduce risk of injury from home hazards
With so many people now spending a significant amount of time at home, the Erie County Department of Health is urging homeowners and renters to reduce the risk of preventable injuries inside the home during National Healthy Homes Month in June.
“Homes and the people who live there change over time,” Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “That is why it is important to make a habit of checking your house or apartment for safety concerns.”
She continued, “Erie County residents should take time and carefully examine their home or apartment, inside and outside. They can ask themselves, are there repairs that affect household systems like plumbing, electricity or the roof, walls and foundation? Or, ‘What improvements can I make to reduce the risk that someone who lives here could get hurt?’ ”
Install smoke detectors on every level of your home, including the basement, inside every bedroom and outside every sleeping area. Test batteries monthly. Replace batteries twice each year in older smoke detectors, and consider upgrading new smoke detectors with a 10-year sealed and non-removable battery. Keep lighters, matches and candles out of the reach of children. Have at least one fire extinguisher in your home and make sure adults and older children know how to use it.
Medication Safety and Hazardous Household Materials
Reduce the chance of a poisoning or overdose by keeping over-the-counter and prescription medications up and away, out of reach of children and pets. Medications should be kept in their original containers, and disposed of once they expire or if they are not used.
Erie County has free community kiosks that accept unused or expired medications and needles. Visit www.erie.gov/health for these sites.
Similarly, cleaning supplies like bleach and hazardous household materials should be kept in secure locations, away from light, heat and flame. Examples of hazardous household materials include:
√ Automotive: waste automotive fluid, gasoline, antifreeze, brake and transmission fluids
√ Paints and solvents (latex paint will not be accepted through the county’s hazardous waste disposal program)
√ Pesticides, fertilizers, pool chemicals, bleach
Dispose of hazardous household waste through collection programs through Erie County. Do not pour this material down a toilet, sink or sewer. More information on those is available at https://www.erie.gov/recycling/.
Slips and Falls
Trips and falls inside and outside the home can cause serious injury. Remove trip hazards like loose rugs; use stools and ladders carefully; install grab bars and railings for older adults; make sure stairways are well-lit and clear of objects; inspect outdoor walkways and stairs for trip hazards like cracks, tree roots and debris.
Home safety assessments through the Erie County Department of Senior Services are currently not available. Until those assessments resume, ECDSS can mail a free home safety assessment tool (booklet) on request. This contains checklists, product recommendations, instructions and tips for falls prevention for a homeowner or caregiver to review. Call 716-858-8526 or email [email protected] to request this booklet.
Indoor Air Quality
Eliminate second-hand tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide and dust mites. Don’t let anyone smoke in your home or near doors and windows.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is known as “The Invisible Killer.” Make sure exhaust from all fuel-burning devices, such as furnaces and hot water tanks, is vented properly to the outside air. Install CO detectors on every level and in every sleeping area. Test carbon monoxide detectors monthly and replace batteries twice each year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the care arrangements for many children and families. For anyone who has children living or visiting their home, inspect your home with a child’s curiosity. In the kitchen, make sure sharp utensils are out of reach and lower cabinets are secured. Install guards or locks on stove or oven controls that a young child may reach.
In other parts of the house, look at doors and windows to make sure locks are working, and any cords for blinds or window coverings are secure and out of reach. Cover unused electrical outlets with child-safe plugs and secure long cords to prevent tripping. Bookshelves, televisions and other furniture should be anchored to walls to prevent tipping.
For households with a pool or pond, homeowners should take precautions to control access with fences or self-latching gates.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a fact-filled website for child safety at https://www.cdc.gov/safechild/.
Anchorit.gov is a resource for securing televisions and furniture.