Many of the countless accidents and injuries suffered daily by both adults and children are preventable. By anticipating the accidents that can occur, and thinking about possible preventive measures, you can reduce the likelihood of yourself becoming a casualty, and help others stay safe too. Accident prevention can be considered in relation to four key areas: . in the home . at work . on the road . during leisure activities
Statistically, the home is as dangerous as the road. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. A list of the potential dangers in the home includes accidental fire, suffocation, falls, scalds, burning, electric shock, cuts and lacerations, and poisoning. Children, the infirm and the elderly need to be watched carefully whenever there might be danger -for example, on stairs, near electrical and gas appliances and power points, where there are tools, and in the kitchen. Consider buying safety equipment such as protective fire and hob guards. Loose carpets, slippery rug-covered floors and trailing electrical flexes may trip the unwary. Keep matches and all poisons – bleaches, cleaning materials and medicines -away from children. Family medicine cabinets should be locked and kept out of reach of children. Adults are also at risk in the kitchen. When planning your kitchen, give some thought to safe layout. Be alert to the dangers of fire and burns from fat and oil, burning or hot saucepan handles and food left to heat and forgotten. Keep sharp knives somewhere safe, and use them carefully. When buying any household appliance, consider how safe it is, and follow all instructions carefully.
Glass, tools and equipment are also potentially dangerous. Broken glass may cause severe cuts. Do-it-yourself decorators, builders and gardeners need to know the safety hazards of the tools they use; even a simple ladder may cause serious injury if it is not properly steadied before being climbed. Always keep a first-aid kit, as well as a small fire extinguisher or a fire blanket, somewhere easily to hand in the home. Usually the best place for a first-aid kit is in the kitchen (not the bathroom), where it is also handy in the event of accidents in the garage or garden. Elderly people living alone are particularly at risk of falls and other accidents, as well as of hypothermia. If you know of such a person, regular visits can give you an opportunity to check that they are not in unnecessary danger and to prevent them coming to harm through neglect.
Pedestrians, cyclists, vehicle drivers and other road users can all help prevent road accidents. Pedestrians should know how to cross roads safely, and ensure that their children do the same. If there are no pavements, walk facing the oncoming traffic; and at night or when visibility is poor, wear something bright or reflective.
Bicyclists and motorcyclists, especially when young and inexperienced, are particularly at risk of accident. Proficiency schemes and training are available for both in many countries, and these courses are a useful step towards safety. Protective clothing should be worn by motorcyclists (a crash helmet is, of course, obligatory), and is advisable for cyclists too, in the form of approved helmets and reflective sashes. Car drivers need to consider both their own fitness to drive and the fitness of the vehicle. Courses for advanced and safe driving are widely available. Never undertake to drive if you think your alertness or control may be impaired through ill-health or medicines you have taken. Never drink and drive. Drivers have a responsibility for the safety of other road users at all times – which means keeping an eye open for cyclists, children playing, and so on. This responsibility extends to the passengers in the vehicle: make sure your passengers are seated safely and comfortably and are wearing seatbelts, that your visibility around them is good, and that luggage is safely stowed away.
Making sure that your car is roadworthy involves regular servicing and safety tests, and weekly checking of tyres, hom, lights, windscreen wipers and washers and fanbelt. Beware of the weather, because wind, rain, snow, ice and fog may impair a driver’s or car’s performance and make driving conditions treacherous.
Most countries have legal requirements concerning safety at work, so the first principle of occupational accident prevention is to know and implement all safety standards required by law. Additionally, most occupations and industries – from office work to agriculture – have codes of safety practice. By following these carefully, businesses, organizations and individuals can prevent many of the distressing and costly effects of workplace accident or injury. When training schemes in occupational safety are available, it pays to attend them. Everyone involved in handling machinery – from the simplest to the most complex – should be fully informed of safety measures, the protective clothing they should wear, the nature of the equipment, and any possible health hazards involved. Even such simple actions as lifting heavy boxes may be harmful if done incorrectly, by bending the back instead of the knees. Washroom and canteen hygiene are also important. Every workplace should have a health and safety representative as well as a first-aid kit. These are legal requirements for companies employing more than a certain number.
Safety and leisure
To enjoy leisure activities safely you must know, first, your own fitness, abilities and limitations and, second, the dangers of the activity in question. Even apparently gentle pastimes such as jogging and digging in the garden can lead to injuries or even a heart attack if undertaken too strenuously by someone who is unfit. Walkers, climbers and pot-holers frequently become casualties because they underestimate the danger factors – the weather, for example – in what begins as a light-hearted exercise, or because they overestimate their own capabilities.
Water is probably the most dangerous focus of leisure pursuits. Parents should keep a sharp eye on children wherever there is water, which includes the garden pond as well as the ocean shore. Everyone should teach their children to swim – it could save a life one day. Whether swimming, boating or exploring beside water, remember that safety depends on spotting the potential dangers: depth, current, rocks, tides, wind and so on. Know your swimming limitations: a length in a warm indoor pool is much easier than the same distance in a turbulent, cold sea. Obey all safety advice and notices.
The sun, too, presents a potential health hazard, both in the short-term and the long-term. All too often, the excitement of a holiday by the sea in the sun makes people forget the ease with which they can be burnt by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Even on a cloudy day, or in the water, the power of these ultraviolet rays remains largely undiminished.
Protective measures that should be taken include applying a good sun screen suitable for your degree of fairness