Home is where the hazards are
So why aren’t employers more concerned?
Even though all of us undertake do-it-yourself (DIY) projects around the house, it is profoundly apparent many of us perform these DIY projects in the absence of a safety mindset. According to the National Safety Council’s Injury Facts 2011,65,000 unintentional accidental deaths and 21,100,000 medically consulted injuries occurred at home.1 The costs for all of this human suffering totaled a staggering $192.2 billion, of which $126.4 billion was in lost wages and
A new home safety resource
Organizations that are interested in expanding their off-the-job safety programs now have a terrific resource in Dan Hannan’s recently published book entitled, “Preventing Home Accidents – A Quick & Easy Guide”3. Rather than burying readers in safety tips and tricks, Hannan focuses on educating homeowners on why and where home hazards exist and offers suggestions and tools on how to identify and eliminate these hazards.
Hannan draws upon many of the safety principles we are familiar with in the workplace and applies them to the home environment. For example, he treats the family unit in the same fashion as we would treat management and employees in the workplace. Parents (management) need to exemplify safe behavior in order for their children (employees) to act safely when doing chores or playing in the yard.
Since familiarity breeds complacency and complacency is a causal factor of accidents, it is appropriate to become less complacent at home especially when undertaking a DIY project. Hannan encourages homeowners to take the time and learn all you can about your home’s construction and where control valves and panels are located and how they operate. Could you turn off your main water line valve in the middle of the night without a flashlight?
Home Hazard Hunt
As you are learning about the inner workings of your home, take note of the hazards you encounter. Conduct a Home Hazard Hunt and involve everyone in the family. Hannan provides checklists to hunt for mechanical, chemical, physical, and biological hazards. Once the hazards are found, try to eliminate the hazard with an engineering control. When this is not possible, be sure to have adequate and proper PPE. Sound familiar?
Slips, trips, and falls account for a significant percentage of unintentional injuries and deaths. Hannan offers insights into roof safety, ladder safety, and stair safety, along with suggestions on finding and correcting circumstances that may lead to slips and trips such as worn carpets on staircases and rugs without slip-resistant backing. In addition to preventing you from falling, Hannan addresses the potential of objects falling on you from overloaded shelves and unsecured objects, such as garden tools.
Even though Hannan strongly recommends readers to seek professional help when dealing with electricity, he offers an easy-to-understand explanation of the common electrical hazards and issues you may face in your home.
During your Home Hazard Hunt, your daughter comes across an unlabeled one-gallon, plastic bottle, half full of greenish blue liquid. She asks, “What’s this Dad?” Hannan provides insight into commonly found chemicals in the home, their labels and use, exposure routes, and storing suggestions.
Do you have smoke alarms in your house? Do the alarms work? When was the last time you changed the battery? Suggestion…whether necessary or not, always change the batteries on New Year’s Day. Hannan gives excellent thoughts on fire prevention and preparedness, especially regarding when and how to use fire extinguishers in a home fire and when to run.
Power tool safety
No house would be complete without an array of power tools. Hannan points out even the same power tools from different manufacturers have varying safety features. Always keep your tools maintained and, when purchasing a new tool, read the instructions even if you are simply replacing a broken tool. If you rent or borrow a power tool, make sure everything works properly, including the safety features.
Before jumping into your DIY project, consider the type of PPE you should be using. Hannan guides the homeowner through the selection process. In addition to PPE, Hannan encourages his readers to do some warm-up exercises before starting manual tasks, learn the proper body positions for lifting, and utilize materials-handling equipment to move loose or bulky items, appliances, and other heavy items.
In an emergency
As well as you know your home, do you think you could find your way outside if it was full of smoke? Try this exercise — go to a room farthest from an exterior door, cover your eyes with a sleep mask or scarf, and time yourself finding your way outside. Hannan urges homeowners to develop an emergency plan in case of fire or oncoming severe weather. Learn first aid and the Sarver Heart Center’s Continuous Chest Compression CPR. It just might mean the difference between life or death of a family member.
Have you ever wondered what you might be breathing into your body when you are at home? Hannan discusses the various sources of contaminants, making recommendations for eliminating or correcting the problem. He covers such contaminants as carbon monoxide, lead, mercury, mold, Radon, and asbestos.
Can’t wait until working in the yard starts again? Hannan reminds us of the common hazards found when working and playing in our yards. Planning to plant a tree? Be sure you know what is buried beneath where you plan to plant. Watch for power lines that may be above you. Living in the desert southwest, folks in my neighborhood have to watch out for scorpions, rattlesnakes, Bobcats, havelinas, and coyotes. Protect yourself from the sun and drink water while working in the yard. If you have children and own a playset, trampoline, and/or a swimming pool, be vigilant when your children are in the yard playing.
Based on the benefit gained from having employees show up for work each day, giving “Preventing Home Accidents — A Quick & Easy Guide” to all employees is a terrific expression of appreciation for their contribution to the success of safety at work and at home.
1 National Safety Council. 2011. Injury Facts, 2011. Itasca, IL.
2 Ibid. pp. 4.
3 Hannan, D. 2012. Preventing Home Accidents – A Quick & Easy Guide. Hunter House Inc., Publishers. Alameda, CA.