Every so often, cases of children getting hurt or dying in accidents at home are reported. However, many more go unreported.
“If every case of a child burnt, injured or killed in a house accident were reported, the numbers would be alarming,” says Becky Siwa, an interior designer who specialises in child proofing.
A recent study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the US said one in every four children is likely to be killed by fire, burns, drowning, choking, poisoning, or falls than by a violent attack by a stranger.
Ms Sarah Ndirangu, who specialises in child proofing homes, says it is important to look out for the dangers in your house. “It might not be obvious, but that electric socket might be too close to the floor for your three-year-old child’s safety,” she says.
According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2.3 million children are accidentally injured every year, resulting in more than 2,500 deaths. While corresponding statistics might be lacking in Kenyan, Ms Monicah Kabiru, a house safety expert with Olmarei Interiors, says it is important to ensure that the house is safe for your child.
The first thing you should do is define your child’s stage in life and then position yourself at his or her eye level. For instance, is the child crawling, toddling or climbing?
“Once you answer these questions correctly, it is easy to decide what steps to take,” she says.
If your baby has started crawling, you can get down on all fours and look at the things within the baby’s eye-view (territory scooping): what’s within reach? What looks tempting? Where would you go if you were to crawl, toddle, or walk?
“This will help you figure out which cupboards, drawers, and other spaces your child might get into,” she explains, adding that as the baby starts walking and climbing, you’ll have to re-evaluate the measures you have taken.
To reinforce territory scooping, Ms Siwa emphasis the importance of locking up poisonous and other hazardous items including cleaning products, medicines, and sharp implements.
Use barriers to limit your child’s access to areas that contain dangerous items.
“Children have a tendency of putting objects into their mouths so it is important to be on the lookout for small objects that the baby might choke on,” says Ms Ndirangu. Consequently, you should always keep coins, marbles, beads, paper clips, and other small objects out of their reach.
While the most obvious risks seem to be poisoning and choking on objects, power outlets and furniture pose just as much of a risk to small children. A power socket or extension cable touching the flour is very attractive to a toddler.
“You honestly do not expect a child not to touch a white rectangular thing with multiple red lights flashing on it. No matter the danger, the child’s curiosity will get the better of him or her. And that will be your fault because you are supposed to look after the child,” she says.
With regard to furniture, Ms. Kabiru’s says, “When the baby starts walking, it will obviously prop itself up using the surrounding furniture. What might happen if the furniture is shaky? I leave that to your imagination.”
Ms Kabiru says childproofing is inexhaustible but what matters is for the parent or guardian to be always on the lookout for any danger to the child.
“However, some of the things are common sense. You do not need to be told that you should leave your child in the bath tub only with water below the ankles. Or that the water should be warm and not hot, like that for an adult’s both.”
Ms Siwa concludes that engaging an expert in child proofing is the best way of ensuring that your house is safe for the child.