The National Safety Council turns 100 years old this year. Every year, the Council celebrates National Safety Month (NSM), an annual observance to educate and influence behaviors around leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths.
This year’s theme is “Safety Starts with Me”, with a special focus on critical safety issues in the workplace (which affects employees as well as patrons). The aim is to encourage everyone to engage in safety, and to help perpetuate a culture in which all of us feel a personal responsibility for our own safety and for the safety of those around them.
The National Safety Council
The Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to save lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities and on the road through leadership, research, education, and advocacy. NSC partners with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public to address the most preventable injuries and deaths – things like distracted driving, teen driving, workplace safety and the all too common hazards in and around our homes.
An interactive timeline of NSC’s 100-year history is available here. It starts in 1888 and covers various historic moments:
- Reforms in workplaces including factories and mines
- The beginning of public service announcements (PSAs) by Hollywood stars
- The creation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- The beginning of AAA’s Emergency Roadside Service
- Vehicle safety reforms, such as seat belts & defensive driving classes
- Home safety reforms
- Development of child-resistant caps
- The establishment of OSHA
- Consumer products safety reforms
- Creation of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)
- Hazardous materials labeling
The timeline spans several presidents and many safety resource we’ve grown to take for granted, and offers an interesting walkthrough of progress in safety. Things have definitely improved, but there’s still much to be done.
Is Your Home Safe?
According to Council estimates, 245 people die every day of unintentional injuries in our homes and communities. Data from 2007 shows the top killers were:
- Motor vehicle crashes
- Poisonings, including unintentional overdoses
- Fires, flames and smoke
…all of which are preventable. Take a look around your home, and see if you can identify the hazards. There will be more than you think. Once you get used to spotting them and being safety-conscious, it’ll become second nature to deal with danger before anything happens.
Motor vehicle crashes
NSC estimates 23 percent of all crashes involve distracted driving due to cell phone use.
- Talking on a cell phone while driving makes you four times more likely to crash.
- Texting while driving makes you 8 to 23 times more likely to crash (and is illegal in many states).
Teens are especially at risk for death by car crash – it is the number one cause of death for teens. One of the most basic and important steps that a parent can take is to ensure proper seat belt use and to ban the use of cell phones while driving, even if they are stopped at a light.
Children in and around cars
Children can easily be injured or killed in and around vehicles. Driveway backovers and hot car deaths can all be prevented by never leaving children unattended in or around a vehicle, particularly around hectic times, schedule changes and holidays when bustling circumstances can result in tragedy.
Once in the car, take care that little ones are buckled safely in approved car seats. Check the expiration date on car seats (they are imprinted somewhere on the seat itself, such as on the back) to make sure they’re still within safe limits.
Poisonings, including unintentional overdoses
Poisoning accounts for more than half of all home-related unintentional injury deaths. In addition to drugs and medicines, liquids, gases, and vapors can poison. Carbon monoxide and lead poisoning are among these.
Young children are especially vulnerable to poisoning related to swallowing over-the-counter and prescription medicines. In recent years, emergency room visits for non-medical use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines have caught up with those for illegal drugs.
- Store medicines and vitamins up and away, out of reach and out of sight of young children.
- Put medicines and vitamins away every single time you use them.
- Never, ever tell children medicine is candy to get them to take it, even if your child does not like to take his or her medicine.
- Listen for the click to make sure the safety cap is locked.
- Ask houseguests and visitors to keep purses, bags or coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of sight when they are in your home.
- Never give children medicine intended for adults. You may think you’re helping them, but you could be poisoning them without realizing it.
The Poison Control Center’s phone number is 1-800-222-1222. Memorize it and store it in your cell phone. You may want to post it near all your home telephones.
Falls are especially dangerous for older adults. There are around 8.9 million trips to the emergency room every year on account of falling injuries.
Learn how to prevent falling accidents in the home.
Children and aging adults are vulnerable to choking and suffocation, the fourth leading cause of death in homes/communities in the U.S. The biggest culprit is food. Choking causes coughing fits or a complete blocking of the airway, which can lead to death.
Choking hazards include foods like hot dogs, popcorn, hard candy, peanut butter, ice cubes, cheese cubes, whole grapes, raw vegetables, and fruits with skins. Since children put just about everything in their mouths, many household items and toys are choking hazards as well, including latex balloons, coins, marbles, small balls, crayons, rings, ornaments and lights.
Here are some illustrations of the Heimlich Maneuver:
- Heimlich Maneuver on an Adult
- Heimlich Maneuver on self
- Heimlich Maneuver on infant
- Additional illustration of the Heimlich on an unconscious adult
Drowning can happen in pools or bathtubs. In 2009, there were 1,100 drowning deaths in the home.
Employ tools such as pool locks and alarms, but don’t let these tools make you complacent. You still need to be vigilant at all times. Never leave kids unattended near water, not even for a few minutes.
Fires, flames, and smoke
Deaths from fires and burns are the third leading cause of fatal home injuries. A great majority of these deaths – 70 percent – are from inhaling smoke. Two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or non-working ones.
- Change the battery to your smoke alarm once a year. Pick a special day, a birthday, holiday or daylight savings and change the battery every year on that day. Put a reminder in your calendar.
- Change the whole unit every 10 years.
- If possible, replace smoke alarms with interconnected alarms. When one alarm goes off, the others will sound too.
- Smoke alarms should be in every floor of your house (including your basement) and outside bedrooms or sleeping areas.
- Test your smoke alarm monthly.
- Make sure your kids are familiar with the sound of the alarm and know what to do in case of fire.
- Have an exit plan, and ensure kids can get out of upper floor rooms even if the stairs are impassable.
For More Information
There’s so much we can all do to make our homes safer for ourselves and our children. Many of the things you can do don’t cost anything and don’t take any extra time, just a moment’s thought and attention. If something happened, and you could have prevented, wouldn’t you feel terrible? You’d have to live with that guilt for ever.
To read more, please visit the National Safety Council website. To make practical steps toward safety in the home, especially for your children, please visit KidSafeInc.com. Don’t let tragedy strike your family.