Now that summer has officially arrived, lots of parents and kids will be spending more time outdoors. Whether by the pool, on the lake, at the park, or just hanging out in the backyard, it’s important to remember to put safety first.
Drowning is the fourth leading cause of death to children under five. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that approximately 260 children under the age of five drown in swimming pools and spas; another 3,000 are treated in emergency rooms, some with permanent brain damage from prolonged submersion.
- Never leave a child unsupervised near the water, lake, ocean or backyard pool.
- Backyard pools should be completely fenced in. The fencing should be at least 5 ft. high and have self-latching and self-locking gates. Latches should not be reachable by small children. Have the fence and the gate mechanism inspected regularly and repair, if necessary.
- Use of a flotation device does not mean that a child does not need supervision; neither do swimming lessons.
- Do not use a pool unless the cover is completely removed and stored. A child can become entangled and trapped in the cover.
- Keep toys away from the water. A young child may accidentally fall in the water while trying to retrieve a toy.
- If you have an above ground pool, remove the access ladder or steps unless you are there to supervise your children going in and coming out of the pool. If the pool is not in use, remove them altogether and store them where kids cannot access them.
- Learn and practice basic lifesaving techniques, including First Aid and CPR, especially if you own a pool or frequent the beach.
- Keep poolside rescue equipment close to the pool area at all times.
- Have a mobile or portable phone with you at the pool or the beach so you never have to leave a child unattended to answer the phone, or make a call in case of an emergency.
- Teach your kids to never swallow water while swimming, even in small quantities. Some germs can survive for a long period of time even in properly disinfected pools. Sewage spills, animal waste, and rainfall can contaminate oceans, lakes, and rivers.
- Entrapment underwater can be deadly. Install anti-entrapment drain covers. Teach children that drains, grates and filters are not toys. Never stick fingers or toes in these openings and stay away from suction devices.
No matter how experienced you are, it is always a good idea to review boating safety rules before departure.
- Make sure the boat contains all required safety equipment (marine radio, cell phone, flares, fire extinguisher, boat lights, anchor, map, horn or whistle, first aid kit) and it is in proper working condition.
- Follow the manufacturer’s procedures for preparing the boat to set sail and abide by passenger and weight limit requirements.
- Only allow people properly trained to operate the boat.
- Ensure that every passenger wears a properly fit personal flotation device.
- Know all navigational rules for the specific waterway.
- Check the weather forecast before setting sail and be mindful in weather changes once you set sail.
- Do not drink and operate a boat. Remember, alcohol contributes to accidents on the water just like on the roadways.
According to the CDC, each year more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are injured and more than 700 people die as a result of bicycle-related injuries. Children under the age of 15 account for more than half the injuries. Statistics have shown that wearing a bicycle helmet is the best protection from head injuries and deaths resulting from a bicycle accident, yet a recent study found that of the 82% of Americans who admitted wearing a helmet was important, only 44% stated that they actually would wear one.
- Make sure the bike itself is the right size for the child. There should be about 1-inch of clearance between the bike frame and the child’s groin when the child’s feet are flat on the ground. Also, make sure the bike is in good repair — reflectors are secure, brakes work properly, gears shift smoothly, and tires are tightly secured and properly inflated.
- A bike helmet is essential safety gear for every bicyclist. A label should be affixed to the helmet indicating that it meets the standards set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- The helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward and backward or side to side. The rim of the helmet should be one to two finger-widths above the eyebrows.
- The straps must always be buckled, but not too tightly. The straps should form a “V” just below the ear lobe and should feel snug when the rider’s mouth is open. Test the fit by opening your mouth wide to yawn and confirm that your helmet pulls down on your head. The buckle should be flat against the skin.
- Do not let children ride unsupervised until they have demonstrated that they always follow the rules.
- Follow traffic rules. Ride with the flow of traffic. Stay as far to the right as practical when riding in traffic lanes.
- Wear reflective, bright clothing. Use reflectors – white in front and red in back especially when riding after dark.
- Use bike mirrors.
- Signal your intentions. Use a bicycle horn to warn vehicles of your presence.
With the extra time for outdoor activities, it’s important to remind children about important pedestrian safety tips.
- Cross the street only at intersections or marked crosswalks.
- Do not cross in the middle of a street or between cars; if you are getting off a bus, wait until the bus has moved away before checking for traffic.
- Continuously watch for traffic as you cross the street.
- Always make sure a motorist is not turning even if there is a “No turn on red” sign.
- Avoid walking on roads without sidewalks and crosswalks, but if you must, walk facing traffic.
- Always look both ways before crossing the street – even if it is not a busy intersection.
- Wear reflective or bright clothing in the dark so drivers can easily identify you; cross near a light.
- Follow crosswalk signs/signals; do not cross when the sign reads “Do Not Walk” even if there is not oncoming traffic.
- Do not assume that cars are driving slowly enough for you to cross or for them to stop.
- Do not run or dash into the street.
On the Playground
Every year more than 200,000 kids are treated in emergency rooms from playground related injuries. Some injuries involve falls on hard surfaces, head entrapment, and strangulation by entanglement, while others are the result of design or maintenance defects or negligence.
- Closely supervise children when they are using playground equipment. Make sure all children play on age-appropriate equipment.
- Cover areas under and around play equipment with soft materials such as hardwood chips, mulch, pea gravel, sand, or safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials (materials should be nine to 12 inches deep and extend six feet from all sides of play equipment).
- Beware of entrapment or entanglement hazards. A child’s head can be trapped in openings between three-and-a-half and nine inches wide. Remove strings and draw-cords from young children’s jackets to prevent strangulation.
- Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.
- Check for sharp points or edges in equipment and for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
- Make sure elevated surfaces, like platforms and ramps, have guardrails to prevent falls.
- Check to make sure the equipment is anchored safely, all equipment pieces are in good working order, and equipment is free of rust, splinters, and missing parts.
Summer is a great time for grilling, but every year dozens of people are injured because of grilling accidents. Knowing the risks and how to reduce them is the secret to safe grilling
- Stay by the grill and pay close attention the whole time food is cooking.
- Designate the grilling area a “No Play Zone” and keep kids and pets well away until grill equipment is completely cool.
- Before using, position your grill at least ten feet away from other objects, including the house and any shrubs or bushes.
- Before using a gas grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line to be sure it is working properly and not leaking.
- Never use a match to check for leaks. Instead, rub the hose line with a dishwashing liquid and water solution. If you see any bubbles or detect a leak, immediately turn off the gas and don’t attempt to light the grill again until the leak is fixed.
- When lighting a charcoal grill, do it right the first time. Choose pre-treated charcoal or carefully follow directions on the charcoal starter fluid can. Once you have lit the charcoal, never add more lighter fluid as it may cause the can to explode. If the fire seems out, use paper or kindling to help a slow starting grill.
Do not assume that because it is not hot or sunny enough, sunburn can’t happen. Even short-term exposure to sun can cause severe sunburn.
- Apply sun block to all exposed areas, even if it is cloudy or partly cloudy; reapply periodically throughout the day. This is important, especially after playing in water or sweating. Never assume that waterproofing means that reapplication is not necessary.
- Don’t underestimate how much daylight is left; use sun block even late in the day.
- Follow manufacturer recommendations on the bottle of sun block. Err on the side of more rather than less. Then, apply a little more.
- Sun block should have an SPF of 15 or higher.
- Apply sun block at least thirty minutes before your child goes outside; sun block takes awhile to become effective.
- Scope out a shaded area; even a little shade can make a difference.
- Wear a hat, sunglasses, loose fitting and full-length clothing, if possible.
Kids in Cars
Janette Fennell is founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, a national nonprofit child safety organization whose sole mission is to prevent injuries and deaths of children in and around motor vehicles. Since 1998 when the organization began tracking data and working on the issue, more than 500 children have died in these preventable tragedies. That is an average of almost 40 preventable deaths per year. The stories are all similar; they usually involve a parent who has unintentionally left his/her child in the back seat. Busy parents may have been late for work, deviated from a normal routine, or be distracted by a cell phone or thoughts of future events of a soon-to-be-busy day. Even the most educated, conscientious, and loving parents can forget a sleeping baby in the back seat. When things run smoothly, a person can multi-task fairly well; add one of these factors or distractions and that ability is diminished. How many times have you thrown in a load of laundry then forget about it because the phone rang or the kids needed you? To prevent child vehicular heat stroke death:
- Never leave a child unattended inside a motor vehicle – even if the air-conditioning is on or a window is cracked.
- Never let children play in or around a parked car.
- Always keep the vehicle locked, even in your garage.
- Make it routine to put your handbag, wallet, cell phone or laptop on the floor of the backseat.
- Make it a habit to open the back door and look in the backseat of your vehicle before locking the doors and walking away.
- Ask your babysitter or child-care provider to call you within 10 minutes if your child hasn’t arrived on time.
- Avoid distractions while you are driving. Putting the cell phone in the back seat not only reduces the risks of a serious or deadly accident caused by inattentive driving; it also helps prevent leaving your child in the vehicle unattended.
Is your child ready to be home alone this summer? The first thing you must do is check the laws in your state. If there are no laws specifying a minimum age for leaving a child home alone, there may still be helpful guidelines. For more information, contact your local Child Protective Services (CPS) agency. A parent must look at the child’s age in relationship to growth, behavior and judgment – in other words, maturity. Every child is different; there are no hard-and-fast rules for determining when a child is ready for the responsibility of being home alone. The following questions may help you decide:
- Has he/she demonstrated responsible behavior in the past? How often and in what situations?
- Is your child physically and mentally able to care for himself/herself?
- Does your child obey rules and make sound decisions when you are home?
- Have you discussed the issue with your child? Does he/she feel comfortable or fearful about being home alone?
- Have you experimented with short “home alone” periods?
If you are satisfied that the child qualifies with regard to age and maturity, you must now help the child master certain specific safety skills, particularly what to do and who to contact in an emergency situation.
- Set rules for your child to follow.
- Make sure your child knows how to contact you at all times. Pre-select an alternative contact person, a neighbor or close relative. Leave this person’s contact information with you child in case he/she needs assistance and is not able to reach you.
- Remove fire hazards and install smoke detectors. Practice fire drills with your child so he/she knows what to do and where to go in case of fire.
- Teach children basic first aid and have a first aid kit available.
- Have children practice emergency (911) calls with you, giving their full address and directions if necessary.
- Teach children when, and if, to answer the door and phone. Warn children to never let strangers into the house.
- Keep all doors and windows locked.
- Instruct children to never tell callers that they are alone. They should say that the parent is busy and offer to take a message. If a call seems suspicious, they should call you or another adult.
- Set rules on eating and drinking and what types of meals your child is allowed to prepare and eat.
- Have a clear understanding about the use of the oven, stovetop, and other appliances. It is safest to make cooking equipment off-limits with the possible exception of the microwave (after providing specific use instructions).
- “Walk your home” to make sure all medications and other potentially dangerous items are put up and away. This is an important tip even if kids are not home alone.
- Once your decision has been made to leave your kid(s) home alone, continually evaluate your arrangements and be flexible.
Safe Medicine Storage
Every year, more than 60,000 young children (less than 5 years old) are treated in the emergency room after ingesting medications while their parent or caregiver was not looking.
- “Walk the home” and make sure all medications are properly stored and out of reach of children.
- Never leave medicine or vitamins sitting on a kitchen counter/table or a child’s bedside even if the medication needs to be taken every few hours.
- Always relock the safety cap on a bottle.
- Talk to your child about medicines; what medicine is and why only an adult should administer it.
- Never call a child’s medication candy so s/he will take it.
- Remind babysitters and others in your home to keep purses, bags, etc. that contain medicine or vitamins out of reach of children while visiting.
- Check medications for expiration dates. If a product is not dated, discard it a year or less after purchase.
- Keep the Poison Help Hotline on your phone or nearby in case of an emergency. Program the number in your cell phone.
- Remember that even household products such as laundry detergent or oven cleaner can also be poisonous for curious kids at home.
For more information to help parents identify dangers in and around the home, visit www.mysafehome.org. The site offers 360-degree interactive technology to help explore all areas of a home and identifies simple, straightforward safety tips help families enjoy their pools, playgrounds and grills safely.
Lawsuit Financial hopes these basic tips have helped you brush up on your summer safety knowledge.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.