Staying safe at home
There are lots of potential hazards in our homes but if you’re aware of the danger areas and unsafe habits, you are more likely to be able to keep yourself safe. There are preventive measures you can take and sources of help and advice.
Spotting the dangers
More accidents take place in the home than anywhere else, particularly in the kitchen and on the stairs. It’s important to keep your home well-lit and clutter free to avoid falls.
- keep a torch or lamp by your bed
- try installing night lights
- fit two-way switches at the top and bottom of stairs
- consider installing adaptations such as grab rails in the bathroom or an extra banister.
Contact your local council or Home Improvement Agency for advice.
You may be able to get a home hazard assessment to check for risks. Ask your GP or local council for information.
As we get older we become more vulnerable to fires. Keeping up with home maintenance may become more difficult and our ability to detect fires can be reduced. Other risk factors include:
- reduced mobility
- sensory impairments, such as loss of hearing, sight, smell or touch
- some medications
- alcohol or substance misuse
The main sources of fires in the home are cookers, candles, electric blankets, fires and heaters. You can reduce your risk if you:
- fit a smoke alarm and test it regularly
- unplug appliances at night and put out candles
- don’t smoke anywhere you might fall asleep
- use a fireguard
- don’t dry clothes on fireguards or heaters
- plan your escape route and keep exits clear.
You can get more safety tips from gov.uk/fire-safety-in-the-home.
Many local fire stations offer free home fire risk assessments for vulnerable people, such as older people who live alone or have mobility problems. You can find the contact details for your local fire and rescue service on the Chief Fire Officers Association website.
If you have a sensory impairment, contact Action on Hearing Loss, Sense or the RNIB for more support with your specific needs.
Gas and solid fuel safety
You should get all your gas appliances serviced regularly and safety checked every year. If you are renting, your landlord is responsible for this. You can find a registered gas engineer on www.gassaferegister.co.uk.
You may be able to get a free gas safety check from your supplier if you are over pension qualifying age and receive certain benefits. Contact your supplier to find out if they provide this service.
If your appliance uses solid fuel (coal, wood), you should have it cleaned and serviced regularly by a HETAS registered installer.
Unsafe gas, oil and solid fuel appliances can produce carbon monoxide (CO) which is extremely dangerous and can be fatal. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms are similar to the flu, a virus or food poisoning and may include:
- feeling sick and vomiting
- tiredness and confusion
- shortness of breath.
You can’t see, smell or taste carbon monoxide but there may be some warning signs, such as:
- dark staining on or around appliances
- a pilot light that frequently goes out
- a flame that is yellow or orange rather than blue on your gas hob
- increased condensation inside windows.
If you suspect a leak, call the gas emergency number 0800 111 999.
You should also consider installing an audible carbon monoxide alarm.
Private landlords are required by law to install a CO alarm in rooms where there is a solid fuel appliance. You can get more information about solid fuel safety from the Solid Fuel Association.
For more advice, including the following topics, please visit the Independent Age website
- Electrical safety at home
- Safety in the kitchen
- Crime prevention at home
- Living with dementia at home