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Stop the epidemic: 5 ways to prevent accidents in your home

You and your family are more likely to have an accident at home than anywhere else. In fact, you are 20 times more likely to suffer a fatal home accident than you are to win Lotto. Yet more than half of adults surveyed say they can't think of anything they should or would do in the coming year to make their homes safer. Isn’t it time you did something about that?

The facts are frightening. 310 New Zealanders died last year from accidents in their homes. That’s higher than the road toll. At the same time, a staggering 852,286 New Zealanders were injured in their homes, accounting for more than half of the ACC claims for the year. The cost? Around $600 million.

“New Zealand’s premature loss of life due to injury is around double that of the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy,” says The New Zealand Injury Prevention Outcomes Report prepared by the ACC. “ The overall fatality rates in many countries have dropped markedly in the past decade while New Zealand’s have remained static. Substantial improvements to injury prevention activities are required if New Zealand is to catch up with comparable countries.”

Even more frightening is that while deaths and serious injuries in New Zealand from car accidents, assaults and other causes have been declining over the past ten years, accidents in the home keep rising. And the accident rate often increases in the winter due to the increased occurrence of slippery conditions caused by rain or cold.

Most of these accidents are preventable, and prevention is often straight forward, according to ACC injury prevention manager Keith McLea.

Here are a few simple steps you can take right now in five areas of your home to dramatically improve safety and help prevent “unforeseen” accidents from happening to your family.


1.    Make your bathroom safer

Fix It Renovations newsletter April 2014

Falls are the No. 1 cause of accidents in homes, and bathrooms and stairs are the number one and two places where falls are likely to take place. We’ll deal with the bathrooms first.

  • Use anti-slip mats on tiled or vinyl floors and in shower trays and baths
  • Fix any leaks on to the floor from toilets, handbasins, showers or baths
  • Get us in to install handrails to assist getting on and off the toilet and in and out of the bath/shower (it’s critical that these rails are installed correctly so they don’t come loose)
  • If renovating, install non-slip flooring in wet rooms (the kitchen and laundry as well as the bathroom) and we recommend wet area showers which make access easier and falls less likely


2.    Make your stairs safer

Fix It Renovations newsletter April 2014

There are 87 stair-related accidents every day in New Zealand – that’s more than 30,000 per year.

On indoor stairs:

  • Make sure carpet or vinyl stair coverings are securely fixed at each step; if you have varnished timber stairs, get us to install non-slip edge trims
  • Make sure your stairs are well lit
  • Keep stairs and landings free of clutter and obstacles, and remove distractions such as mirrors
  • Make sure railings are firmly secured and, if you don’t have railings, get us to install some

On outdoor stairs:

  • Make sure your stairs are well lit, preferably with security lights
  • Keep them clear of moss, mould and leaf litter
  • If they’re slippery when wet, coat them with non-slip paint or apply grip strips
  • Make sure railings and steps are firmly secured and, if you don’t have railings, get us to install some
  • If your stairs are broken, rotten or too steep, get us in to fix them or replace them – and consider the benefits of an entry ramp rather than stairs

3.    Make your home safer from fire

Fix It Renovations newsletter April 2014

The incidence of house fires always goes up in the winter when you’re more likely to use heaters, fireplaces and electric blankets. Here are some easy, low-cost things to do now, at the beginning of the cold season, to reduce the risk of fire in your home.

  • Make sure all collected dust is cleaned off heaters which have been put away over the summer, and have their electrical cords checked before you use them
  • Get your heat pump or central heating serviced and checked now before you need it, or if you have a wood stove or fireplace, get it and the chimney/flue cleaned
  • Test all your smoke alarms and if you don’t have them fitted or they’re not in every room and hallway, buy some and install them – they cost very little
  • Make sure all your family knows what to do in the event of a fire – go to for their Fire Safety Checklist


4.    Make your ladder safer

Fix It Renovations newsletter April 2014

If you need to use a ladder – say, for cleaning out your rain gutters, fixing your roof or any other pre-winter maintenance, bear in mind that there are 5,400 ladder related accidents in New Zealand every year – more than 100 per week.

  • Ask yourself: Is a ladder the best and safest way of doing the job?
  • Check your ladder before use and if it’s broken or damaged, don’t take the risk
  • Use the ladder safely – see the ACC’s online flyer Ladder Safety


5.    Make your whole house safer

Fix It Renovations newsletter April 2014

You have a health and safety policy at work, so why not at home? Surely the safety of your loved ones is your top priority? We recommend you talk to your family or flatmates on a regular basis about general safety in the home and any hazards that may affect you and your living environment in particular.

Accident Compensation provides lots of great tips and checklists on their website and if you need a builder to advise on what specifically can be done to improve your home’s safety and provide you with fixed-price quotes, please don’t hesitate to contact your local Fix It Building Services owner.

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