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Older adult safety tips by room

As you become older, it becomes increasingly more important to consider your own safety and take necessary precautions when using products that present potential safety hazards.

In 2002, more than 1 million people in the United States over the age of 65 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with products in their homes that they use every day. With the senior population in the United States soaring and "baby boomers" approaching their sixties, this number of injuries could easily double over the next 20 years. That's why it is important for you to identify safety hazards and understand some simple steps to overcome them.

Take a walk through your home and use the following checklist to identify possible safety hazards. When you spot a potential problem, take the appropriate action to address it immediately.

Kitchen

  • Buy UL Listed electrical appliances.
  • In the range or stove area, check all electrical cords for fraying or cracking, step stools for splitting or cracking materials, and throw rugs for tripping hazards like bumps and turned-up corners.
  • Keep appliances and their cords away from water. If an appliance falls into the water, don't retrieve it until you have unplugged the appliance. Do not use the product again until it is inspected and repaired by a qualified technician.
  • Never use or attempt to repair a damaged appliance; always consult a qualified technician.
  • Keep all portable and countertop appliances unplugged when not in use. Appliances plugged into an outlet have dangerous electrical voltages inside even when they are turned off.
  • Every home should have working, UL Listed smoke detectors and fully charged UL Listed fire extinguishers strategically placed in the kitchen, garage and workshop.

Family room

  • Make sure all extension cords bear the UL Mark.
  • Never keep an extension cord plugged in when not in use. The cord will still conduct electricity until it is unplugged from the outlet.
  • Never use an extension cord that is cut, damaged or repaired. Touching even a single exposed strand of wire as fine as a thread can cause an electric shock or burn.
  • Never run an electrical cord under a rug or carpet, or drape it over a hot surface such as that of a radiator or space heater. If a rug or other items cover the cord, heat cannot escape, the cord can become too hot and a fire could possibly start.
  • When replacing a light bulb in a portable lamp or fixture, make sure that the replacement bulb is of equal or lesser wattage than that recommended by the lamp or fixture manufacturer. Using a light bulb of higher wattage than the manufacturer recommends can cause the lamp or fixture to overheat and start a fire.
  • Only use portable electric air heaters as a supplementary source of heat; these devices are not intended to replace home heating systems and should not be used without supervision. Always keep flammable materials including bedding, clothing, draperies, rugs and furniture at least three feet away from the heater.
  • Check all rugs and runners for tripping hazards like bumps and turned up corners.
  • Inspect the fireplace and chimney for fire hazards.
  • Make sure all passageways are clear.

Bathroom

  • Keep space heaters, radios and other electrical products away from bathtubs and sinks.
  • Keep medications, cleaning products and other poisons away from children and pets.
  • Make sure that you have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets installed in the bathroom as well as in the kitchen, laundry room and workshop.
  • Check the bathtub, shower, rugs and mats for slipping hazards.
  • Check the water for possible burn hazard and cabinets for safe storage of medications.
  • Make sure all small appliances bear the UL Mark.

Bedroom

  • Install UL Listed smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms outside every sleeping area and near fuel-burning appliances.
  • Install fresh batteries in smoke detectors and CO alarms at least once a year.
  • Develop and practice a fire escape plan for your household. Every family member should know at least two ways out of each room.
  • Test smoke detectors and CO alarms regularly and clean them as indicated in the use and care booklet. Hard-wired units, defined as those permanently wired into a home's electrical system, should be tested monthly. Battery-operated units should be tested weekly.
  • Make sure the area around the bed is clear of items that could cause tripping, including electrical and telephone cords, rugs, and runners.

Basement, garage and workshop

  • Make sure all power tools bear the UL Mark.
  • Check fuse and breaker boxes for possible malfunction and shock or fire hazards.
  • Check cords on tools and extension cords as well as lawn and garden tools and supplies.
  • Check for proper ventilation.
  • Make sure flammable liquids are stored properly.

Stairs

  • Check for proper lighting on and around stairways.
  • Examine handrails and steps for possible defects or weaknesses.
  • Check stair coverings for possible tripping hazards.