Risks in the home

HealthcareFamily Life

It is very easy to associate risks with places and events outside the home, but every day thousands of people are injured within their home by accidents that could have been avoided. Here are four simple ways of reducing the risk of injury or death to household members.

For more information about staying healthy at home see Footsteps 74.

Preventing fires

To prevent fires occurring in the home:

  • keep cooking fires enclosed
  • keep matches away from children and children away from fires
  • keep a covered bucket of water, sand or dirt, or a fire extinguisher near the stove
  • keep flammable and toxic materials, such as gasoline, paint and solvents, out of the house and in well-sealed containers. Keep them far from any heat source
  • make sure electrical equipment is safe, wired correctly and is covered
  • make sure electric lines are properly installed and grounded
  • never run electric wires under carpets, mats or thatch roof materials
  • avoid connecting many electric extension cords together to form one long cord. Do not overload sockets with too many appliances
  • do not install outlets or switches where they can get wet from water pipes, taps, sinks or rain.

If smoke alarms are available, put one in your house to warn you if a fire has started and give you time to leave the building.

Well safety

Photo: Marcus Perkins/Tearfund
Photo: Marcus Perkins/Tearfund

A well cover helps prevent the water from becoming polluted from wastewater or objects falling in the well. It also makes the well safer for children. A simple cover can be made using concrete and reinforcing wire.

Another option for making wells safer is to build a wall around the edge of the well. This will help prevent people and objects falling in.

Making a natural refrigerator

Keeping foods cold, such as fruits, vegetables, meat and milk, will slow down the rotting process. Eating rotten food can make you very ill. A method called the ‘Pot-in-Pot’ is able to keep foods cool in dry, hot climates where there is no electricity.

Leave the Pot-in-Pot in a dry, open place out of the sun. As dry air surrounds it, water in the sand passes through the outer surface of the larger pot. When the water passes from the sand, the inner container is cooled, slowing the reproduction of harmful germs and preserving the food inside. The sand must not be allowed to become completely dry. The only maintenance is washing and replacing the sand every so often.  

Making safer cleaning products  

Many modern cleaning products are made with toxic chemicals which make people sick. When these toxic chemicals are breathed in, swallowed or absorbed through the skin, they can cause health problems immediately or illnesses that may appear years later. Often cleaning with soap and water is just as good, safer and less costly than using chemical products. Natural cleaners can be stored more easily because they are safer, do not go bad and do not need to stay cold. But they should still be kept out of the reach of children.  

Article compiled by Rebecca Dennis using information from A community guide to environmental health, by Jeff Conant and Pam Fadem, published by Hesperian. See Resources, page 5, for details about how to order.