Author: Scott Rief, Associate Safety Consultant - MMA Minneapolis
Safety at home is just as important as safety in the workplace. It is easy to overlook the many hazards that exist within our own homes. Keeping your family, yourself and your home protected should be a top priority and now is the perfect time to talk about it with June being National Safety Month. There are several things that we can do to ensure safety at home. Implementing a preventative safety maintenance schedule is a smart way to maintain safety and prevent home-hazards.
No matter how you choose to set up the schedule for your home, the following items should be a part of your inspections:
Smoke Detector and Fire Extinguisher Checks
Every year people are victims to fire because their smoke detectors didn’t go off during the fire. This is usually because the batteries were dead or had been removed to stop false alarms. Smoke detectors should be checked and tested monthly. Batteries should be replaced twice per year. Having a surplus battery supply on hand can prevent any gaps in smoke detector coverage. Detectors can be tested by pressing the test button or by using smoke detector test spray. Sprays similar to the one in the following link are inexpensive and a great tool to have on hand.
Fire extinguishers should be inspected on a monthly basis to ensure they are holding a charge. Most home fire extinguishers are good from 5 to 15 years. If the extinguisher fails to hold a charge it should be replaced immediately.
Carbon Monoxide Detector Checks
Carbon monoxide is a colorless odorless gas that often goes undetected. More than 20,000 people visit the emergency room annually due to carbon monoxide poising. The gas is created by burning fuels in common household appliances such as grills, fireplaces, furnaces and gas ranges. Carbon Monoxide detectors should be placed on each floor as well as outside of any sleeping area in the house. Sleeping areas that are not in close proximity should have their own detector. Detectors can be hard-wired or battery operated and should be tested in a fashion and frequency similar to smoke alarms.
Dryer Lint Trap and Vent
Because lint is combustible, it is a good practice to check your outside dryer vent for build up at least twice per year. Not only does a clear vent contribute to fire prevention, but it allows your dryer to run more efficiently. While you are at it, check any other outside vents on the same schedule (Outside combustion air vent, range hood vent, etc.) All vents should be clear, functional and screens should be clean.
The dryer lint trap should be cleaned after each use as lint can build up around the heating element as well as other unwanted areas of the machine.
Test GFCIs and all panel breakers
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets are safety devices that prevent electrical shock. GFCI outlets are generally very reliable but can fail over time and can also fail due to improper wiring. To test a GFCI outlet press the “Test” button located between the two receptacles. The outlet should trip and cut off power. Test that there is no power to the outlet by plugging in a hair dryer or other device. Pushing the “Reset” button will restore power to the receptacles. If the outlet fails this test, it should be replaced immediately. GFCI outlets should be tested on a monthly basis.
While we are on the subject, circuit breakers should be checked on an annual basis to make sure they turn on and off properly. Like the GFCI outlets, the integrity of breakers can become compromised over time.
There are so many more things that we can do around our homes for safety prevention. The following list offers thoughts on a few more things to consider as you are putting together a safety maintenance schedule:
- Replace furnace filters on a monthly basis – Dirty filters cause an overheating hazard for your furnace, allow vents to build up with dust, and also compromise the air quality in your home.
- Garage door spring safety – Once per year use a lithium or silicon spray lubricant to coat your garage door spring. This extends the life of the spring and helps prevent potential injuries due to the spring breaking.
- Concrete slabs – June is a good time to inspect concrete and pavement on your property. Temperature changes between winter and summer can cause concrete to shift and cracks to become exaggerated. Any cracks or shifts resulting in uneven surfaces can pose a potential trip hazard.
- Fireplace cleaning – Ash, soot and carbon buildup all occur when burning wood in a traditional fireplace. Vented gas fireplaces also generate some soot and carbon. This can lead to potential fire and carbon monoxide hazards. It is recommended that a certified chimney sweep be contracted to clean your chimney on an annual basis.
- First Aid Kit – Small first aid kits are relatively inexpensive and convenient to have in case first aid supplies are needed. Over time supplies get depleted but not replaced. Consider refilling the kit on an annual or on a more frequent basis if necessary.
The list does not stop with the items mentioned in this blog. Creating a home safety inspection routine helps eliminate every day hazards that are easy to overlook as we become busier and busier with our everyday lives. Below are some resources to help you with hazard prevention at home:
- Preventing Home Accidents: A Quick and Easy Guide
- National Safety Council – Home Safety
- US Fire Administration – FEMA.gov – Home Safety Checklist
For additional information about safety at home or in the workplace, contact your local Marsh & McLennan Agency representative.