How child-safe is your home? Check the washing machine!
Have you fitted the electric plug points with safety covers? Have they been secured? Are the electric appliances out of reach with their plugs switched off? And have you checked that the heaters, this winter, are far enough away from the blinds, curtains, furniture, as well as the kids’ play area?
What about the washing machine and dishwasher?
It sounds like we’re being a bit overly cautious, even "extra", if you will, but it’s important to ensure that our children are safe both outside and inside the home. We’re constantly hearing about freak accidents and an innocent game of "housey housey" that went terribly wrong. Because no matter how alert we think we are, it’s impossible to have a constant eye on our kids to monitor their every move.
Recently, mom Lindsey McIver bravely shared her story on Facebook, reminding us our children are curious little critters, which is exactly why we should take the time and effort to make sure everything that can be locked, is, and any potential threats, even if it’s in the form of a tattered, extended cord, is not in their reach.
“I’ve been hesitant to write this post,” she began. “First, because of the inevitable online mom-shaming that is bound to ensue; and second, because it’s just really hard to re-live.
“On Sunday our washing machine broke down. On Monday my husband went to Lowe’s and purchased this new front load washing machine. We thought it was the “new and cool” type of washing machine and didn’t think anything of it. We spent that evening installing it with the kids underfoot. We told them several times that they were not to touch it. They all replied ‘OK’.
“Early Tuesday morning we were woken up by our four-year-old son who was crying so hard he could barely talk. As I was trying to understand what he was saying, my husband flew out of bed and down the stairs. It was then that the realization hit. He had said: Kloe. Inside. Washer.
“By the time we reached the laundry room in the basement, my three-year-old daughter Kloe was LOCKED inside the airtight washing machine. It was tumbling and filling with water. She was screaming but you couldn’t hear her.”
“We were able to quickly stop it and unlock the door and get her out. Aside from a couple of small bumps on her head and wet clothes, she was fine.”
Lindsey continued, “After going through all the 'what ifs' and 'could haves' we know we are very blessed and God had mercy on our sweet daughter.
“I post this because I can honestly say we did not realise the danger of this machine. We are continually surprised at the new, inventive ways our kids come up with to try and die. And this was definitely a new one.”
Lindsey explained, “I took this picture after we'd secured the door shut with a child safety lock. We also found a child lock feature on the settings that, as long as it is engaged, will not allow the washing machine to start. But it does not lock the door. We hadn’t even used the machine yet so we hadn’t looked at any of the settings.
“Also, it obviously took two curious kids to pull this off. I want to encourage anybody who has this type of front-loading washing machine and small children, or even grandkids who visit, to lock the door with a child safety lock and always keep the child lock setting on!”
Lindsey concluded, “I realise that there are ways we could’ve prevented this from happening. This is the season for swimming pool accidents and kids being left in hot cars and all sorts of other horrible accidents. And that’s what most of them are. Accidents. Shaming the mom doesn’t do anyone any good. We need to be open and honest about our mistakes to help one another keep our kids safe. And trust me, that mom is already beating herself up enough.”
It's true – accidents happen, we make mistakes and we can’t always keep an eye on the kids. But that won’t stop them from coming up with new and inventive ways to get themselves into trouble. So we’ve listed a few ways you can childproof the home, from anti-slip mats when they get out of the bath to locking the washing machine in the laundry room. Here are a few things you might want to add to your home safety checklist.
General indoor safety
- Place emergency number lists at phone extensions.
- Panic buttons are installed.
- Burglar alarms and fire alarms have been installed and tested.
- There are two emergency exits.
- A fire escape plan has been practised.
- There is a working fire extinguisher.
- All heaters are in good condition, out of a child's reach and placed at least 1m from curtains, any paper and furniture, and have protective covers.
- Electric cords are not frayed or overloaded and are out of reach.
- Electric plug points are fitted with safety covers.
- The strength of stairs, railings, porches and balconies has been checked.
- Bookcases with children's toys on a secure and cannot topple over if the child climbs on it.
- Toddler gates are installed at the top and bottom of all stairways.
- Toy chests have lightweight lids, no lids, or safe closing hinges.
- Safety latches or locks installed on all cabinets.
- Handbags containing any vitamins, medications, cigarettes, matches, jewellery and calculators are out of reach.
- Harmful houseplants are out of reach.
- Glass doors are fitted with safety glass.
- There are stickers on glass doors at your toddler's eye level.
- Blind cords are looped out of reach.
- Hazardous substances are safely stored away.
- Medicines and vitamins are out of reach and in childproof containers.
- Cleaning products are out of reach and sight.
- All household poisons are in thier original containers in high, locked cabinets (not under sinks).
- Cleaning products are stored separately from food.
- Door stops are on doors to prevent them slamming on fingers.
- High chairs and stools are placed away from the stove.
- Knives are out of child's reach.
- Appliances are unplugged (and plugs switched off) when not in use and cords are tucked away.
- Dustbins are out of reach.
- Pots on the stove are placed at the back out of reach with handles facing inward.
- Always use the back rings on the stove and turn pan handles away from the front of the stove.
- Keep kettles, toasters and irons (including cords) far back on working surfaces so that they cannot be pulled down.
- Supervise children when the washing machine is in use and install the child lock functions on those washing machine.
- Keep your child at a safe distance while you cook.
- Keep young children away from the front of ovens or better still put up a protective barrier or grid in front of the stove.
- Don't open the oven door when children are close by.
- Always keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen.
- Lock all potentially poisonous substances out of reach and out of sight of your child.
- Buy cleaning products with childproof packaging.
- Never store non-food products in empty food containers (eg paraffin in a cooldrink bottle).
- Install child locks on low cupboards and drawers.
- Always store breakable items on the highest shelf.
- Pack knives and forks upside down in the cutlery tray of the dishwasher. Always keep the door closed – even when not in use. Pack glasses and other breakable crockery away immediately.
- Playground equipment is assembled correctly over a level, cushioned surface such as sand or wood chips.
- The pool is enclosed with fencing at least, 1,5m high and all gates are self-closing and self-latching.
- The pool is covered with a pool net.
- Fish ponds, water features and all bodies of water are covered with nets.
- There are no thorny or poisonous plants in the garden.
- Garage doors and electric gates have safety mechanisms that stop the door if it encounters an obstacle.
- Garage gates have a safety mechanism that stops them coming off the hinges and falling on the child.
- Ladders are securely stored away so children cannot climb onto roofs.
- Anti-slip mats/stickers are in the bath.
- The maximum temperature of the geyser has been turned to medium heat.
- Electrical appliances (radios, hair dryers) are kept out of the bathroom, away from water, and out of reach.
- Bath plugs are stored out of reach and safety locks are on toilets.
- Razor blades, scissors and hazardous substances are locked out of reach.
- Never leave your child alone in the bathroom or in the bath.
- Firearms are locked in a safe and are inaccessible to children.
- Guns are stored unloaded with ammunition stored separately.
- Teach your child never to try to separate fighting animals.
- Do not leave a young child alone with an animal, even a familiar pet.
- Avoid unfamiliar animals.
- If your bathroom taps are easily turned on teach your child never to touch them.
- Never carry hot liquids or food near your child.
- Do not hold your child on your lap when eating or drinking anything hot.
- Do not leave matches, lighters, candles or other flammable materials where your children can find them.
- Be careful when using portable heaters, irons, curling tongs and other appliances.
- Make sure your child knows not to go anywhere near and open fire or braai.
- Do not light braais or fires with petrol, oil or other flammable liquids.
Are there any safety measures we might have missed? What is the one safety measure you think other parents should know about? And do you have a story about safety and your family you'd like to share? Tell us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish your comments and stories on the site.
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