Ten Serious Home-Related Risks and How to Manage Them.
Updated: Oct 3
Unintentional home injuries accounted for about 57% of all accidental deaths in 2021 – about 128,000.
Your home is your sanctuary, where you should feel safe and secure.
However, like any other space, it comes with its own risks.
To ensure the safety of your loved ones and your property, it's essential to be aware of these potential hazards and take steps to mitigate them.
The top two causes of death in the home are poisoning and falls. It’s not entirely clear which is the leading cause as the data are inconsistent. I have used National Safety Council (NSC) data: In 2021, with 130 million households, home-related deaths numbered 128,200.
After poisoning and falls, no other accident type contributed more than 3% of all accidental fatalities in the home.
In this blog post, we'll explore the ten serious home risks and provide valuable tips on how to treat them.
PLEASE make sure you see the section on the Dangers of Canned Lights in the fire section. It could save your home and your family!
In 2021, the leading cause of death was poisoning in the U.S., with 82,600 fatalities. Most of which were associated with opioids in the age group mid-teens to 60s.
That is about 65% of all accidental deaths in the home.
This is a particularly heartbreaking statistic as many curious young children are affected by unintentional poisoning – chemicals and drugs, including opioids.
Household chemicals, medications, and even some houseplants can be poisonous. To prevent poisoning:
Store chemicals out of reach of children.
Lock up medications.
Research the toxicity of houseplants and leave poisonous ones behind.
Falls are the second leading cause of accidental death in and around the home. They make up nearly a quarter of all preventable fatalities.
Falls tend to affect older people more when they occur.
Reduce the risk by:
Not climbing ladders. So many people get hurt installing Christmas lights and decorations, cleaning gutters, etc. STOP! Get a professional to do it.
Ensuring attic access ladders are structurally sound. We check these when we visit homes to perform maintenance. It is amazing how often we repair or maintain these critical items.
Installing handrails on stairs.
Using non-slip mats in bathrooms and kitchens.
Removing clutter and securing rugs.
Although fires kill far fewer people in the home annually than either poisoning or falls, it is one of the most devastating risks in any home.
NFPA states that most deaths in home fires occur from smoke inhalation - carbon monoxide and toxic chemicals - rather than the flames themselves:
From Michigan State University: The NFPA explains another problem is the synthetic materials used so commonly in home construction and furnishings today. When burning, they produce extremely dangerous substances that are released into the air. Carbon monoxide is one well-known substance that can be deadly even in small amounts.
To reduce this risk:
Keep a safe, unobstructed space around AND ABOVE the non-insulated recessed ceiling light cans – see full explanation below.
Install smoke AND carbon monoxide detectors on each floor and test them monthly. We recommend a smoke detector in every bedroom and locations with higher fire risk, e.g., garage and laundry.
Keep fire extinguishers and fire blankets in key areas of your home, e.g., kitchen and garage.
Create a fire escape plan and practice it with your family.
Rechargeable batteries used in the likes of computers, power tools, vacuum cleaners, and kitchen items can catch fire and be next to impossible to extinguish. Be on guard and store them away from flammables.
Having escape routes from rooms for your family is critical. Do not block them or have flammables that could block them.
We perform thermographic inspections on electrical panels and dryer ducts to help identify issues early, thereby preventing fire. Additionally, we inspect dryer ducting with a fiberoptic camera.
4. The Dangers of Canned Lights
We attended a house fire recently and were chatting with the Houston Fire Department Arson Bureau team investigating the cause.
It turned out that an older canned light fixture had been inadvertently covered, causing it to overheat. Ideally, the thermal trip would have isolated power to the light, but that failed.
Not only did the one house become severely damaged by the fire, but it also damaged the neighboring home (where we were working).
The tops of these canned lights are often exposed in the attic, where a cooling “square” is cut out - see image below. We have seen examples of carpets, containers, and insulation covering these lights, which could cause overheating and a house fire like the one described above.
If you cannot replace them, then MAKE SURE nothing is covering the void to allow the light to cool. The older units can be replaced by LED cans – which are much more efficient – or replaced by larger air-sealed insulated cans.
5. Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can be lethal. It can slowly and unknowingly put you to sleep. Around 400 people die each year from CO poisoning. Sources of CO include:
Furnaces or boilers
Fireplaces, both gas and wood-burning
Gas stoves and ovens
Grills, generators, power tools, lawn equipment
To combat this risk:
DO NOT use a barbeque or other appliances, e.g. electrical generators, camp stoves, in the home or garage – EVEN with the door open!
Install carbon monoxide detectors on each floor and where accumulation is possible.
Regularly service and maintain fuel-burning appliances.
Open your fireplace dampers so smoke is less likely to enter the home.
Keep areas at risk from build up of CO well-ventilated.
Do not run or idle your vehicle in the garage.
BEAR IN MIND – CO and smoke detectors have expiration dates. Some combination units have a five to seven-year life. So make sure you change them out in good time.
6. Electrical Issues
Faulty wiring and overloaded circuits can lead to electrical fires. Prevent these hazards by:
Hiring a licensed electrician for inspections and repairs.
Avoid overloading outlets and extension cords.
We perform thermographic inspections on electrical panels and other equipment to help identify issues early, thereby preventing fire.
7. Water Damage
Water leaks can lead to structural damage and mold growth. Address water-related risks by:
Regularly inspecting and maintaining your roof, gutters, and plumbing.
Installing sump pumps in basements prone to flooding.
Leak detectors to avoid potential water damage.
Keep HVAC drain lines clean. Install leak detection that will shut down units.
Protect your home from break-ins by:
Installing deadbolt locks on exterior doors.
Using motion-activated outdoor lighting.
Investing in a security system with surveillance cameras.
Dogs can scare away would-be burglars and intruders – research indicates that burglars will opt for a house without a dog – all else being equal.
9. Natural Disasters
Living in Houston, our homes are susceptible to hurricanes (see our recent blog on hurricane risks).
Drowning is a serious risk, particularly for younger children, the infirm, and senior citizens. Swimming pools, paddling pools, and bathtubs are often where drowning occurs.
If you have a swimming pool, erect a regulation fence or install a netting system (e.g., Katchakid pool safety net).
No child should swim without the presence of an adult who can swim.
Empty paddling pools after use. Monitor children when in the bathtub or playing near the water.
By identifying and treating these risks in your home, you can create a safer and more secure environment for your family.
Regular inspection and maintenance of safety-critical devices, investing in additional safety equipment, and staying informed about potential hazards will go a long way in protecting your loved ones and preserving your home.
Remember, safety should always be a top priority for your home sweet home.
Contact us if you’d like us to perform a safety inspection of your home or to do work to manage any of the above risks.
During every maintenance visit, we always look at top safety risks to help keep our clients and their families safe.