63 kids died in home accidents in 2009
Government action needed, center for child safety and health urges.
Sixty-three children died needlessly last year in and around their homes, according to Beterem, the national center for child safety and health.

The organization, which demands state legislation to turn residences into safe places for youngsters, issued a report to mark Child Safety Week, which began on Monday.

Beterem director-general Orly Silbinger said that in the past week alone, eight children had fallen from open windows or roofs at home and been seriously injured or killed. Although most attention is given to road safety, many young victims die in or near their own homes, she said.

Residences are designed for the comfort of adults, she added, and staircases and windows are usually not constructed with children’s safety in mind. Many parents think that just teaching young children safety rules is enough to keep them safe, she said.

The most common age of death from home accidents is one year. Burns from hot liquids or hot objects are responsible for 15 percent of child injuries. The same rate results from choking, 6% from falls and 5% from drowning (even in a bucket of water). Windows should be covered with metal railings or otherwise prevented from opening enough for a child to fall out.

Beterem has long campaigned for and succeeded in requiring new homes to have devices that automatically limit the temperature of hot water. This has cut by half the need to hospitalize children with such burns. Requiring medication containers to be sealed with childproof caps has cut child poisoning from drugs by half, and smoke detectors can decrease deaths from home fires by 70%.

Nevertheless, said Silbinger, the public – especially parents and government decision-makers – must be educated. Home visits by public health educators in Canada have significantly reduced harm to children there, and that model can be adopted here.

Saving children from accidental death must become a national goal, says Beterem. Among the suggested measures is requiring building contractors to get their licenses renewed annually by the Construction and Housing Ministry to ensure they have child safety features in their buildings. Smoke detectors should also be required in all new buildings and in places where children are, such as schools, kindergartens and day care centers, Beterem insists.

According to Beterem’s demands, furniture that could fall down on children should be sold only with retainers that attach them to walls, and the prices of safety devices should be reduced. Electric outlets should be covered rather than open, to prevent electrocution. Closets meant for storing poisonous or other dangerous materials should be built with locks, and flooring that meets standards should not be slippery.
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