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Safe as houses

“Have a safe and happy New Year.”

It’s a standard sentiment expressed on last year’s Christmas cards we’ve likely relegated to the bin already. But, beyond hoping we don’t get hit by a bus, we don’t always realise that the greatest thing we can do to protect our health and safety starts at home – especially when we’re building or renovating.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things we can do to help make those New Year wishes for our family’s wellbeing come true.

“Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start…” Maria Von Trapp could very well have been teaching her charges about the benefits of safe house design during the Sound of Music.

Here are some great tips from Archicentre Australia when it comes to safe home design.

 

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Child-resistant plug covers help prevent toddlers from putting sharp objects and fingers into electrical outlets.

 

Around the home

  • Minimise horizontal surfaces that accumulate dust, especially high, hard to reach surfaces
  • Orient living areas north for maximum solar heating
  • Design to maximise flow-through ventilation with few still air pockets, which accumulate condensation
  • Orient kitchens and living rooms to overlook indoor and outdoor playing areas for supervision of children
  • Choose non-slip floor surfaces
  • Make sure children can reach light switches
  • Don’t install power points near water
  • Install safety switches at the main switchboard
  • Install laminated safety glass, especially in the living room and children’s bedrooms
  • Possums and rats carry germs and fleas and can cause structural and electrical damage. Ensure possible points of entry are sealed. Your roof space should be insulated, well ventilated and secure
  • Stairs should be well lit but not glary
  • Avoid spirals and have short flights between landings or turns
  • If children are around, stairs should have childproof barriers to prevent falls and moveable gate barriers to prevent access
  • Install deadlocks to doors and windows
  • Prevent kids from putting sharp objects and fingers into electrical outlets by using child-resistant plug covers
  • Carpets harbour dust and dust mites. If you choose to have carpets, vacuum them regularly, preferably with ducted vacuuming which exhausts dust outside. If your family is sensitive to dust mite allergens, hard flooring is the way to go

 

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Reduce dust-causing allergens with kitchen cupboards that extend to the ceiling.

 

In the kitchen

  • Minimise the size of the “hazard triangle” between stove, sink and refrigerator
  • Check that exhaust fans don’t vent into the roof space, but are ducted outside to avoid the build-up of moisture
  • Cooking with gas releases water vapour, irritant and allergy sensitising gases. Ensure your range hood forces combustion gases and steam outside
  • Don’t install cupboards that open at head and eye level or within 600mm over stoves
  • Build cupboards up to the ceiling to avoid dust collection and maximise storage space

 

In the bathroom

  • Do not place shower taps directly below shower roses
  • Use non-slip bath and shower bases or add rubber grips. Clean these surfaces regularly to reduce slipping
  • Use grab rails instead of towel rails
  • Install a thermostatic hot/cold-mixing valve will enable you to reduce your hot water temperature to 50 degrees Celcius in the bathroom, where young children or the elderly may be at risk from scalding

 

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Keep kids safe around water with a combination of compliant pool fencing, self-closing gate latches, and constant supervision.

 

When outdoors

  • Try to eliminate blind spots on driveways, and install a childproof gate to prevent access to the driveway from the backyard.
  • Consider installing a reversing camera and sensor if you drive a large car like a 4WD or van
  • Install isolation fencing with a childproof self-locking gate around the pool
  • Appropriate locks on adjacent doors and windows should be fitted
  • Install good lighting such as movement sensor lights to the front door, and consider peepholes or security screens to doors
  • Keep your view to the front gate clear by eliminating dense planting

 

Staying warm

  • Remember that gas heaters exhaust combustion gases and moisture into the house can lead to allergies, asthma and mould
  • All heaters should have guards around them to prevent burns or clothes catching fire
  • Consider passive radiant heating such as panel radiators or floor coil heating. Ducted systems circulate airborne allergens and dust particles
  • Fibrous roof insulation can harbour dust mites and mould. Opt for foil or polyester if possible
  • Look for the low fire danger label when buying children’s sleepwear and clothing

 

For more information about creating a safe home environment, visit www.kidsafe.com.auwww.propertysafe.com.au and Archicentre Australia.

 

Do you have any safety tips for the house you’d like to share with our readers?

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Phyllis Stylianou

Phyllis Stylianou is a journalist with 35 years’ experience as a reporter, sub-editor and editor. Writing is the great love of her life (after her family) – as is renovating old homes and building new ones (which she’s embarking on again!) So writing about everything to do with building, renovating and gardening is her passion.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Homeloans Ltd.