All Woman

Child-proof your outdoors

Nadine Wilson

Monday, August 13, 2012    

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FOCUS is typically placed on child-proofing the inside of a home, but given that it's summer, parents may want to turn their attention outdoors.

"You have a different set of hazards that present themselves outside the house," said Public Relations Officer for the Jamaica Fire Brigade Emilio Ebanks. "You have both the man-made and natural hazards that you have to contend with, whereas in the house, you'll probably only have to contend with the man-made."

As a parent, you are the person best suited to protect your child from all harm and danger. You can do so by properly investigating their surroundings, which include your child's play areas.

"You have to make sure that your children are always properly supervised," said Ebanks, noting that his organisation gets a lot of calls to provide medical emergency services to children who are hurt while playing outside.

If you haven't yet done so, now is a good time to do a really good outdoor clean-up. Take a look at your backyard and drive way from a child's point of view and tackle all the possible hazards that you may have been overlooking. As you do your clean-up, consider the following safety measures to child-proof your outdoor space.

1. Cut your grass.

Broken glass bottles and other sharp instruments, such as protruding pipes and sharp sticks can disguise themselves well in uncut grass. Grass is also a great haven for insects and other vermin, which might be harmful to small children. Grass can also hide deep holes into which your child can fall.

2. Put adequate fencing in place.

Fence your yard to ensure that your child cannot run out into the streets. It is also very important for you to fence off balconies, pool areas or hot tubs as they have been numerous cases of children who have drowned in unsecured pool areas and hot tubs. If you are using grills to fence areas, ensure that it is designed in a manner that would not allow your child to get stuck in-between.

"If it's an upper balcony, you must ensure that the grills are not wide so they can pass between them," Ebanks said.

3. Fasten those bolts.

Swings, slides and climbs are great for kids play. But it is important that you periodically inspect them to ensure that all nuts and bolts are in place and they are firmly secured in the ground. Also, ensure that goal posts and basketball polls are well secured and can remain tall even after many tugs.

4. Clean up the poop.

Young children are very curious and might not think twice about dipping their fingers into dog, cat or chicken faeces in their surroundings.

5. Put chemicals away.

Tuck gardening supplies, such as sheers, out of your children's reach. Also, store chemicals, such as fertilisers, as children might be tempted to taste them if they are left lying around. Other fluids such as kerosene oil and bleach should also be carefully stored in child-proof containers, Ebanks warned.

6. Check those steps.

Wooden steps weaken with age and a crack in the patio tile can easily cause a child to hit their toes and fall while running. So change out tiles and put in sturdier steps where applicable. Also, ensure that outdoor tiles have a sturdy grip so they won't cause any slippages while wet. Be sure, too, that large stones are kept out of the reach of children, so they wont trip over them while playing.

7. Pay attention to outdoor electrical connections.

Children can be electrocuted while playing with live wires connected outdoors. It is, therefore, important to ensure that sockets, for example, are shielded with childproof covers.

"Children will see adults plug things into these sockets and want to follow," said Ebanks.

8. Lock those car doors tight.

Ebanks also pointed to the need for parents to ensure that car doors are locked before they go inside. He said there had been situations where children were able to slip into their parents cars and lock themselves in and recalled one case where a little boy almost died due to suffocation.

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