Make your home safe for summer play

Warmer weather is on its way and in sunny SA that means more time spent in the great outdoors – but parents need to be aware that many dangers lurk in their own backyards.

“Most people take precautions when they take their families to the beach, the bush or a resort, says Richard Gray, CEO of property group Harcourts Africa, “but safety issues at home are too often overlooked.

“And while parents are usually keenly aware of the dangers posed by unrestricted access to prescription medicine, hazardous cleaning materials and poison and diligently keep these under lock and key, they tend to forget about the ‘innocuous’ equipment and facilities in their backyards that can cause injuries such as fractures, concussions, dislocations and even amputations.”

To keep their offspring safe at home, he says, parents should do an annual spring inspection of outside play areas to prevent possible mishaps that could lead to a trip to the emergency room or worse.

“Play equipment such as climbing frames, swings and tree-houses should be checked thoroughly to make sure it is in good repair and firmly anchored. Things to check include finishes that might be the worse for wear after the winter months. Check for splinters, rough or uneven surfaces and make sure all bolts are secure. Bolts that protrude should preferably be counter-sunk to prevent them snagging clothing, which could lead to a tumble and injury.”

Gray says that home swimming pools and open water such as garden ponds arguably pose the greatest backyard danger. “It is vital that swimming pools are securely fenced and that gates remain locked when the pool is not in use,” he says.

“Pool covers that can support the weight of a child are advisable, especially if there are toddlers or young children in the family since many instances in the past have proven that determined children will find a way to enter pool enclosures that parents have deemed safely locked.

“Strict rules about only using the pool under proper supervision and never swimming alone should also form part of pool safety. Furthermore, paving around pools should be non-slip and should be inspected to make sure it is in sound condition before the summer season starts.”

Gray adds that garden ponds and water features pose risks to younger children. “A toddler who falls face-down into an unsecured pond can drown in water just a few centimetres deep. Fencing such features is not always possible or aesthetically pleasing, but a firm metal grid just under the surface of the water will go a long way to prevent tragedy.”

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