Safety is concerned with preventing or minimizing injuries and fatalities that result from a variety of circumstances. Injury prevention is a priority area for health promotion officials. Whether in the home or workplace, all individuals are subject to injury at some point in their lives, though certain populations have been identified as being at greater risk than others. The key to injury prevention is knowledge and education. There are several steps an individual can take to prevent harm and bodily injury to themselves and their loved ones. Methods of injury prevention and minimization are described in greater detail below.
The field of firefighting is specifically concerned with reducing the incidence of injuries and fatalities that might result from "sudden, unplanned or unintentional injury events" (Miller, 24). The idea or concept of safety as related to fire science by nature focuses energy on reducing risk and preventing injuries and accidents. Though firefighters are concerned with addressing acute safety issues, their primary concern is reducing the probability that safety hazards may occur in any environment.
There are a variety of factors which influence the potential "safety" of any environment; a "broad range of causes of injury producing circumstances" have been identified via research and analysis of data (Miller, 24). One problem that has been identified repeatedly is the "repeat" accident; this occurs when a single person experiences a large number of injuries, the bulk of which occur in a short period of time. This type of "repeat offender" often causes problems with insurance and to the industry.
SAFETY IN THE HOME
The reduction of fatalities and injuries is of the utmost priority to safety officials. To ensure the safety of the public, officials have worked diligently on identifying safety hazards that the public might not normally be aware of. For example, a majority of people consider their home a safe place. By and large this is true; however there are many places within the home that are actually far from safe. Virtually no area of the home is in fact, completely free from the potential for harm (Miller, 53). Some places obviously present the risk for unintentional injury; these include the bathtub. Thousands of injuries and sometimes even fatalities occur each year from someone slipping in the shower. Prevention is the key to avoiding injury in the home. For example, use of a simple bath mat in the shower can prevent unintentional injury by preventing the likelihood of injury at the outset.
Injuries that occur within the home most often affect young children and elderly (Miller, 53). This is due in large part to the reality that most young people and senior citizens spend a larger part of their day in the home than elsewhere. The kitchen is also an area that is highly conducive to injury. There are several objects located in the kitchen which present a potential hazard; not simply knives and cleaning supplies but also appliances such as the stove itself. This present an extremely hazardous environment for young children, who might not know not to touch a hot stove.
Any storage areas of the home where equipment and tools are stored also pose the potential for injury, and should be safeguarded to protect young children from injury (Miller, 53). The home might also become a more hazardous environment during certain times of the year; for example, the holiday seasons, most notably Christmas and the Fourth of July, have been noted for an increased incidence of injury (Miller, 53). During the Fourth of July everyone is at risk when individuals handle explosive materials and firecrackers, all of which have the potential to burn people and objects (Miller, 53). An ounce of prevention goes a long way here. If individuals live in an area where firecrackers are allowed, they must be certain to fully read all warnings and instructions before lighting any explosives. Children should not be able to handle any materials including small sparklers, unless under the close supervision of an adult who has read the directions or been properly instructed in the use of the materials!
Christmas seems like a relatively benign time of year; however, during Christmas the excess lighting, decorations and "live trees" individuals bring into their home increase the risk of fire and electrical shortages. Thus, extra care should be taken to ensure safety. Having a small fire extinguisher that can douse electrical fires or brush fires is a smart idea for any homeowner during the entire year, but most especially in this type of environment.
Simply purchasing products for the home may put an individual at risk; according to statistics approximately 33 million people are injured every year as a result of handling consumer products (Miller, 77). Of these injuries more than 29,000 fatalities result (Miller, 77). But what type of consumer products cause injuries, and how can they be prevented? We have already seen that objects as benign as Christmas lights can cause injury or harm, as can equipment such as lawnmowers and gardening tools; these type of consumer products have obvious dangers. What of fabrics however? Most people assume the clothing they wear is perfectly safe; not so in all cases however. The flammability of fabrics is an important consumer issue that has received much attention in recent years (Miller, 77). Children wearing costumes for example, may be at increased risk for injury if the fabric used to craft the costume is considered flammable. Products in the home are also at risk for flammability, these include rugs, furniture and bedding (Miller, 77).
The best method again of injury prevention is knowledge. Standards have recently been established that ensure the increased safety of fabrics for household items and clothes. Some older homes and older products however, may not fall under any guidelines for safety. These items should be noted within the home, and care should be taken around them. That old shag carpet for example, from the early 1970s may pose a substantial risk if it is exposed to excessive heat or flame.
Consumers are not alone in their quest to understand how to use products safety. In 1972 the Consumer Product Safety Act was passed, establishing regulations and guidelines for product safety (Miller, 77). Since then additional legislation has been passed that protects consumers from flammable dangers and hazardous substances. Poison Control Commissions have been established, and even a Refrigerator Safety Act has been established to protect consumers and prevent injury (Miller, 77). Part of the purpose of this legislation is to set standards for products, and to enable consumers an avenue to learn about products that may be recalled, if they are discovered to be dysfunctional at a date later than purchase. Labeling requirements, an effective form of prevention, have also come out as a result of these acts (Miller, 77).
Fire is a major cause of injury and fatalities in and outside of the home. More than a million people require medical care each year and more than 4,000 fatalities result from injury due to fire every year (Miller, 98). Injury and death can be prevented however, if people are prepared to deal with the unexpected. As mentioned earlier, every home should be equipped with a fire extinguisher. One of the best methods of protecting individuals in the home is use of smoke detectors. Unfortunately every year thousands of people are injured because of malfunctioning smoke detectors. Many people simply neglect to change the batteries once a year. The best method of prevention here is simply to set a date to test and change the batteries in smoke detectors every year. Every one has seen a funny episode when the alarm goes off in the smoke detector because the battery is low and the person affected can't get the smoke detector to stop beeping.
This small nuisance is simply a sign however that the smoke detector need be reset, and every care should be taken to ensure it is set correctly, and that the batteries are changed before the annoying beeping ensues!
SAFETY IN THE WORKPLACE
The second most common environment for injuries and fatalities is in the workplace. A majority of adults spend more time at work than in their home during a traditional work week. There has been just as much if not more legislation established to protect workers at work than there has been to protect people in their home. The most well-known federal agency established as a result of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (Miller, 127).
OSHA is responsible for enforcing guidelines established by federal legislators meant to protect workers. Anyone who has every worked in a manufacturing type setting or laboratory is probably more than a little familiar with OSHA. OSHA is responsible for inspecting facilities to ensure they comply with federal regulations. Employment agencies and organizations that do not meet standards stand the risk of being…