Falls are the biggest cause of accidents at home

50th ANNIVERSARY. . . .The Mayor, Councillor Elisha McCallion pictured on Wednesday morning at the 50th Anniversary of the Northern Ireland Home Accident Prevention Council at the City Hotel. Included at front are Kieran Cranny, Chair, HAPNI, and Albert Smallwoods, President, HAPNI. Back from left, Gerry Higgins, Ballymoney HAP, Charlene Piggott, Home Safety Co-Ordinator, Easter Area Council, Shauna Lagan, Ballymena HAPNI and David Adams, Ballymone HAPNI. DER2215MC035
50th ANNIVERSARY. . . .The Mayor, Councillor Elisha McCallion pictured on Wednesday morning at the 50th Anniversary of the Northern Ireland Home Accident Prevention Council at the City Hotel. Included at front are Kieran Cranny, Chair, HAPNI, and Albert Smallwoods, President, HAPNI. Back from left, Gerry Higgins, Ballymoney HAP, Charlene Piggott, Home Safety Co-Ordinator, Easter Area Council, Shauna Lagan, Ballymena HAPNI and David Adams, Ballymone HAPNI. DER2215MC035

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However Albert Smallwoods who has been with the Home Accident Prevention Committee for the past 49 years said that the message on home safety is getting through.

In 1973 Northern Ireland suffered 250 fatalities, in 2013 this number had dropped to 87.

But he cautioned how falls in the house continue to claim lives and seriously injure people every year, especially the very young and elderly.

“Children are always investigating,” he said. “They want to climb, they want to see what is inside cupboards. They want to run.

“The elderly can be unsteady on their feet, may be wearing the wrong footwear or their medication can affect them.”

He told people that simple actions in the house can make a huge difference.

“A place for everything and everything in its place,” he said. “When I go to schools and talk to children and ask them what they do when they come home they usually answer - throw my bag on the floor, or throw my shoes on the floor.

“There are three main causes of accidents - men, women and children. Very few accidents are caused by the failure of products or electrical appliances. 95% are caused by human failure.

“Medicine cupboards continue to be a problem. One family told me how their child had used the dog to climb up to a medicine cupboard and get a bottle of tablets

“Children are so inquisitive. One of the children who won the home safety competition years ago, came to me a year later and showed me the sling she had around her arm after breaking it. ‘I was riding my bike down the stairs’,” she said.

“The committee is about education and prevention, getting the message across, changing attitudes and changing people’s way of thinking.”

Alan McKinney Medical Director of the Western Trust said that people should be aware of dangers in the house including cords, strings on blinds, stairs and hot surfaces.

“There have been good advances,” he said. “Years ago kettles had long flexes and children could pull them. But the work of the committee has helped ensure electrical items like this have short leads.”

He also highlighted the need for carbon monoxide and smoke alarms in houses.

“I would say to people to look at your house, the people in it, what are the risks and what can I do to make it better - for instance putting up stair gates for toddlers.”