Common sense is key to holiday safety

Common sense is key to holiday safety

By Bonnie Marx

CARBONDALE—Some people are natural-born klutzes. But that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from a little common sense during the festive holiday season.

At Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Paul J. Restivo, director of SIUC’s Center for Environmental Safety, said safety “just takes a little bit of thinking, taking a step back and thinking before you act.”

The National Safety Council issues a list annually to keep people thinking about taking extra precautions. Many of them may be ones we already know, but it never hurts to jog the memory a bit.

“Everybody knows you shouldn’t put 10 electrical devices and a floor heater into the same outlet,” Restivo said. But suppose you tossed out some old nine-volt batteries that were worn out. If the battery terminal happened to come in contact with old steel wool you had trashed, “it just shoots out with sparks and fire,” Restivo said.

“A huge percentage of accidents and fires would never happen if people would just think twice,” he said. “It doesn’t take a scientist to tell you that most of these things are for improved safety.”

The National Safety Council’s recommendations are:

Electrical Safety

l Always use extension cords wisely: no more than one extension cord per outlet; avoid creating tripping hazards; keep them inaccessible to toddlers; and grasp the plug, not the cord, when removing from outlets.

l Don’t override ground fault circuits and don’t exceed wattage recommendations in light fixtures.

Fire Safety

l Install or check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and batteries.

l Have chimneys professionally cleaned and inspected annually. Use adequate screening to keep materials in the fireplace. Don’t use indoor fires to burn trash such as wrapping paper.

l Make sure burnt wood, charcoal and ashes go into nonflammable containers at a secure outside location. Don’t store flammable containers, such as cardboard boxes, in inappropriate locations (wood decks, balconies, attached garages).

l Replace old space heaters with new ones that have important safety features such as automatic shut-offs.

Driving Safety

l Keep vehicles in good repair; keep adequate supplies of motor oil, antifreeze and other supplies safely stored.

l Use headlights in low light conditions.

l Fatigue, alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter drugs can impair driving ability; arrange for designated drivers or other safe arrangements ahead of time.

l If you’re heading out to a new or seldom visited location, both confirm and bring along driving directions. Allow extra time for traffic, road and weather conditions.

l Stay focused: keep music and conversation to reasonable levels. Pull off the road to use cell phones.

Food and Cooking Safety

l Maintain appropriate food temperatures when transporting, storing and cooking.

l Clean all utensils, preparation surfaces, containers and hands before and after preparing raw fish, poultry and meat. Consider using disposable cutting mats and paper towels, as well as antibacterial dish detergent.

l Use spatter screens and lids when pan-frying; use long-handled spoons and forks when handling large or heavy pieces of hot food.

l Open microwaved containers with care—start with the side farthest away from your face.

l Should a kitchen fire occur, suffocate it with a pot lid or by closing the oven door.

Play Safety

l Toys intended for older children, especially those that shoot projectiles or have small parts, pose a choking hazard for babies, small children and pets.

l Follow Consumer Product Safety Commission and manufacturer’s guidelines to select age-appropriate toys.

l Hosts should prevent access in their homes to medications, water hazards, traffic dangers and areas that may contain potentially dangerous tools and chemicals.

l Define an area where children may safely play.

l Pets also should have a safe place, one that is inaccessible to visitors so they won’t have access to open doors, inappropriate treats, over-vigorous handling and unguarded trash.

Slips, Trips, Fall Prevention

l Don’t allow clutter to become a tripping hazard on stairs or in walkways.

l Wood floors and other smooth finishes pose tripping hazards to those in stockings. Slippers with non-slip soles are safer.

l Secure area rugs to prevent bunching, slipping and end-flipping. Never place area rugs over electrical cords.

l Use non-corrosive ice and snow melt products for walks and driveways.

Contact Media & Communication Resources at Southern Illinois at

Sue Davis, Executive Director, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, phone 618/453-2276; fax 618/453-2278.

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