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Is Your House a Death Trap? 11 Accidents Waiting to Happen (And How to Avoid Them)

Some 130,000 people die each year from accidents, from falls to fires. Here's what to look out for and how to stay safe in your home.

1 / 11

Unattended candles

Candles certainly set a mood, but they can also set fire to your home. The National Fire Protection Association notes in their 2015 report that between 2009 and 2013, U.S. fire departments responded to about 9,300 home structure fires that were caused by candles, with over a third of them occurring in the bedroom. (Here are more winter dangers to watch out for.) Lieutenant Thomas Murphy of the Belmont, New Hampshire Fire Department warns against leaving candles unattended, especially when they’re placed near an open window where a breeze can send the flame flying onto flammable items, and if you have pets, as they can easily knock a candle over. If you have pets, consider investing in Lucid refillable candles, which automatically extinguish when they tip sideways.

2 / 11

Constant extension cord use (and this color cord)

If you’ve been using extension cords 24/7 to keep a lamp or any other device plugged in, it’s time to unplug. “Besides being a tripping hazard, extension cords can get overloaded, causing fires” Lt. Murphy says. “They should be for temporary use only.” It’s also important to not use extension cords that are partially folded or that run underneath rugs. Doing so can cause the casing to wear out, making them prone to getting a short and causing a fire. Finally, keep an eye out for thin, brown extension cords. Lt. Murphy explains that this particular kind of cord is more likely to generate excessive heat buildup and catch on fire. For maximum safety, use the cord that’s attached to an appliance and plug it directly into an outlet.

3 / 11

Combustible items near the stove

Resist the urge to keep mail, magazine recipe clippings, paper towels, napkins, tissues, newspaper recycling, and anything else that’s potentially flammable near a stove. “You need to have a 36-inch clearance of anything combustible around any fuel burning stove,” Lt. Murphy says. Watch out for these other potential fire hazards in your home.

4 / 11

Carelessness in the kitchen

Bestselling author Ali Maffucci, who wrote Inspiralize Everything: An Apples-to-Zucchini Encyclopedia of Spiralizing, says to resist the urge to move fast or multitask when preparing food in the kitchen. “If you don’t have formal culinary training on how to use sharp knives, don’t chop and slice quickly like a professional chef would,” she says. “Slow and steady wins the race in cooking.” Maffucci suggests that when you’re doing knife-work, you avoid distractions such as reading social media feeds or watching TV. Also, safety doesn’t just involve what you do while cutting, but also what you do afterwards. “Once you’re finished slicing, be sure to keep your knife away from your workplace, with the tip pointing away from you,” she says.

5 / 11

Rugs that always slip

Sure, small throw rugs are pretty and can make an otherwise bare floor cozier, but many times, they tend curl up at the corners or slip. This in turn, can lead to you tripping and falling. Falling, as it turns out, is the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death over all age groups according to the National Safety Council. To stay safe, secure carpets to the floor with appropriate backing or forego them altogether. Check out these home safety facts that could just save your life.

6 / 11

No bath mats or in-shower railings

A slippery tub environment can increase your odds of taking a spill. It’s for this reason you should always use a bath mat and/or install in-shower railings. To help prevent slips, the National Safety Council suggests using non-skid mats or appliqués in the bath and shower. These act as a protective buffer between your bare feet and the slippery tub bottom. The Council also suggests installing grab bars in the tub and shower, especially if you live with young kids or seniors.

7 / 11

Sharp furniture edges

Suzanne Eberhardt, owner of Suzanne Eberhardt Interior Design, warns of the hazards that can occur with sharp-cornered furniture. “Often we are so concerned about style that these details get overlooked,” she says. “If you’re purchasing new, it’s a good idea to look for eased edges or rounded corners, especially on coffee tables.” Sharp edges are a scrape or bruise waiting to happen, and it’s even more of a concern if you have young children in the home. She explains that little ones, who tend to be more rambunctious, are more likely to hurt themselves on protruding furniture parts. The solution: Eberhardt suggests buying temporary furniture or wall bumpers or, of course, not purchasing items with sharp corners in the first place.

8 / 11

Easy access to dangerous liquids

According to the National Safety Council, over 90 percent of all poisonings take place in the home; everything from cleaners and pesticides to accidental use of prescription drugs can occur when these items aren’t monitored or carefully stored. Eberhardt says it’s important to keep an eye out for easily opened cabinets that young children can go through. She recommends installing safety locks on cabinets that are within kids’ reach to prevent them from accessing things like cleaning supplies or liquor.

9 / 11

Inappropriate padding and footwear on stairs

It’s easy to slip on your comfy socks while you hang out in your house, but the reality is that hardwood floors and carpeted stairs don’t pair well with socks. It’s best to use non-slip adhesive strips on stairs, and to always wear appropriate footwear around your home—or socks or slippers with grippy soles—to improve traction and reduce the risk of falls. Ditch flip-flops, stockings, regular socks, and loose stair carpeting in favor of proper footwear and safer stair covering.

10 / 11

Reaching for items the wrong way

While it may be a pain to go to an outdoor shed or another room to get a step stool or ladder to reach something in your home, your safety may depend on their use. Plain and simple, they help you get the job done safely because their structure takes proper balance and weight into consideration. Don’t use swiveling office chairs or a cluttered kitchen table in lieu of a ladder because it’s too easy to lose your balance and fall. The National Safety Council suggests always using a ladder on a solid foundation, facing the rungs (as opposed to keeping your back to them), and using slip-resistant footwear while climbing. In case you do have an accident, these are the first aid tips you’ll want to master.

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Slacking off on tidying up

It’s not uncommon for homes to get messy—with newspapers, toys, and shoes strewn about. However, too much of a mess on a regular basis can lead to accidents. From slipping on a bunch of coloring books to a stack of newspapers that could catch fire because they’re too close to a space heater or fireplace, the risk of accidents from clutter are endless. Here’s how getting rid of clutter can recharge your life.