to our way of thinking the words "safe" and "comfortable" are synonymous when they are used in connection with houses or homes. You seldom hear of a comfortable house which is unsafe, and you rarely have heard of a really safe house that was uncomfortable. It might be that people who like their comfort are careful about their safety, and the other way around. Be that as it may, we have talked to engineers from several of the insurance companies, and the general consensus of opinion seems to be that when you find a house which is kept in good repair and is comfortable, you also find a safe house.
A few years ago, the combined insurance companies published a report on household accidents. It was a most astonishing thing. It stated that there had been 37,000 motor-vehicle fatalities during that year, and believe it or not, there had been 31,500 accidental deaths in and around homes during the same period. They also said that about eighty percent of these household accidents were definitely preventable. We have our own ideas about this subject. We believe that these household deaths can be laid to pure carelessness and deliberate laziness on the part of the people who live in the houses. A man will trip over a lamp-cord, turn around and scowl at it, and mutter under his breath "some day I'll break my neck on that," and go right along doing nothing about it. A woman will say "I hate those cellar stairs they are so dark," but go right ahead using them. When we are on trains, on the street, in office buildings or almost any place, we are surrounded by protection of some kind or the other because the law insists on it; but once we get in our own front door we are on our own, and nobody has anything to say about it. Hence the 31,500 figure.
The remedy is simple. If you want a safe house, take a half day off and do as the safety-engineers do in a factory. Survey the premises. As a matter of fact you hardly need go to that trouble, because you know every one of the danger spots by heart if you have lived in the house for six months. When you make your survey, or a list of the danger points which you know about, get to work to eliminate them one by one.
More than one half of the deaths are caused by falls. Falls are caused by just one thing - insecure footing. Stair carpets that are worn or torn at the edge are just waiting for a bad accident. You can move the carpet so that the worn edge is at the back of the tread, and the practically new carpet which has been at the back of the step is out in front. Really not a hard job.
Basement stairs without hand-rails are simply invitations to trouble. You can buy rail for a few cents a foot, brackets for a quarter apiece, and install a substantial rail in two hours. If the stairs are dark, spend the money to have a light installed.
Household accidents are chiefly preventable. The cost of preventing them is very little. A rubber bath-mat may save a broken hip.
Slippery bathtubs account for more broken arms, legs, and hip-bones than all the railroad accidents in the entire country. Rubber mats can be bought from fifty cents up. Do not rely on your ability to grab a towel-bar, because they were made to support a couple of towels, and not a man or woman.
For some reason, people like to put brooms, mops, buckets and other articles at the head of the basement stairs; and of all things that will hasten your end, we can recommend a nice clean milk-bottle on the second or third step down. Brooms and mops should be hung up. Buckets and empty bottles belong on a shelf. Hooks for the end of a broom-handle cost less than five cents apiece. A shelf is worth about two dollars, plus an hour or so of your own time.
Medicine-cabinet doors with sharp corners, always open just enough to gash your scalp as you bring your head up, account for nearly a hundred minor accidents, and the cabinets themselves for many deaths because people groped in the dark, and found the wrong bottle. No drug that could cause death belongs in a family medicine cabinet.
Among the best producers of household accidents are the slipping rugs. With the present trend toward highly-finished floors, the rate is going up rapidly. Small rugs at the foot of stairways are the chief offenders. There is no excuse for any of this when you can buy non-slip material for the bottom of the rug; or, if you do not like that, a thumb-tack in each corner is very effective.
Standing on chairs, piles of books, boxes and tables simply invites injury. All homes should have a good, substantial ladder. It will pay for itself a hundred times over, and. if you do have to get up near the ceiling, you can do so in comparative safety.
In a year's time, one thousand and thirty-five women sustained very bad cuts in their own kitchen, and one insurance company alone paid out $45,000 to its policy holders. The reason was simply that they had sharp knives in kitchen table drawers, thrust their hand in among the utensils and got badly cut. Sharp knives belong in wood holders out in plain view, and not in a drawer mixed up with a lot of other things. To go on with kitchen affairs, it appears that trying to open cans which were held in wet hands accounted for scores of painful injury, and the bad habit of putting heavy articles on high shelves for as many more. Heavy objects should be kept where they can be handled firmly, and dry hands should be used in handling any implement with a cutting edge.
Many gas ranges have pilot-lights which continue to go out, and many hot-water heaters have the same com-* plaint. To live in a house with either one is simply to invite death by asphyxiation. There is no actual extravagance in a good strong pilot light on gas-burning equipment. It is a definite economy.
Your survey should include the immediate removal of all cleaning fluids. Some of these liquids have a very peculiar way of acting. The fumes drop to the floor instead of rising upward so that you might smell them, travel along to a wall, and then rise. If they happen to encounter a flame or a spark, the flash travels back to the container, and there you are. Open windows do not help a particle.