hazards

You Should Know: Watchful Parents Can Prevent Playground Injuries

School’s out for summer, and kids are bursting to get outside and hit area playgrounds. No surprise then that June is a particularly dangerous month for playground injuries. Before you let those kiddos loose, learn how adults are the key to playground safety with tips on equipment, clothing and safe behavior.

Adult Supervision Is the Number One Way to Prevent Playground Injuries

Seventy-five percent  of playground injuries take place on public playgrounds.

Seventy-five percent of playground injuries take place on public playgrounds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at least 200,000 children age 14 or younger are treated in emergency rooms each year for playground-related injuries. More than 10 percent of these are traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and the rate of TBIs is rising.

Because public playgrounds are numerous and easily accessible, most kids spend their time on these rather than private playgrounds. Thus, the largest percentage of playground injuries take place on public facilities. Monkey bars and climbing equipment are responsible for the highest number of injuries.

But despite the risks, we know kids love playgrounds and benefit from the exercise and social interaction. The good news: Adults can play a key role in keeping kids safe on their favorite playgrounds with these tips and resources:

Keep Your Kids Safe With These Tips

  • Areas underneath the equipment, known as fall surfaces, should be made of soft material such as wood chips, mulch, sand or rubber.
  • Inspect equipment for any piece (especially metal) that may be hot from the sun.
  • Watch for hazards or protrusions like bolts, hooks, stumps or rocks that could trip or cut children.
  • Look for neglected maintenance, such as rusty or broken equipment.
  • Make sure kids wear safe clothing. No loose scarves or hoodies with drawstrings, as these can become a strangulation hazard if entangled with equipment. Shoes should be comfortable for play and protect feet, like sneakers. Tie long hair back as well.
  • Make sure there are strong and sturdy guardrails to prevent falls.
  • Your children should be using age-appropriate equipment. Read all playground signs for warnings and instructions.
  • Most importantly, the best way to prevent injuries is parental supervision. Talk to your kids about appropriate playground behavior before you visit the playground and watch them while you’re there.

More Resources for Safe Playgrounds

To ensure your local playground is safe, the National Recreations and Parks Association has a network of Certified Playground Safety Inspectors (CPSI). The CPSI certification program provides comprehensive and up-to-date training on playground safety issues, including hazard identification, equipment specifications, surfacing requirements and risk management methods. To find your local CPSI, click here.

A thorough playground safety checklist and ranking tool, created by the National Program for Playground Safety, can be found here. If you see safety hazards or poorly maintained equipment, reach out to the owner as soon as possible. In most cases, this will be a school or park district. 

Keeping our kids safe while out on the playground is an issue we can all get behind, and one that benefits the community as a whole. So let’s all get out there and have some fun!

This article appeared in our June 2017 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.

You Should Know: Tips for Food-Safe Holidays

Each year, 48 million people fall sick from foodborne illnesses. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. One in six Americans could get food poisoning this year alone.

Food Safety and the Civil Justice System, a recently published landmark study by the American Association for Justice, traces a growing number of serious foodborne illnesses to questionable practices by some large factory farms [download report]. Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions increase the chances of bacterial contamination entering the food supply. Overuse of pharmaceuticals and chemicals to prevent disease in livestock and produce have also been associated with the rise in “super bugs,” bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics. Diseased livestock, improperly handled produce and poor government oversight all add to the problem.

Contamination at this level won’t be prevented without the help of improved government oversight and a robust civil justice system that continues to hold wrongdoers accountable. You can, however, lessen the chances of food poisoning in your home as follows:

Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill

While preparing any meal, remember these four steps from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to keep bacteria away from food, utensils and yourself.

  1. Wash: Clean hands and surfaces often. Illness-causing bacteria can collect on hands, utensils and surface areas. Also wash fruits and vegetables, but not meats.
  2. Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate foods. Raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs can still spread harmful bacteria to ready-to-eat items if they aren’t kept separate. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and another for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  3. Cook: Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods. Check temperatures in several places to make sure that meat, poultry, seafood, eggs (or dishes containing eggs) are cooked to safe minimum internal temperatures as shown in the Safe Cooking Temperatures Chart.
  4. Chill: Illness-causing bacteria can grow in perishable foods in just two hours. Refrigerate foods promptly and properly, and throw out food before it begins to spoil.

Tips for On-Time Turkey Time

Is your Thanksgiving often interrupted by multiple trips to the grocery store, or worse yet, a bird that isn’t done when guests are ready to eat? What about sorting out all those leftovers? Well, then you should check out this handy guide from FoodSafety.gov with tips on how to streamline your schedule – from shopping to preparation to cooking to storing leftovers – and ensure a safe, delicious Thanksgiving dinner at your home.

The United States of Thanksgiving

The turkey is safely prepped and the kitchen is sparkling clean. What next? The New York Times recently investigated something that all Americans can agree on – Thanksgiving dinner! Here are 52 recipes representing each state as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico. See what neighbors are cooking, or find a dish for guests traveling from afar. You might even add a new favorite to your annual feast.

 This article appeared in our November 2016 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.

You Should Know: America’s 2015 Top Safety and Justice Stories

It was a busy year for those who fight for the health, safety and legal rights of all Americans. While this short list is by no means exhaustive, here are some of the top stories we were watching in 2015:

1. Forced Arbitration Is Forced Injustice

Many Americans are signing away their right to a day in court.

Many Americans are signing away their right to a day in court.

There’s a legal land mine buried deep in thousands of consumer and employment contracts called a “forced arbitration” clause that threatens our right to hold major corporations accountable for wrongdoing. This loophole prohibits Americans from taking companies to court and instead forces them into secretive arbitrations, which are typically stacked in favor of the company. An investigation by The New York Times has focused renewed scrutiny on the harm caused by forced arbitrations in claims of medical malpractice, sexual harassment, hate crimes, discrimination, theft, fraud, elder abuse and wrongful death. You can join others in petitioning Congress to ban forced arbitration right here.

2. Food That Sickens Rather Than Nourishes

Major cases of food contamination at Chipotle Mexican Grill and Blue Bell Ice Cream this year illustrate the growing problem of foodborne illness. According to a new report from the American Association for Justice, 48 million people fall sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and at least 3,000 die each year from foodborne illnesses. Questionable production techniques and cost-saving measures, combined with weak state and federal oversight, threaten to make the situation worse. Litigation helps shed light on dangerous practices and hits companies back hard with large financial penalties and damaged reputations.

3. Cost Savings Creates Deadly Defect in Guardrails

Trinity Industries installed 220,000 guardrails throughout the country that may spear cars on impact.

Trinity Industries installed 220,000 guardrails throughout the country that may spear cars on impact.

Trinity Industries modified its highway guardrails to save money but instead created a deadly hazard, all of which didn’t come to light until it was sued by a whistleblower and those who suffered injuries as a result of the defect. Rather than slow down a vehicle when impacted, the Trinity guardrails spear through the passenger compartment. A federal judge recently ordered the company to pay $663 million in penalties for concealing the design modification from federal officials. At least 14 lawsuits blame the guardrails for causing injuries in crashes, including five deaths, according to The New York Times.

4. Exploding Airbags Seriously Injure Motorists

Airbags made by Takata and installed in vehicles from 12 different automakers can explode when deployed, injuring or even killing occupants. A report published in The New York Times alleges that Takata knew of the defects for years but failed to take action. Since then the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recalled 19 million vehicles in the United States, fined Takata for failing to cooperate with its investigation and handed down a record civil penalty of $200 million.

5. New Regulations Protect Nursing Home Residents

Proposed regulations would improve nursing home safety.

Proposed regulations would improve nursing home safety.

The federal watchdog for nursing home safety has proposed sweeping new regulations designed to improve patient care and safety for more than 1.5 million Americans living in long-term care facilities. Such regulations are long overdue, according to patient safety advocates, family members and nursing home lawyers, who report numerous cases of abuse and neglect. If the regulations are finalized, “unnecessary hospital re-admissions and infections would be reduced, quality care increased and safety measures strengthened,” according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

6. VW Trumps GM as Most Untrustworthy Car Maker

The scandal at Volkswagen over rigged emissions in more than 11 million cars worldwide reminds Americans once again that car manufacturers are often willing to jeopardize the health and safety of consumers to protect their profits. News of the VW scam comes just over a year after GM admitted it had covered up a defect in an ignition switch that has been blamed for at least 124 crash deaths. Both companies might have gotten away with their misconduct if not for a wrongful death lawsuit (in the case of GM) or a chance discovery by a small research team at West Virginia University (in the case of VW). Meanwhile, some in Congress are considering a bill that would bail out VW: learn more and tell Congress to vote no here.

7. Defective Products Create “House of Horrors”

Toxic drywall, failing sprinklers, leaking windows and even bursting toilets ... these are just a few of the defective and dangerous products that are featured in the “House of Horrors,” an informative infographic from the American Association for Justice. Each case demonstrates how consumers have fought back against shoddy manufacturers through class-action lawsuits, a right that is threatened by forced arbitration clauses as discussed above.

8. Toys Still Injuring Kids

Nearly 260,000 kids visit emergency rooms each year for toy-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And sadly, 11 children under the age of 12 died while playing with toys in 2014. The most common injuries include poisoning, choking, ingesting magnets or falling from riding toys. While regulators, safety advocates and the parents of injured children have succeeded in ridding store shelves of many unsafe toys, too many still get through. Learn more.

 This article appeared in our December 2015 "You Should Know" e-newsletter. 

You Should Know: Tips for Keeping Loved Ones Safe at Home

Most Homes Are Not Designed to Prevent Injury to Older Americans

Storage areas for medications should be well-lit

Storage areas for medications should be well-lit

In 2013, there were 44.7 million Americans age 65 and older. As the baby boomer generation ages, that number will spike upwards to 56.4 million in 2020, 82.3 million in 2040 and 98.2 million in 2060. Most baby boomers will live longer on average than previous generations, remain independent and age gracefully, which makes “aging in place” (living at home as long as possible) an attractive option. But several studies suggest that most homes are not designed to minimize safety risks for people over age 65.

Five Tips for Keeping Loved Ones Safe at Home

Independent living and safety are not mutually exclusive. In fact, aging itself isn’t necessarily a hazard; rather it’s often the living space that needs to be updated. Here are five tips from the American Geriatrics Society’s Health in Aging Foundation to protect loved ones from home hazards:

1. Keep Emergency Numbers Handy.

Always keep a list of emergency numbers by each phone and write them big enough to read easily if in a hurry or frightened. Be sure to include numbers for the poison control center, fire and police departments, family members and the family doctor.

2. Prevent Falls.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that falls are the leading cause of injury for older Americans. Every 13 seconds a fall-related injury is treated in an emergency room and every 20 minutes someone dies from a fall.

To prevent falls, make sure all hallways, stairs and paths are well-lit and clear of objects, use rails and banisters when taking the stairs, and tape all area rugs and cords to the floor so they don’t move. Also consider a wearable alert system that allows a senior who has fallen to summon emergency personnel. Download this step-by-step fall prevention checklist.

3. Protect Against Fire and Related Dangers.

Older adults are at greater risk of dying in a home fire. They may move more slowly or have trouble hearing a smoke alarm. Smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths, so try to smoke outside and never in bed. Make sure there is a LOUD, working smoke alarm on every level of the house, in bedrooms and outside of sleeping areas. Download this tip sheet from the U.S. Fire Administration for additional information.

4. Avoid Bathroom Hazards.

Falls are the leading cause of injury for older Americans.

Bathrooms are especially hazardous for older adults, accounting for 80 percent of all falls according to the National Institute on Aging. They have slippery and unforgiving floor surfaces, and few sturdy handholds. Install grab bars in the shower and near the toilet. Put rubber mats in the bathtub. And consider setting the water heater thermostat no higher than 120 F to prevent scalding. Consumer Affairs has a number of additional tips for making bathrooms safe for seniors.

5. Prevent Poisoning.

The risk for a medication mistake increases as we age. According to 2014 Medicare records, there are more than half a million drug-related injuries that occur at home every year. Mistakes can include taking too much medication, taking the wrong medication or incorrectly mixing two or more medications.

To prevent accidental poisoning, keep all medications in original containers to avoid mix-ups, and store medications in a well-lit room so the labels are easier to read. Ask the pharmacy to put large-print labels on prescriptions. And bring all pill bottles to doctor appointments to ensure medications are being taken correctly.

 This article appeared in our October 2015 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.