When you’re a parent with small children you spend your hard-earned money on plug guards, fridge locks, stair gates and fire guards, and every piece of furniture is a potential fall from height, or an eye injury waiting to happen. When I walk into a room I’m drawn to look at anything of the right height to bang an eye or head – something that probably sounds familiar if you too have young kids.
This hasn’t left me even though mine are all now taller than me. It’s become second nature to identify risks and prevent harm to my loved ones before an incident happens. That’s the idea RoSPA want to encourage with their first ever family safety awareness week in March, aimed at keeping under 5s, children and teenagers, drivers young and old and older members of our families safe at home.
Of course when children are little, as a society we expect one another to take precautions and it’s frowned upon if you don’t. A friend once told an A&E nurse he’d be back before the week was up with his five year old son who’d just fallen off the climbing frame on their second visit in the same week. Quick as a flash she said “well if that’s your attitude I’m sure you will”. He felt mortified that she honestly thought he wasn’t bothered.
My friend and his son were fortunate, but some of us learn the hard way that if you don’t believe you’ll prevent all injuries you won’t try to. This is because what you believe affects how you behave. So if you decide there are hazards you can’t guard against then guess what – you stop looking for them.
Needless to say my friend didn’t end up back in A&E again whilst his son was a pre-schooler. But unfortunately by age twelve, that same risk-hungry boy frightened the life out of Aunty Lizz when he dared my middle son to ride off the highest ramp at the BMX park whilst I looked on helplessly. My friend’s son straddled the crossbar before going head first over the handlebars and is lucky to still be able to father children. Amazingly, mine got away unscathed save for an ear bashing from me highlighting how luck can keep us from what could have been certain death.
Many people say to me you can’t prevent injuries and they often cite awful accidents from home as if it’s proof that they’re unavoidable. Others realise that their attitudes and behaviour could have hurt their family so now they take more precautions.
Some people tell me they don’t bother with glasses and safety boots at home like they would with PPE at work because they don’t have to. If you’re like this you need to remember that letting standards slip at home may encourage your loved ones to pick up the same unsafe habits and put them at more risk than your colleagues at work.
One guy told me he came home to find his ladder up against the wall of the house and his teenage son about to go up to fetch a tennis ball stuck in the gutter. He said:
“My heart froze when I realised he was just going to climb up that ladder with no one helping him, I told him it’s not safe without someone at the bottom to foot it. His response was ‘but I’ve seen you do it like this when you’re on your own’.”
What kind of role model am I? he wondered – something we must all consider when we have children and other loved ones following our lead and learning from our behaviour. Humans are tuned to copy other people when we find ourselves lacking knowledge. That’s how we try things out: we assume something is the norm because our role model did it that way. That applies not only to children but apprentices, new starters, contractors or anyone else who follows the example set by someone whose opinion they value.