Why do I need to learn about bathroom safety? The bathroom isn’t exactly a dangerous place. Bathroom furniture is not renowned for collapsing on people, bathroom cabinets may contain out of date medicines that could prove harmful but surely the danger is minimal? Apparently not, this report from the CDC showed that 234,000 people, aged 18 and over, incurred injuries directly from the bathroom. Whilst the bathroom is often the smallest room, it is also the most dangerous room in the house.
Bear in mind, these statistics are only based on injuries that were treated in emergency departments; the real number of injuries is probably far greater as not everyone who is injured receives medical attention. Many Americans don’t have health insurance and as a result avoid medical care unless they believe it to be life threatening. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that 234,000 is quite a conservative number.
How likely are we to have an accident in the bathroom?
This all comes down to two important demographics; age and gender. Males will be glad to hear that they’re the less likely gender to incur an injury in the bathroom (probably because we don’t spend as much time in there) ; with just 7 in 10,000 people having an accident. Women on the other hand are over 70% more likely to seek medical attention after a bathroom accident; with over 12 in 10,000 females injuring themselves.
Age also plays a significant factor in how likely you are to injure yourself in the bathroom. From your teenage years until your early 50s, you haven’t got much to worry about; once you hit your mid 50s things start to take a turn for the worse and you become a lot more likely to have an accident. Whilst it’s not documented, we can assume that this is most likely due to decrease of mobility as you age and the issues this creates when getting in and out of baths, showers etc.
Over 80% of all bathroom related injuries occur as a result of a fall; this lends itself to the theory of mobility issues causing older people to lose their balance. The other 20% of injuries are spread between overexertion, cuts, burns and other unspecified cases. As you might have guessed, the part of the body which takes the majority of the pain is in fact the head and neck area. However, upper torso, lower torso and limbs aren’t far behind – it really is a spread of damage.
The good news is that less than 15% of all injuries resulted in the patient being hospitalised. That’s all well and dandy, but let’s face it, we’d rather avoid having an accident in the first place altogether. That’s why it’s extremely important to have a safe bathroom and know how to take precautions in order to make it as safe as possible – especially as you get older.
This infographic from the New York Times gives a clear representation of the analysed data collected by the CDC study.
How to stay SAFE in the bathroom…
I’m going to assume that you don’t want to become a bathroom injury statistic, so here’s our 8-step guide on staying safe in the bathroom.
Electrics and water don’t mix.
Occasionally an electrical item in the bathroom is a necessity for functionality, that doesn’t mean you can install it without a second thought for safety. Avoid plugging in electrical items in areas where they could fall into or be exposed to water; the bath, toilet, shower, washbasin etc. Make sure you also have a full understanding of ingress protection (IP) as this dictates what areas in the bathroom are safe to install certain electrical appliances; consult plumbers and/or electricians if in doubt.
Slip resistant surfaces are your friend.
With the amount of water in the bathroom, it’s only normal for things to become slippery; bathtubs and shower trays are the prime culprits. Some trays and baths can be bought with surfaces already made slip resistant, however, if yours aren’t, just pick up an anti-slip mat. It shouldn’t cost you more than £10 and it will likely come in handy, considering the majority of accidents in the bathroom are falls & slips.
Install some support rails / grab bars.
This is particularly effective for people who are getting on a bit; over 60s will likely benefit from additional support around the bathroom. Installing a grab rail will likely cost you less than £20, having one next to the bath, shower enclosure and even the toilet will certainly improve stability for the elderly. It acts as a secondary way to help yourself up and it can be a life saver if you have a slip – for what it costs, it’s well worth the money. Please note; towel rails and soap dishes do not qualify as grab bars, they can’t support the weight required and could potentially cause more injuries.
Clean up spilled water ASAP.
This again relates to slipping; whilst most adults are careful and clear up after themselves, the same can’t be said for children. Therefore it pays off to check every now and then that there is no standing water in the bathroom, if there is, give it a quick mop. This should reduce the likelihood of slipping and even electrocution in some areas.
Hide medicine and cleaning supplies.
Whilst many people openly keep their cleaning supplies and medicines in the bathroom cabinet, it is strongly recommended not to since kids can easily get at these things. Cleaning supplies can be toxic and should be stored elsewhere, if you really want to store them in the bathroom, perhaps a lockable bath storage panel might be an option. Medicines, despite childproof lids, should not be kept in the cabinet, instead, put them in a different room altogether and keep the cabinet for toothpaste and mouthwash.
Door locks are a good idea.
Kids are nosey and they always like mooching about the house, whether they’re your own or someone elses visiting for the day. Children have been known to drown in toilets and with the bathroom being one of the most dangerous places in the house, it’s a good idea to keep them out of it at all costs. Installing a lock high up on the outside of the door is a good deterrent to keeping kids out.
Avoid burns by keeping water temperature low.
In order to prevent burns from taps or the shower, where possible, set your water to a maximum temperature which will not induce burns. You can also have anti-scald taps installed for more protection and thermostatic showers will also ensure a constant temperature in the shower regardless of fluctuations in pressure (people flushing toilets etc.)
Install a nightlight.
A night light isn’t just for kid’s bedrooms; in fact, it can be extremely handy for all the family when it’s dark. Many people (adults and children) go to the bathroom at night and don’t turn the light on in fear of waking others in the house; this usually means navigating the room in complete darkness which can be considerably dangerous. So, make things easier for yourself and install a simple, dim light in the bathroom in order to illuminate it well enough to see your way at night.
This should be enough to keep your bathroom safe for all the family, regardless of age!
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