Merck Manual

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Safety 101

Safety 101

Simple, common-sense safety measures can help prevent injuries. The following are some examples:

General Safety

  • Learn first aid.

  • Prepare or purchase a first aid kit.

  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other methods to relieve airway obstruction, such as the Heimlich maneuver.

  • Wear a helmet when riding a bike or motorcycle, and wear additional protective equipment as indicated for the sport, such as wrist guards for roller blading or skate boarding.

  • Store firearms safely.

  • Never swim alone.

  • If repetitive wrist motion (such as typing) is necessary, use a position unlikely to increase risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Exercise regularly and safely.

  • Eliminate or limit alcohol intake.

Home Safety

To prevent falls and fall-related injuries in children:

  • Install safety locks on basement doors.

  • Close and lock windows when children are present.

  • Replace or cover sharp-edged furniture.

  • Do not use baby walkers.

  • Install window guards, especially above the first floor.

  • Use stair gates at the top and bottom of stairs.

To prevent poisoning:

  • Never mix cleaning products.

  • Keep oven and toilet bowl cleaners, pesticides, alcohol, and antifreeze tightly sealed and out of the reach of children.

  • Keep all drugs in their original containers, and use child protective pill containers if small children are part of the household or are visiting.

  • Follow instructions on how to safely dispose of expired drugs and drugs that are no longer necessary (see How to Dispose of Unused Medicines available at the Food and Drug Administration's web site).

To prevent fires:

  • Install operational smoke detectors on every floor in the home, including the basement, and in every bedroom.

  • Test batteries every month and install new batteries every 6 months.

  • Plan an escape route and practice it.

  • Keep a fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen.

  • Have the electrical system inspected by a professional.

  • Do not leave lit candles unattended.

  • Do not smoke in bed.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Ensure adequate ventilation for indoor sources of combustion (such as furnaces, hot-water heaters, wood- or charcoal-burning stoves, and kerosene heaters).

  • Clean flues and chimneys regularly and inspect them for leaks.

  • Use a carbon monoxide detector in the home.

To prevent exposure to radon:

  • Have the radon level in the home checked.

  • Ensure adequate ventilation, especially in the basement.

To prevent lead poisoning:

  • Consult the local health department and ask how to detect toxic levels of lead in the home’s drinking water.

  • Find out whether the paint in the house is lead-based (present in older houses), and if there is any question, test paint chips.

  • Test ceramic dishes made outside the United States for lead.

  • Have children tested for lead levels if recommended by the children’s doctor.

To prevent burns:

  • Set the maximum hot water heater temperature at 130° F (54.44° C) or less.

Food Safety

  • Pay attention to “sell by” dates on packaging.

  • Refrigerate perishable food immediately.

  • Do not buy dented canned goods or anything with a loose or bulging lid.

  • Keep the refrigerator at 40° F (4.44° C) and the freezer at 0° F (-17.78° C).

  • Freeze fresh meats (including fish and poultry) that will not be used in 2 days.

  • Do not let the juices from raw meats drip on other foods.

  • Wash hands before and after preparing food.

  • Cook foods thoroughly.

  • Do not use the same utensils or platters for raw and cooked meats.

  • Wash all countertops, cutting boards, and utensils in hot soapy water after use.

Car Safety

  • Obey speed limits and drive defensively.

  • Make sure all passengers wear seat belts.

  • Put children in car seats or other restraints appropriate for their height and weight.

  • Do not allow a baby or child to sit on someone’s lap in a moving vehicle.

  • Do not drink alcohol and do not use recreational drugs or drugs that cause drowsiness before driving.