OnSafety is the Official Blog Site of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Here you'll find the latest safety information as well as important messages that will keep you and your family safe. We hope you'll visit often!

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Be Safe: Check Your Home Heating

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Two women are reported to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning recently in Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune.  The newspaper reports that a faulty boiler is suspected. Elsewhere, in Oxford, Conn., a man reportedly died due to high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) found in a home where he was housesitting. The dogs in the house died, too. (Connecticut Post, 1/30/13).

These reported deaths are just two of the regular, tragic reminders we see that carbon monoxide is a killer. In fact, CO is called the “invisible killer,” because you can’t see, smell or taste it. Don’t let this happen to you.

The best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home is to:

  • Have fuel-burning home heating appliances – your furnace, chimney, water heater, etc. – checked by a professional every year to make sure they are working properly.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home and outside bedroom areas.
  • If you use a generator when the power goes out, keep it outside, far from windows and doors. Do NOT use a generator in your garage.

Carbon-monoxide deaths are more common than you might think. According to a new CPSC report:

  • There were an average of 169 unintentional, non-fire CO poisoning deaths each year between 2007 and 2009.
  • 1/3 of the deaths were associated with carbon monoxide from heating systems, such as furnaces.
  • More than 40% of carbon-monoxide deaths are from using generators, such as operating them in a garage or basement, which is extremely dangerous.
  • Most CO deaths occur in the colder months of the year: November, December, January and February.

In addition to carbon monoxide risks, space heaters also need to be handled with extra care to prevent unintentional fires. Space heaters are associated with an average of 100 deaths each year between 2008 and 2010.

Just last week, local fire officials reportedly blamed space heaters for fires at homes in Portsmouth, Va. (via Fox 43-TV) and Bristol Township, Pa. (via PhillyBurbs.com).

  • When you use a space heater, follow these safety tips:
  • Turn the space heater off when you go to sleep or leave the room.
  • Keep the space heater at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including curtains and furniture.

Have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside bedroom areas and inside each bedroom.

Look for additional life-saving information in CPSC’s Carbon Monoxide Information Center.

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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2013/02/be-safe-check-your-home-heating/

Smoke Alarms: Good, Better, Best

smoke alarmEvery day, six people die in home fires.

That’s 2,310 deaths on average each year.

Take a Good, Better, Best approach to fire safety in your home. Fires can happen anytime, so be ready!

GOOD:

  • Install a working smoke alarm in your home. Consumers who have working smoke alarms in their homes die in fires at about half the rate of those who do not.
  • Change the batteries every year.
  • Replace the smoke alarms every 10 years. After all, smoke alarms don’t last forever.

BETTER:

  • Multiple working smoke alarms are better than one. Install alarms on every level of your house, inside each bedroom and outside sleeping areas.
  • Interconnect your smoke alarms. That way, if one smoke alarm detects a fire, all smoke alarms will sound.
  • Consider installing smoke alarms that use 10-year sealed batteries. They don’t require annual battery changes.

BEST:

  • Install two types of working smoke alarms in your home: ionization and photoelectric alarms.  Smoke alarms use one or both of these methods, sometimes with a heat detector, to warn you about a fire. The safety standard for smoke alarms has been improved and should result in improvements to how both types of alarms perform. Ionization alarms respond quickly to flaming fires and photoelectric detectors respond sooner to smoldering fires. Make sure all alarms are interconnected.
  • Have a fire escape plan and practice it. A smoke alarm can’t save your family’s lives if everyone doesn’t know what to do when it sounds. Have two ways to get out of each room and set a pre-arranged meeting place outside. And remember, once you are out of the house, stay out.
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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2012/10/smoke-alarms-good-better-best/

CO Deaths Continue to Rise

Just in time for the cold weather, we have new information on carbon monoxide (CO) deaths associated with the use of consumer products.

In 2008 — the latest year for which we have complete data — there were about 190 unintentional non-fire CO-poisoning deaths associated with consumer products under our jurisdiction. The product associated with most of these deaths? Portable generators.

As more people use portable generators, the numbers of CO-related deaths have increased.  In 1999 there were seven generator-related CO deaths. In 2008 the number of deaths reached 86. That’s an increase of more than 1,000 percent.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible killer that strikes within minutes. You can protect yourself with a few simple safety rules:

  • Install working CO alarms in your home. Make sure the alarm is battery-operated or has a battery-backup so it works during a power outage.
  • Keep all generators outside of your home, away from doors and windows.
  • Never use a generator in a garage, basement, crawl space, shed or on a porch.

Most CO-related deaths happen from November through February — the cold months. This makes sense, of course. In colder months, we use our furnaces and fuel-burning space heaters. When we lose power during storms, more and more of you power up your portable generators.

CO deaths also occur when charcoal is used indoors. Just like generators, keep burning charcoal outside, away from the house.

Let’s see if we can work together to drop the number of carbon monoxide-related deaths.

To watch this video in Adobe Flash format, you may need to download the Adobe Flash player. You can also watch the video in Windows Media format.

(Watch in Windows Media format.)

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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2012/01/co-deaths-continue-to-rise/

Ladder Safety 101

Man falling from ladder hanging decorations on a house

Blog en español

See the ladder. See the man falling off the ladder.

This is NOT the way to start the holidays. (Obvious? Yes.) Yet, every year, hundreds of people fall from ladders while hanging decorations.

In November and December 2010, more than 13,000 people were treated in emergency rooms nationwide from injuries related to holiday decorations. That’s the largest number of injuries in 8 years.

So, while you might think that you already know how to use a ladder safely, now’s a good time to review ladder do’s and don’ts.

  • Always select the correct ladder for the job.  That’s one that extends at least 3 feet over the roofline or working surface.
  • Always place your ladder on level and firm ground. Use leg levelers under the ladder to level uneven or soft ground. Leg levelers are devices that you can buy at a hardware or home improvement store.
  • Make sure the ladder can support both your weight and the load you are putting on it by checking the ladder’s maximum load rating.
  • Make sure your straight and adjustable ladders have both slip-resistant feet.
  • Set up straight, single or extension ladders at about a 75–degree angle. To test if you have the correct angle, stand up straight with your toes touching the feet of the ladder as it leans away from you. Extend your arms in front of you. Your palms should touch the top of the rung that’s at shoulder level.
  • Don’t use a metal ladder near power lines or electrical equipment. Stick with wood or fiberglass ladders in these situations and use extra caution. And no ladder should ever touch a live electric wire.
  • Check all rung locks and spreader braces on your ladder to make sure they are set.
  • Have a helper hold the bottom of the ladder.
  • Keep ladders away from a door that can be opened.
  • Only allow one person on a ladder at a time.
  • Center your body between the rails of the ladder at all times. Leaning too far to one side while working is a no-no and can cause you to fall. If you were to have a belt on, the buckle should never be outside of the right or left rail of the ladder.
  •  Do not stand on the top three rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.
  • Stay off of the ladder’s top step and bucket shelf. Labels on ladders warn you not to stand on them as well. Don’t try to climb or stand on the rear section of a stepladder.
  • Only use a ladder for its intended purpose. And follow the ladder’s instruction labels.
  • When you’re done with the ladder, put it away immediately. Never leave a raised ladder unattended.
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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2011/12/ladder-safety-101/

Put Safety First Before Opening a Window

As temperatures go up, so do windows in many homes. Opening windows in your home to enjoy the warmer temperatures may seem harmless, but open windows have proven to be sources of injury and death for young children.

This week, CPSC joins the National Safety Council in recognizing National Window Safety Week and urges parents and caregivers to be aware of the dangers of leaving windows open when young children are present.

According to CPSC data, falls from windows result in an average of about eight deaths yearly to children five years or younger, while an estimated 3,300 children ages five and younger are treated each year in U.S. hospital emergency departments. On average, one of every three children, about 34 percent, required hospitalization after falling from a window.

So, watch this video. And take five minutes to prevent a window fall in your home.

To watch this video in Adobe Flash format, you may need to download the Adobe Flash player. You can also watch the video in Windows Media format.

(Read the transcript, or watch in Windows Media format.)

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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2011/04/put-safety-first-before-opening-a-window/