Most children are injured at home. Here’s how to baby and childproof your house

baby crawling in home


Posted August 11, 2023

More than 50 per cent of children who attended an emergency department in 2021-22 were injured at home. Here are the most common hazards and how to childproof your home.

Remember the adage: most accidents happen in the home? Well, when it comes to children, some of the dangers are hiding in plain sight.   

Research by Monash University Accident Research Centre’s Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit shows that during 2021/22, 30 per cent of hospital admissions and more than 50 per cent of emergency department presentations for children aged 0-14 were for injuries incurred in the home.

In 2021/22 there were a total of 13,692 hospital admissions for unintentional injury among children (0-14) in Victoria, with 4,867 admissions for children aged zero to four. For this age group, falls were the leading cause of injury (43.5 per cent), followed by hit/struck/crush injuries (16 per cent). 

Males are more likely to get injured, accounting for 62.1 per cent of all children (0-14) hospital admissions and 58.5 per cent of ED presentations. For all children, fractures to the upper limbs (26.1 per cent) and open wounds to the head, face or neck (14.3 per cent) were some of the most common types of injury resulting in hospital admission.

While many dangers around the home can be easily eliminated with a bit of common sense, RACV Product Manager Property Inspections, Premika Banerjee, says it takes a trained eye to spot some hazards.    

"It’s important to have a good look around your home to try to identify potential risks such as tripping hazards, dangerous curtain cords, drowning risks with pools, unsecured bookshelves and even low-lying medicine cabinets,” she says.

“These are some of the most common safety issues we encounter in our Child Safety Inspection Property Checks.”

To help protect your children from injury and reduce their chances of ending up in hospital emergency departments, we’ve pulled together a guide to the most common home safety hazards and what you can do to childproof against them. 


Father and son looking through medicine cabinet

Keep medicines or other harmful chemicals out of reach of children. Image: Getty


How to baby-proof your house once your child is on the move 

Hanging risks

Curtain and blind cords can strangle and seriously injure or kill a young child. In 2010 it became law to have a safety device fitted on all new curtain and blind cords to stop them from forming a loop or being in the reach of children. However, the legislation was not retrospective and many homes still have this risk.   

Young children commonly come into contact with curtain and blind cords that are hanging near their cot or bed, in a play area, or when standing on furniture to look out of a window.

Consumer Affairs Victoria says unsecured blinds or curtain cords claim the lives of one to two Australian children a year and at least 21 young children have died as a result of this hazard since 2001. It offers a free cord-safety device to retro-fit old curtains and blind cords that Victorian residents can order online. 

Slips, trips and falls  

A build-up of oil, grease, soap or other slippery substances on walking surfaces can cause slips and falls, so it’s worth considering non-slip surfaces in baths and showers to lower the risk of falls. A loose rug, uneven floor surface, and unseen objects like power cords or clutter left on the floor are common trip hazards that can cause falls and injuries.  

Poisons, medications and chemicals  

Small children explore the world by putting everything and anything in their mouths, so it’s important to keep anything potentially toxic out of reach. In Australia, most poisoning incidents occur in children aged five and under according to Kidsafe Victoria.

Keep your medication out of reach or locked away to safeguard children. Installing magnetic locks or other safety latches on cupboards that contain potentially harmful chemicals (such as cleaning products) or medicines is also a good idea.

Household chemicals such as fertiliser, insecticides and herbicides must also be kept out of reach, and petrol and other chemicals should not be kept in soft-drink bottles which may entice children to take a sip.   

Secure heavy items

The leaning mirror you have in your bedroom and the fully stacked bookcase might look nice, but once your baby is on the move and climbing all over your furniture, heavy objects including tallboys, TV units and dressers, need to be secured to the wall. Hit/struck/crush injuries accounted for 16 per cent of ED presentations in 2021-22, with unsecured items one of the biggest offenders.

Kidsafe Victoria notes that since 2001, 22 children have died in Australia due to furniture that has tipped over. In addition to anchoring potential topple risks to the wall, you can also test new furniture for stability before purchasing, avoid putting heavy objects on top of bookshelves, put locks on drawers so they can’t be used as stairs, and avoid putting tempting items to children (for example, toys) on high shelves.


Child reaching through staircase baby gate

If you have a two-storey home, install safety gates at the top and bottom of the staircase. Image: Getty



If you have young children, install stair gates at the top and bottom of the steps. If you’re older, think about installing coloured edge strips on each step so you can see them clearly, and always make sure stairs are well lit.  This could be as simple as installing a night light or sensor in case of middle-of-the-night wake ups. 

Electrical hazards    

Firstly, ensure you have a working safety switch so that if an appliance fails it will shut off the power, preventing electrocution or fires. Check for damaged appliance cords, power points or light switches and be especially careful with power points near water. Do not attempt to fix damaged power points or do other electrical work by yourself – always call a licensed electrician

For low-lying power points that are within reach of curious fingers, consider plugging them with outlet plugs to reduce electrocution risks. Alternatively, you can use strategically placed furniture to block access. Unplug and put away small appliances, such as irons, air fryers or phone chargers, when not in use to remove temptation.  

Glass risks   

Glass doors can easily be mistaken for an open doorway, which can have dire consequences, especially in older homes where the glass might not be shatterproof. Avoid disaster by fitting all glass doors with a distinctive safety band or decal.    


If you have children in the home, avoid leaving furniture such as beds, cots or occasional chairs near windows. It’s all too easy for little ones to climb up and fall out of an open window. Alternatively, install strong security mesh on windows to prevent falls.     


Toddler smiling in a bathtub

Never leave small children unattended in the bath and empty the tub as soon as it's not in use. Image: Getty


Sharp objects  

Even the safest of homes will have a litany of sharp objects that can cause injury. With young crawlers or toddlers running amok, it can be useful to cover sharp furniture edges and corners – such as kitchen benches or coffee tables – with bumpers or safety padding.  

Secure any drawers that contain sharp objects like knives, nails or screwdrivers so that curious little hands can’t open them.


It takes just a second for hot water at 68 degrees to cause a full skin-thickness scald, compared with five minutes at 50 degrees, according to the Victorian Building Authority. By law, showers and bathroom taps must be set to a maximum water temperature of 50 degrees, but older hot water systems installed before the law was introduced in 1998 may not be heat regulated. While it is not mandatory to retro-fit older hot water units, safety-conscious homeowners can install a device called a tempering valve to reduce bathroom water temperature. Seek advice from a licensed plumber.    

Bear in mind that the maximum bathing temperature recommended for young children is 37 to 38 degrees.   


Children can drown in just 20 seconds and in only a few centimetres of water. Keep anything that can hold water (e.g. sinks, baths, buckets) empty when not in use. Never leave a child alone in a bath for any amount of time.

If your home has a pool or spa 30cm or deeper, its vital that it’s secured with a compliant safety barrier and self-latching gates. Do not leave anything like a chair or box near the fence that a child could use to climb over it on. Making sure the whole family knows how to swim and safely behave around water is also important.

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