Underwriters Laboratories reminds parents to pay attention to "staycation" safety hazards

Press Release
July 2, 2009 This summer many families will be trying to beat the heat -- and recession -- by swapping traditional vacations for trips to the backyard play set or pool and restricting dining out to outdoor grilling. But while your backyard might provide financially sound alternatives, it can also increase the potential for unnecessary accidents.

With nearly half of all unintentional child injury-related deaths occurring in June, July and August, Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent product safety testing organization, is reminding families how to stay safe and out of the emergency room during their summer "staycations."

"Each year about 2.7 million children make emergency room visits in the summer months due to injuries around the pool or backyard," says John Drengenberg, director of Consumer Safety at Underwriters Laboratories. "Nothing is more tragic when avoidable accidents suddenly overshadow rest and recreation. By making safety part of their daily routine, parents can protect their children from hazards in and around the home."

Parents can make safety a regular part of their summer routine by following these safety tips from UL:

Grilling Safety

Each year three billion meals are prepared on grills. And given the weak economy, many families will be dining at home on the Fourth of July. While a backyard barbeque may be cost-efficient, it can also be the cause of unintentional injury if grills aren't used properly. According to the National Fire Protection Association, gas and charcoal grills cause about 8,300 home fires each year, which includes 3,400 structure fires and 4,900 outside fires, resulting in a combined direct property loss of $137 million.

  • Keep your grill a safe distance -- about 10 feet away (if possible) -- from your house or any building.
  • Never leave the grill unattended. This is especially true when young children or pets are nearby.
  • Never attempt to restart a flame by adding additional lighting fluid to an already-lit grill. This can cause a potentially dangerous flare-up.
  • Use insulated, flame retardant mitts, barbeque tongs and utensil when grilling.
  • Coals get HOT -- up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit! Wait until coals have completely cooled before disposing and be sure to keep them away from kids and pets.

Play Set Safety

Playing on the backyard play set is a great way for the kids to celebrate the Fourth of July, but it can be dangerous if proper safety precautions are not taken. Each year, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries. Adults must carefully inspect backyard playground equipment and supervise their children. To keep the PLAY in play set, remember to …

  • Plan out play set location with optimal safety in mind.
  • Listen to the manufacturer's directions when putting together the play set.
  • Always inspect equipment and pay close attention to play set age and weight recommendations.
  • You are critical part of keeping your children safe on the play set. Always supervise your children in the backyard!

Swimming Pool / Boating Safety

On the Fourth of July, many families will be hosting or attending pool parties or boating with friends on Lake Michigan. But parents should be aware that each year about 300 children drown in residential swimming pools. So whether hosting a pool party or attending as a guest, ALWAYS make sure the kids are supervised when playing in, near, or around a pool. The same goes for boating -- supervision and life jackets save lives. An estimated 70 percent of all boating deaths are the result of drowning and most were considered preventable if the victims had been wearing life jackets.

Pool Safety Tips:

  • Install a fence around your pool. The fence should be at least four-feet high and have a self-closing, self-latching gate that has a locking mechanism beyond a child's reach.
  • Supervision is a must. Follow the 10/20 rule when you're at the pool. The 10/20 rule states the supervising adult needs to position themselves to be able to scan the pool within 10 seconds and reach the water within 20 seconds.
  • Always have rescue devices such as UL-LISTED life preservers nearby.
  • Drain wading pools after children are done playing. Infants can drown in just a few inches of water.
  • Remember to remove all toys when you leave the pool. If left outdoors, they may attract children to the unattended pool.
  • Have a telephone nearby and appropriate emergency numbers posted.

Boating Safety Tips:

  • Take a safety course before getting behind the wheel. Operator errors account for 70 percent of boating accidents.
  • Inflatable toys do not substitute as safety devices. Flotation devices, toys and inflatable swimming aids are toys that can easily puncture and deflate.
  • Life preservers save lives! Make sure there is at least one U.S. Coast Guard-approved or UL-LISTED personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board and that it each is sized appropriately.

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is an independent product safety certification organization that has been testing products and writing Standards for Safety for over a century. UL evaluates more than 19,000 types of products, components, materials and systems annually with 20 billion UL Marks appearing on 72,000 manufacturers' products each year. UL's worldwide family of companies and network of service providers includes 64 laboratory, testing and certification facilities serving customers in 98 countries.

John Drengenberg is director of Consumer Safety at Underwriters Laboratories (UL).John has long been involved in issues affecting consumers, representing the United States as the technical advisor at International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) meetings related to the safety of household appliances. He also represents UL at the American National Standards Institute's Consumer Interest Council and at the International Consumer Products Health and Safety Organization. Other responsibilities include chairing UL's Consumer Advisory Council and co-chairing the Chicago Consumer Sounding Board. A 40-year veteran of UL, John began his career as an assistant engineer. His extensive engineering background in the area of consumer products, combined with years of media training, has given Drengenberg the opportunity of serving as a corporate spokesman in matters regarding the safe use of consumer products.

Underwriters Laboratories Summer Safety Survival Guide: Ten Tips to Keep Your Family Safe

Pool Safety

  1. Supervision is a must: Good supervision means you are able to scan the pool area every 10 seconds and be able to reach the pool in 20 seconds.
  2. Put multiple safety barriers between children and the pool: Install a four-foot fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate that has a locking mechanism beyond a child's reach. Also be sure to cut overhanging tree limbs and remove chairs or ladders from the pool area to prevent children from climbing over the fence surrounding the pool.
  3. Always check the pool first if a child is missing: Child drowning is often a silent death that alerts no one with splashes or yells for help. Many drowning accidents happen when children have been missing for less than five minutes.
  4. Empty small wading pools after children are done playing and remove all toys: Infants can drown in just a few inches of water. Pool toys may attract children to the pool when it is unattended.
  5. Keep grills at least 10 feet from any structure: Grilling mishaps cause more than 8,300 fires and send 3,000 people to the emergency room each year. Never grill indoors or near garages or porches, even if it's raining.
  6. Have a spray bottle or fire extinguisher handy: An unexpected flare-up can burn more than your burgers. Use a spray bottle filled with water to avoid flare-ups and have a fire extinguisher nearby. Also, coals get hot – in some cases up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit – so dispose of charcoal away from kids and pets and cool it down with a hose.
  7. Never use gasoline or kerosene to light a charcoal fire: Both can cause an explosion. When grilling, use insulated, flame retardant mitts and long handled barbeque tongs and utensils to handle food and coals.
  8. Check gas grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks: If the tank valve or grill needs repair, do not attempt to do it yourself. Take it to your local home improvement store or qualified appliance repair person.
  9. Inspect outdoor decorative lights carefully: Some families may be adding backyard ambience with outdoor decorative lighting. Do not connect more than three midget light string sets together. Light strings with screw-in bulbs should have a maximum of 50 bulbs connected together. Be sure to use light strings that bear the UL Mark -- the UL Mark on a product means that UL has tested samples of the product for risk of fire, electric shock and other hazards.
  10. Carefully inspect backyard playground equipment: According to the CPSC, seventy percent of all playground-related deaths occur on home playground equipment. Make sure equipment is anchored safely in the ground, all equipment pieces are in good working order, S-hooks are entirely closed and bolts are not protruding.

For more information, visit: www.ul.com/consumers.

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