Accidents—Their Cause and Prevention
Question: Which epidemic causes tremendous suffering and countless disabilities, is a major cause of death at all ages, entails vast cost to society, is found in all countries, yet rarely figures in medical school curricula or research projects?
THE above question points up that modern-day scourge—accidents. As a matter of fact, in industrialized countries, accidents rank number one as the cause of death for women under 34 years of age and men under 44. But by being safety-minded, you can identify most causes of accidents and thereby reduce the risks to life and limb. How can this be done? Let us look at three areas in which we can be more safety conscious.
In our age of the spectacular and the exotic, the simple and the ordinary are still major causes of injury and death. In many countries, falls are the number one killer in the home. For example, in the United States, after automobile accidents, falls are the leading cause of facial fractures and result in about 14 million injuries and 15,000 deaths a year. And in New Zealand, falls cause injury to 28,000 people (close to 1 percent of the population) each year and run up a 12-million-dollar tab for the insurance companies to pay.
Who are most susceptible to injury or death by falls? The young and the elderly. The danger areas where most falls occur are: steps, ice, rugs, and bathtubs. The vast majority of falls are not from some towering height, such as occasionally makes the news, but just to the floor or ground immediately beneath one’s feet. Good housekeeping is the key to prevention of this type of accident. By keeping the house or workplace clean and orderly, the main cause of accidents is removed.
We live, work, and sometimes assemble for meetings in an increasingly combustible and toxic world. Despite the presence of steel, brick, and concrete, we are surrounded by volatile liquids, gaseous fuels, and plastic room furnishings that, when kindled, are capable of releasing killing gases.
In the home, the majority of fires are caused by three things—men, women, and children. A home fire starts every 45 seconds in the United States. In Japan a fire breaks out every seven minutes, and a house is burned down every nine minutes. Yet, most of those fires could have been prevented.
Parents, do you leave your children at home with no adult supervision? Faster than you can snap your fingers, an accident can happen that involves your child. Food cooking on an unattended stove has been the source of many blazes. Scalds are the second leading cause of burn deaths of children. Also, the soaring cost of petroleum fuel that began a decade ago has introduced wood-burning heating stoves to a generation that is unfamiliar with their unique characteristics and maintenance needs. The result—death and injury by fire to hundreds.
The most deadly cause of home fires is tobacco smoking. Falling asleep with a lighted cigarette results in thousands of deaths by fire each year. Not only is the smoker a victim but family and neighbors suffer too. When a cigar or a cigarette ignites furniture, flames can quickly spread throughout the rest of the house and jump to neighboring buildings.
Suppose that at this instant the home or building where you are suddenly bursts into flames. Could you find the fire exit? Fire accidents do not trumpet their arrival. Prepare for the unexpected. When entering a building or a room, locate the fire exits; mentally diagram escape routes. At home, as a family, plan and regularly practice at least two escape paths and have a predetermined meeting place outside the house. This will prevent panic and keep you from impulsively making a fatal mistake.
“If you catch yourself or clothing on fire, remember three words—STOP. DROP. ROLL.” That is the advice of Chuck Fierson, firefighter and instructor, as reported in The Express of Easton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Your goal is to smother the fire.
○ STOP: Do not run. Running increases the amount of oxygen feeding the fire. The greater the amount of oxygen, the fiercer the fire will burn.
○ DROP: Fall to the ground immediately. Lie down. Do not remain standing.
○ ROLL: Roll over and over with elbows tucked against your sides. Cover your face with your hands. This will help smother the fire, prevent facial disfiguration, and prevent hot gases from burning your lungs.
It is no exaggeration to describe as a modern plague the deaths and the maiming that occur while traveling. There is no vaccine against road deaths. A traffic accident can happen in a flash, but its effect can linger a lifetime, touching the lives of many.
Each year, worldwide, 225,000 people are killed on the road, and uncounted millions are injured, leaving tens of thousands crippled or maimed. The emotional and financial costs of these accidents are incalculable. In just one country, Nigeria, “government statistics show that automobile fatalities climbed from 29,000 in 1979 to 32,000 in 1980 and 34,000 in 1981,” says World Health magazine.
Both the very young and the teenager are vulnerable to automobile accidents but for quite different reasons. Teenagers and young adults often fall victim to their own folly. The very young are almost always victims of someone else’s negligence. For example, in the United States “automobile accidents kill and injure more children, 0-4 years of age, than did the worst year of the polio epidemic,” reports Human Factors Society Safety Technical Group Newsletter. And World Health notes this about Nigeria’s youth: “Young people of secondary school and college are more liable to die on the road than to be killed by communicable diseases.”
One simple but often neglected cure for road injuries is the regular use of the seat belt. London’s Department of Transportation found that six months after their seat-belt law became effective, the number of hospital casualties dropped by a fifth. For children under four years of age, the proper use of auto restraint seats is literally a lifesaver. Car seats for young children are among the most effective lifesaving measures possible, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Note this chilling fact: If a car traveling 30 miles an hour (48 km/hr) is in a collision, a ten-pound (4.5-kg) baby inside will slam into the dashboard with the same force as that felt by a baby hitting the ground after falling from a three-story building. Therefore, buckle up! Make it your habit and your family’s habit too!
Ignorance, carelessness, selfishness, and impatience are the root causes of most traffic accidents. When driving, have you noticed these traits in yourself? Have others? For example, how do you react when another driver cuts you off? Prevent dangerous feelings from surfacing by developing a good attitude, one that is free from resentment, frustration, and anger. In brief, have emotional control. Follow this wise advice: “If you are sensible, you will control your temper. When someone wrongs you, it is a great virtue to ignore it.”—Proverbs 19:11, Today’s English Version.
Another way you can increase safety on the road is by learning more about the traffic, the weather, and your car. More importantly, know your abilities as well as your limitations. The result: good judgment, which is a product of a right attitude and accurate knowledge.
What else makes a good driver? Researchers found that safe drivers had this in common: “They drove with total concentration and they seemed to have the ability to place their vehicle perfectly in traffic and to anticipate, always to anticipate what might happen up ahead.” In addition, “they were courteous to pedestrians and other drivers.” Would you not expect to see this especially in a genuine Christian, since he believes in the golden rule of ‘doing unto others as you would like them to do unto you’?—Matthew 7:12.
Therefore, have good manners and drive defensively, as though your life and that of others depended on it.
Traveling is also done on public transportation. Here are a few safety suggestions when traveling by bus or trolley:
○ Be alert for slippery steps or pavement when entering or leaving vehicle. Watch out for traffic.
○ Have fare ready. Looking for change when on vehicle could cause loss of balance.
○ Have one hand free for grasping rail. Brace yourself when vehicle slows down or turns.
○ Do not dart into street from behind or from in front of vehicle.
○ At night, wear light-colored clothing or carry flashlight when walking.
Whether we are at home, at work, or on vacation, our lives are endangered every day. It is not possible to eliminate all hazards, but we can eliminate most of their causes if we are safety conscious. The U.S. surgeon general states: “Perhaps as much as half of the U.S. mortality . . . was due to unhealthy behavior or life-style.” In other words, to live safely we need to be more than informed. We need to develop and maintain a responsible, alert, and concerned pattern of living. Has safety become a way of life for you?
Quoted from World Health, the official magazine of the World Health Organization.
[Box on page 5]
• Are all stairways well lighted?
• Do all stairways have sturdy handrails?
• Are all small rugs tacked down or do they have nonskid backing, including those on stairs?
• Are all outdoor steps and walkways in good repair?
• Do bedrooms have lamps within reach of bed, or do they have night-lights?
• Are pieces of furniture arranged so they are not obstacles?
• Does bathroom have grab bars next to tub or shower and nonskid mats or strips in the tub?
• Are shower-curtain rods, towel bars, and soap dishes firmly anchored to bathroom wall?
• Are water spills (or grease) promptly wiped up from bathroom and kitchen floors?
• Are cabinet doors and drawers closed when not in use?
• Do children promptly pick up and put away toys after playing?
• Is a sturdy ladder or step stool used instead of a wobbly chair to reach high places?
[Box on pages 6, 7]
• Are smoke or heat detectors properly placed (at least one per floor) and maintained?
• Does everyone in the family, particularly the children, the elderly, and the handicapped, have flame-resistant sleepwear?
• Are matches and flammable liquids far beyond the reach of children?
• Are pot handles turned away from edge of stove but not over burners?
• Is there an adequate fire extinguisher in the kitchen?
• Are bedroom doors shut when you are asleep, so as to delay fire and smoke from entering?
• Are all appliances unplugged when not in use, and when in use, is there sufficient air space around them to prevent the igniting of nearby materials?
• Are all flammable rags stored in sealed metal cans?
• Are electrical cords removed from under rugs or over radiators? Are frayed cords repaired or replaced?
• Is all furniture, as well as draperies, at least three feet (1m) from fireplace or wood stove?
• Is the ironing-board cover of nonflammable material?
• Are flammable materials kept away from light bulbs in attic or closet?
• Is basement or attic off limits as storage bin for old newspapers and flammable odds and ends?
• Are chimneys and flues cleaned and inspected at least once a year?
Traveler’s Guide to Surviving a Hotel Fire
• Stay in hotels that have smoke detectors, alarms, sprinklers.
• When checking in, ask about evacuation procedure, alarm signals.
• Plan escape. Count doorways between your room and nearest exit. Check stairway to outside, and see if roof door opens.
• Know your own room. Have clear path to door, and keep key by bed. (You will need key if you are forced back into room.)
• Fill ice bucket with water.
• If awakened at night, investigate. If you smell smoke, crawl. (Poison gases are odorless and fill areas from ceiling down.)
• Feel door. If it is hot, do not open it. If it is warm, open it slowly.
If hallway is passable, crawl along wall on same side as exit.
If way downstairs is not clear, exit to roof. Keep roof door propped open.
If escape is not possible, return to room, close door, call reception desk or fire department.
Try to alert outsiders, wave or yell.
• Do not use elevator.
• In room, fill tub with water, place wet towels or bedding in door cracks, use damp towel as breathing filter.
• If smoke is not in room, keep windows closed. If fire is outside, pull down drapes and move burnables away from windows.
• If higher than third floor, do not jump. Keep your senses, keep fire from penetrating room, await rescue.
[Pictures on page 8]
Auto safety seats for young children are among the most effective lifesaving measures possible
When getting on a bus, have your fare ready and keep one hand free for grasping the rail