’I’m an ER Doctor, Here Are 6 Safety Tips I Follow at Home

When it comes to home safety, every inch counts. Literally. “The smallest toy at the top of the stairs that isn’t quite placed properly is a common culprit behind cases that I see all-too-often in the emergency room,” says Mark Conroy, MD, emergency medicine and sports medicine physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

While preventing certain dangerous situations from happening—including the dreaded accident above—can feel outside of one’s control (the saying “accidents happen” exists for a reason, after all), there are small steps we can take to make our homes significantly safer. In case you were looking for some pointers about what sorts of safety rules that ER doctors follow in their own lives, you’re in luck: Dr. Conroy broke down some guidelines he always follows in his own home to minimize as much risk as he can.

Home safety rules this ER physician always follows

1. I never neglect my carbon monoxide monitors

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless gas that can be life threatening for people exposed to the substance in their homes. “It’s a really easy thing to let slip through the cracks,” says Dr. Conroy. “But I’ve seen pretty bad cases in my career of carbon monoxide poisoning, so I am diligent about making sure that my house has up-to-date carbon monoxide monitors at all times, in all of my rooms—and I check them regularly.” Dr. Conroy adds that he uses BlueTooth carbon monoxide detectors that connect to his phone to make life a bit easier.

2. I try to never let clutter, toys, or clothes accumulate on my stairs

Another golden rule of home safety that Dr. Conroy follows is that he tries to make sure that the stairs in his home are always free of things like toys or clothes. When people have small children or pets, it can be really hard to stay on top of clutter, but doing so can help prevent serious falls down the stairs. “All it takes is that one small toy at the top of the stairs that you don’t see in the middle of the night to trip over,” says Dr. Conroy. “You want a clear path with no obstructions to prevent accidents.”

3. I never climb on furniture instead of a ladder, and I follow ladder safety guidelines

“Although it’s important to be careful whenever you step foot on a ladder (and you should always do so with supervision), ladders and step ladders are always better options than using a chair, table, or another piece of furniture,” says Dr. Conroy. A step ladder with the proper weight limit that is resting on a clean, clear floor is the best for reaching somewhere high up as opposed to using something like a counter or chair. “You don’t want a soft surface that will break, flip, tip, or otherwise end up not supporting you properly when trying to reach something,” says Dr. Conroy.

Dr. Conroy adds that he will try never to push a ladder to the limit. “Sometimes you have a project, and the thing you need to get to is just out of your reach—this is typically when people will climb to that extra rung and reach as far as they can.” This is a recipe for disaster, according to Dr. Conroy. “If my ladder can’t comfortably and reliably allow me to access a spot, then I would much rather head to my hardware store and rent the correct height of the ladder.”

Pushing your limit on a ladder is how people often fall or injure themselves in some way. Ladder injuries, according to Dr. Conroy, have the potential to be severe given that gravity is at play and the fact that you may also be using power tools.

4. I always try to keep emergency preparedness items on hand

“In addition to a first aid kit, I think that it’s important to keep extra items like flashlights, batteries, and other emergency products in my home. You never know what can happen, so it’s useful to just keep things you might need closeby,” Dr. Conroy says. He recommends tailoring your items to your region and needs. “For example, if you have allergies in your household, you should keep the necessary medications and make sure everyone knows where they are. If you live in a place that often has major storms, knowing how and when to store emergency water is important, just in case.”

5. I always adhere to car seat guidelines and follow instructions

There are a lot of rules, regulations, guidelines, and instructions when it comes to car seats and children, yet Dr. Conroy stresses that he always tries to follow exact protocols for his kids’ car seats. “After you see what happens to children in accidents and how protective car seats really can be, it’s important to me to really follow those guidelines,” says Dr. Conroy. This extends to booster seats as well—as some goes for following the laws of your state, closely reading the installation instructions provided by your car seats, and making sure that you practice age-appropriate seating positions in the car.

6. I always stay aware of what my home’s potential risks are

“Any body of water adds an additional level of anxiety and risk to a situation,” says Dr. Conroy when asked about pool safety. Though Dr. Conroy doesn’t have a pool, he says that if his family is staying somewhere close to any body of water, his kids will always have supervision. “This risk awareness goes for most at-home risks, like hot stoves, grills, ovens, dishwashers, trampolines, and so on.” Being aware of what risks your home has and then staying on top of minimizing those risks is important. This means making sure you pay attention to what you’re doing when you’re cooking, out swimming, working in the garden, or doing a DIY project.

Last words on home safety

When it comes to staying safe anywhere, Dr. Conroy affirms that the main goal is to always try to minimize distractions, multitasking, and too many variables at once. “Staying safe or risk management doesn’t mean that you have to be afraid all of the time: Just take things slow and pay attention to your surroundings,” he concludes.