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- Child Safety During Home Renovations
Child Safety During Home Renovations
- Photo: essentialkids.com.au
Know the Hazards of Unfinished Areas
Even when tools are put away and workers aren't present, there are still plenty of dangers on an unfinished work area.
“Sometimes parents don't realize that even when a room looks mostly done, if something like the wall socket covers are off, that can be a real hazard to a kid because the sides of those switches are live,” says Phillips.
When important safety features are missing, a room is still a hazard, agrees Bennett. “Even something like having a toilet off with the wax ring exposed—that looks neat to a kid, but it's full of bacteria,” he says. “Or, if a stair rail isn't up on a new stairway, that's a dangerous situation.”
Stay Out of the Path of Work
Workers moving around in a home with small children can be dangerous to the kids—and the workers.
“When guys are carrying in something like lumber or cabinets, they can't see a curious little kid who might get in their way,” says Bennett. “Parents really need to keep kids out of the way in those situations so neither the kids nor the workers get hurt.”
Parents also need to realize that when workers are moving large equipment or materials in and out of the home, they probably won't be too worried about shutting the door behind them. “It's really easy for a little kid to slip out the door while it's open and have no one notice,” Phillips says. “It's just so important for them to be really well-supervised.”
Keep Waste Contained
Bennett recalled one of the few times that a child get hurt while he was working on a home —in that case, a kid was playing in a trash pile and stepped on a nail.
“The parents needed to keep the kid out of the trash pile, of course, but it would be less interesting to a kid if the trash had been in some kind of container,” he says.
Beyond hazards like sharp metal and nails, keeping used chemical containers out of reach is important because even after the contents are gone, toxic chemical residue can remain. Even a small amount of these substances can harm a child, so making sure they have no access, even to empty containers, is a must.
Be Conscious of Allergies
Beyond the dust and particulates that come from any remodeling job, Bennett notes that many people may be sensitive to some of the materials and chemicals being used in the project.
“With paints and primers, you can go with low-VOC [volatile organic compound] options to help reduce sensitivities, especially in kids,” he says. “Carpets are another problem sometimes because they have lots of formaldehyde. Sometimes it's best if the family can just take a week-or-so vacation after these products are installed to let them off-gas without harming anyone.”
Bennett says the danger is reduced by opening windows and using air filters after painting or installing materials with formaldehyde (like composite-wood cabinets or carpets). There are also materials available that don't harbor the dangerous chemicals. For instance, look for paints and finishes with “no-VOCs” on the labels.
Ashe says while it may cost a bit more, looking for more environmentally friendly choices can pay off in the long run, especially when children are involved. “You can always find an eco-friendly alternative,” he says. “It may cost more, but sometimes it's a small price to pay.”
Choose the Right Contractor
While conscientious parents are the best way to keep kids safe during a family's remodel, choosing a contractor who understands and appreciates the unique challenges that come with remodeling a home with children is an essential step toward ensuring a safe renovation.
1. Choose certified contractors. Too often, people mistakenly hire the contractor who offers the lowest price with lots of assurances, which, according to Phillips, can end up a costly mistake. “There are a lot of operations that are really just two guys and a fax machine, and they're not reputable,” he says. “It can be expensive to license and insure a contracting business, but it protects you to choose someone who may cost a little more but is regulatory compliant.”
2. Find out about safety practices and record. While everyone wants a safe contractor, families in particular should concern themselves with a company's safety record because a low injury rate usually means the contractor follows good safety practices, like keeping work areas clean and storing tools safely.
3. Ask how they feel about kids in the house. Before deciding on a contractor, ask about any issues or concerns he may have with children around a construction site. A good contractor should mention ground rules for kids, their own safety practices, and any experiences they've had working with families living in a house while it was being remodeled.
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