Safety 1st Push 'N Snap lock (CPSC)
McLean, VA (written by Jayne O'Donnell/USA Today) -- Sometimes it seems as though home childproofing has turned into an industry. In fact, it has.
The International Association for Child Safety (IAFCS), which certifies childproofers, has 150 members. Stores, including Toys R Us and Target, have sections devoted to childproofing products, such as cabinet latches. Louie Delaware, a Colorado-based certified childproofer, has an e-book coming out next month with a 23-page childproofing checklist.
It's easy to think it's both overkill and overly commercial. But whether you're having a baby, planning to care for one in your home or simply recognizing that your toddlers are a lot like monkeys, there are valid reasons to check your home for possible risks to kids, or to hire someone else to do it. And that's even if your own dad declares gruffly: "We never had all this when I was a kid, and we survived!"
Instead of reminding him that far more babies did die back then, focus on how to eliminate the biggest potential safety problems in your home. Besides, you don't need to apologize.
"It's normal and understandable to try to get as much control as possible over something as uncontrollable as kids," says human factors psychologist Carol Pollack-Nelson.
The most common dangers children face in and around homes include drowning and poisoning, says the Consumer Product Safety Commission. CPSC recommends childproofing during many of its safety campaigns, especially those on tipping furniture and TVs, and pool drownings.
While you can use a checklist to inspect your own home, hiring a childproofer can save the time it can take do-it-yourselfers to install products such as safety gates and cabinet locks. It also boosts safety, as it will more likely be done properly.
Delaware, who has IAFCS' highest certification, recalls one client who spent an hour installing two kitchen cabinet latches.
Childproofers typically charge up to $100 to do a child-safety home assessment, then come up with a list of suggested fixes and the cost to do them. The initial cost is often credited against the total fee, which can run hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on how many products are needed.
Colleen Driscoll, executive director of the child-safety association, says childproofers typically also remind people to check whether products such as cribs have been recalled, warn against the use of bumpers and other soft bedding in cribs, and recommend cordless window blinds to prevent strangulation. And they make sure outlet covers used to prevent electrical injuries aren't small enough to present choking hazards.
Childproofers typically sell the very products they recommend. That means you can probably get cheaper products, but they're likely not the same quality, advocates say. Safety devices, after all, are not usually the best place to save money.
You need products that will "stand up to use and abuse from kids," says Pollack-Nelson, who is a safety consultant to product makers and advocacy groups.
Nearly 2 million child-safety locks for cabinets and toilets sold by Safety 1st were recalled in March and May because children could still open cabinets and toilets when they were in use and others broke. Four children were treated at hospitals after swallowing or handling potentially toxic substances. Some of the locks sold for as little as $2.
At a minimum, make sure any safety gates and cabinet locks you buy meet the voluntary industry standards, says CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson. Those that do will have the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association's seal on the packaging.
Here are some must-have childproofing products, say safety experts:
•Safety gates and childproof locks. Rooms that aren't childproofed should be blocked off with safety gates. Doors to backyards with pools should have alarms and high locks. Gates that are installed too high can leave space for children to get trapped. Pressure-mounted gates may be easy to install but can be pulled down easily by some toddlers, Driscoll says. And she warns to never put pressure-mounted gates at the top of stairs.
•Cabinet and toilet locks. Childproofers recommend putting poison in high locked cabinets and locking any others with risky products. Toilet locks help prevent drowning when top-heavy toddlers fall into the water.
•Furniture/media harnesses. About 26 children are killed every year when furniture or TVs fall over on them. Harnesses secure these heavy items to the wall to prevent tip-overs when kids climb on drawers or other parts of the furniture or TVs. Harnesses can be tricky for do-it-yourselfers to install.
"These are things that can help buy time and get you a little bit of freedom to go in the other room and cook dinner," says Pollack-Nelson.
For the names of childproofers in your area and certification information, go to iafcs.org.