Winter Safety for Home Care Employees – part 2

Indoor Winter Household Hazards

winter1Although winter comes as no surprise, many of us are not ready for its arrival. If your patients are prepared for the hazards of winter, you will both be more likely to stay safe and healthy when it comes.
Many families need home care staff’s help to prepare their homes for the winter season.  A little prevention will make each visit safer, and easier on your patients and all of their caregivers.Prevention plans can include making referrals to local power companies or energy assistance programs for tips on safely heating homes and home safety checks, monitoring inside temperatures, and devising home emergency plans in case a power failure occurs.

New Hampshire is prone to long periods of cold temperatures, so if clients’ homes are isolated, plans might also include the stocking of additional amounts of shelf stable food, water and necessary medications.
Clients should be instructed to eat well-balanced meals, avoid alcoholic beverages, and drink warm beverages.
In extremely cold temperatures, heating systems may be pushed beyond their capacity to maintain warmth in all resident rooms. Proper insulation will help, but do not restrict or block outdoor access.winter5

Your patients’ homes are also your workplace, it’s important they are taking precautions for the winter months.

 Winter storms and cold temperatures can be hazardous. Stay safe and healthy by planning ahead.


Take These Steps for Your Home

Many people prefer to remain indoors in the winter, but staying inside is no guarantee of safety. Take these steps to keep your home safe and warm during the winter months.

  • Winterize the home.
  • Install weather stripping, insulation, and storm windows.
  • Insulate water lines that run along exterior walls.
  • Clean out gutters and repair roof leaks.
  • Check your heating systems.
    • Have your heating system serviced professionally to make sure that it is clean, working properly, and ventilated to the outside.
    • Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys.
    • Install a smoke detector. Test batteries monthly and replace them twice a year.
    • Have a safe alternate heating source and alternate fuels available.
    • Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) emergencies.
    • Install a CO detector to alert you of the presence of the deadly, odorless, colorless gas. Check batteries when you change your clocks in the fall and spring.
    • Learn symptoms of CO poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.
Above all, have a family member and neighbor’s contact information ready as back up to check on patients family and neighbors in case access is impossible for an extended period

Portable Heating Devices

Extra measures may be needed; however, portable space heating devices are DANGEROUS.
Portable space heaters have been the cause of accidental fires. Any heating device, other than a central heating plant, needs to be designed and installed so that it will not ignite combustible material.  Make the patient and their caregivers aware of the dangers of these units, but if they insist, be sure things like OXYGEN and curtains are no where near it!If a heating device is fuel fired, it is to be connected to a vent or chimney and must operate by taking air for combustion directly from the outside. It also shall be designed and installed to provide for complete separation of the combustion system from the atmosphere of the occupied area.
Any heating device shall have safety features to immediately stop the flow of fuel and shut down the equipment in case of either excessive temperatures or ignition failure.

Generators

Turn Off House Electric Main Before Using a Generator: When the use of an electric generator is required due to weather storms or power outages, make sure to switch the main breaker or fuse to the “off” position before starting the generator. This will prevent the electricity from reaching the outside power lines, helping to protect your family and household from possible electrocution.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide – The Deadly Winter Hazard

Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning can happen at any time of the year, but the danger is greater during the winter when doors and windows stay closed and fireplaces, gas heaters, or other fuel burning appliances are in use. In addition, people can also be exposed to deadly CO levels when “warming up” their cars in garages or keeping them running when stuck in snow.
Fact Sheet: How to Protect Your Family from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarms Fact Sheet

Carbon Monoxide Alarm – Joint State Fire Marshal / State Building Official Memo

Mold

Mold

Several factors lead to increased concerns about mold during the winter months. Moisture conditions indoors can lead to the growth of molds and mildews. While forced air heating systems make indoor air drier overall during the winter months, certain areas of the home may experience intensified levels of humidity because of a lack of ventilation.

Fact Sheet:  Preventing Mold in Your Home

Chemical and Environmental Exposure

Chemical and Environmental Exposure

As the winter months arrive, and people begin spending more time indoors, indoor air quality becomes a greater health concern – especially for those with compromised immune systems, the elderly & children. Some of the more important health hazards associated with indoor air quality are the potential for extended exposure to lead, asbestos or other types of environmental hazards in a home – especially during renovation and remodeling activities.
Fact Sheet:  Preventing Asbestos Exposure in the Home

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