Home is where the danger is: How your bedroom and furnishings can send you to the ER

“Danger, Will Robinson!” Although the line above was uttered only once during the three-year run of the classic sci-fi show “Lost in Space,” it has become an iconic warning that peril lies ahead. And it should stand as a warning to homeowners everywhere: Your house can hurt you.

No, your place isn’t likely to kill you, although it can if you are not careful. But a new analysis of Consumer Product Safety Commission data shows that millions of visits to local emergency rooms are the result of accidents in the home. Stairs, ramps, landings and floors are the leading causes of household injuries, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Accidental falls are the No. 1 cause of nonfatal ER visits, racking up a whopping 2.9 million injuries in 2022, the latest 12-month period for which information is available.

The bedroom can be a dangerous place, too: After all, that’s where grandpa might roll off the bed, and two-thirds of the traumas there occur to folks 65 or older. It’s also the room where one of the kidlets might jump off the mattress or fall out of the top bunk, despite the bed’s protective rails. My grandson broke his two front teeth with a devil-may-care leap to the floor. All in all, beds, mattresses and pillows accounted for about 901,000 injuries.

Even sofas and chairs can be a hazard! Your living room chair can hurt you if you lean too far; ditto for your sofa, which can fall over on you when you reach to grab something too far out of reach. Again, seniors are the most commonly impacted age group. (Hey, don’t scoff; it happened to me.)

Home-related deaths hit 128,800 in 2022, according to the latest NSC data, largely because of poisoning and falls. And the number of medically consulted injuries that happen in the home is larger than the number of such injuries that happen in public, at the workplace and in vehicle crashes — combined.

And like night follows day, lawsuits follow injuries. Nowadays, friends, neighbors, strangers, sometimes even relatives feel they are entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering. And boy, are they ever compensated: for lost wages, medical bills, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, even emotional distress or mental anguish. According to research, the average settlements for home-related injuries are higher than those for car accidents. Sometimes the amounts even reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Now that I have your undivided attention, here’s a quick list of the most common potential hazards around the home:

Trees. A healthy tree that falls usually isn’t your fault. But it’s not necessarily so for a diseased or otherwise weak tree. If the monster tree on your front lawn is on its last legs, put it out of its misery.

Sidewalks and driveways. Paved surfaces sometimes buckle, develop potholes or crack, just waiting to trip someone to the ground. If it snows, clear these surfaces ASAP, lest a delivery guy hits the deck.

Steps. Broken or uneven steps invite disaster. When covered with ice, they can become lethal.

Buckets. Large buckets and small children don’t go together. An estimated 35 kids a year drown every year in a five-gallon bucket, many of which are only half full. So put them away when you are done with them.

Hazardous materials. Make sure the caps and tops on flammable and volatile liquids are secure and out of the reach of little ones. And keep the containers well away from ignition sources.

Pools. Too many people drown in pools that are not fenced off and locked with self-closing gates. And it’s not necessarily intruders sneaking in for a swim; sometimes invited guests aren’t careful around the water. Big pools aren’t the only threat, as people can also perish in shallow wading pools. Water slides, rope swings and pool covers are potential liabilities, too.

Decks. Anchored improperly, a deck can pull away from the house and collapse. More likely, someone will trip over a warped floorboard or fall through one that’s rotted out.

Water heaters. You might like it hot, but guests who aren’t used to your temperature setting could be scalded.

Other appliances. Children love to hide is refrigerators, freezers, washers and dryers. They make great hiding places — but they can be death traps if a kid can’t get out. Install safety locks, especially on appliances in your garage or basement.

Carpet. Rumpled or tattered carpeting is a tripping hazard, especially on steps. And rugs runners and mats not held in place by double-sided tape or a rubber backing can easily slide out from under someone. Check periodically to see if the backing needs to be replaced.

Electrical cords. Extension cords running hither and yon invite accidents. Make sure they are away from the flow of traffic and place them against a wall or baseboard.

Banisters and handrails. These are required by law, and should not be loose, let alone missing.

Garage doors. If you don’t have an automatic opener with an emergency electronic eye and release, get one. It will prevent the door from slamming shut unintentionally.

Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 50 years. He is a regular contributor to numerous shelter magazines and housing and housing-finance industry publications. Readers can contact him at lsichelman@aol.com.