Common home safety hazards 

Even the safest home can have hidden dangers – sometimes they are in plain sight! Knowing the hazards in your house can help prevent accidents, injuries, and damage to you and your house.

To help you keep your family as safe as possible, we’ve put together this guide to unveil your home’s potential risks and how you can remedy or eliminate them.

Electrical hazards

Electrical shocks, burns and fires are only a few risks of electrical hazards. They can damage your property and cause injuries and fatalities in extreme cases.

Working around electricity can be dangerous, so it’s crucial that you have electrical work done by a licensed electrician to ensure devices and wiring are correctly installed and maintained.

Overloaded outlets

Overloaded outlets refer to electrical outlets that are being used to power more devices than they’re designed to handle. This is a reality in many homes, especially older ones, not equipped with enough outlets or in inconvenient places.

Some of the risks associated with overloaded outlets are:

  • Fire hazard – when you overload an outlet, it can cause wires to overheat, which can lead to a fire. The heat generated by the increased electrical current can also cause the insulation on cables to deteriorate, creating a potential ignition source.
  • Electrical shock – overloading an outlet can cause it to become energised, which can  result in electrical shock to anyone who comes into contact with it. This is especially dangerous if a person is in a wet environment, as the water can conduct electricity.
  •  Equipment damage – too many devices plugged into one outlet can cause damage or malfunction, resulting in costly repairs or replacement of the affected equipment.
  • Circuit breaker tripping – an overloaded outlet can cause the circuit breaker to trip, interrupting the electricity flow to the affected circuit and requiring resetting the breaker to restore power.
  • Power outages – in some cases, overloading an outlet can cause widespread power outages, affecting multiple rooms or even entire buildings.

Steer clear of overloading electrical outlets by using power strips with built-in surge protection, distributing devices evenly across multiple outlets, and avoiding using multiple high-powered devices on the same circuit.

Faulty wiring

In the best-case scenario, faulty electrical wiring can make your electricity bills skyrocket or damage electrical appliances. In the worst cases, the wiring can catch fire and risk your and your family’s lives.

Several signs may indicate faulty wiring in your home, such as:

●       flickering or dimming lights,

●       sparking outlets,

●       a shock or tingle when touching electrical devices,

●       burning odours when using electrical devices,

●       a circuit breaker tripping frequently, and

●       discolouration or scorch marks around outlets or switches.

If you suspect that you have faulty wiring in your home, it’s important to have a licensed electrician inspect your electrical system as soon as possible. Faulty wiring can pose a severe fire and electrical shock hazard.

Extension cords

If not used as specified, extension cords can overheat and cause fires. When using extension cords at home, it’s vital to follow some of these safety tips:

  • Don’t use extension cords to provide permanent power. They are meant to be used temporarily and only in areas where they’re not subject to damage.
  • Choose the right length and capacity for the job. Avoid joining cords to cover significant distances, as they can reduce the effectiveness of circuit breakers and safety switches.
  • Never modify extension cords. Modifications can be a serious contributing factor to many electrical faults.
  • Check your cords regularly for any signs of wear and tear. If you spot them, it’s time for a brand-new replacement.
  • Disconnect and store your extension cords safely and neatly. When you leave extension cords in a tangled mess, they can become kinked, twisted, or frayed, damaging the insulation and exposing the wire. This can increase the risk of electrical shock, short circuits and fires.

Fire hazards

Home fires can significantly threaten your property and safety, and there are many potential fire hazards in a typical home.

We’ve listed some of the most common fire hazards to watch out for.


Fires caused by cooking can be particularly dangerous because they can quickly get out of control.

One widespread cause of cooking fires is leaving food unattended on the stove or in the oven. That moment of distraction can lead to a fire. Cooking with oil and grease can also ignite when they reach a very high temperature, causing a fire.

To prevent a cooking fire, always stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stove and don’t leave the oven unattended. Don’t use water to extinguish a grease fire, as it can worsen the fire.


Space heaters, furnaces, fireplaces, and other heating equipment can pose a fire risk if they are not properly maintained. Some factors that can contribute to heating equipment fires are:

  • Lack of maintenance – when heating equipment is not maintained correctly, it can become a significant fire hazard in your home. Having your heating equipment inspected regularly by a qualified professional can avoid the risk of serious damage.
  • Placement near flammable materials – heating equipment placed too close to flammable materials, such as curtains or furniture, can lead to a fire. So keep flammables at least a metre away from your heating equipment, and don’t use them to dry clothes or other flammable materials.
  • Electrical malfunctions – faulty wiring or electrical components in heating equipment can cause a fire. Again, maintenance by a licensed professional is essential, as well as buying heating equipment that has been checked and approved by the electrical regulatory authority in your state or territory 1.


Candles are pretty and can smell good, but can also cause your room to burst into flames. Keep candles away from any obvious flammable liquid or items, such as curtains, beds, or tissue boxes. Don’t place your candles on the floor, especially if you have carpet or rugs, as these are highly flammable.

Never leave candles unattended. Always blow them out when leaving the room or your house.


Where there’s smoke, there’s a chance of starting a fire related to smoking materials or poor habits. Two of the most common causes of smoking fires are:

  • Careless disposal of smoking material – smoking materials can include cigarette butts, ashes or matches. These materials can easily ignite if they come into contact with flammable items, such as paper or upholstery.
  • Smoking in bed – falling asleep while smoking can quickly spread fire to the surrounding bedding and furniture.

Never smoke in bed or any location where you may become drowsy or fall asleep. Use a sturdy, deep ashtray, and ensure smoking materials are completely extinguished before disposing of them.

Smoke detectors can save lives. Make sure they are installed and regularly checked.

Chemical hazards

Chemical hazards refer to any substance that has the potential to cause harm to people or animals. Cleaning products, paints, and pesticides are present in many Aussie homes and can cause skin irritation, poisoning and fire. 

Household cleaners

Cleaning products can pose many chemical hazards to you and your family if not used and stored correctly. They may cause, among others:

  • Skin and eye irritation that can include burns, itching or redness. Some cleaners can even cause chemical burns. Some cleaning products contain chemicals designed to break down and remove dirt, grime or disinfect surfaces that can be harsh to your skin.
  • Respiratory irritation and intoxication can occur from inhaling toxic fumes from products such as bleach, ammonia, drain or oven cleaners.

To reduce the risks associated with household cleaners, following the label instructions for use and disposal is vital. They can include:

●       wearing protective gloves and eyewear,

●       using the cleaner in a well-ventilated area, and

●       avoiding mixing different cleaning products and substances, as this can create dangerous chemical reactions.

You can also switch to alternative cleaning methods, like vinegar or baking soda. They are generally less toxic and less harmful to the environment.


Pesticides are toxic by design and can be harmful if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Exposure to pesticides can cause a range of health effects, including

●       dizziness,

●       headaches,

●       nausea,

●       skin and eye irritation, and

●       respiratory irritation.

Just like with household cleaners, you must follow the label instructions for use and disposal. Ensure you keep pesticides out of reach of children and pets and avoid using them around food preparation areas.

If you or anyone in your family experience symptoms of pesticide exposure seek medical attention immediately.


On top of risks like respiratory, eye and skin irritation, paint is highly flammable and can cause a fire if not stored properly or is used near sources of heat and flame.

Another potential hazard can be lead exposure. Some older paints may contain lead, which can be a serious health threat if ingested or inhaled. Lead exposure can be associated with neurological problems.

Make sure you store paint in a dry place, away from heat and flames, out of the reach of children and pets. Also, only use paint in well-ventilated areas. If painting your home interior, organising a place to stay overnight can be a great idea, as well as hiring a professional to do the job.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms associated with paint exposure.

Slip and fall hazards

Between the years of 2020 and 2021, falls were responsible for taking the largest number of Aussies to hospital and death from injury.2

So it’s important to pay attention to some of the hazards present in almost every household and address them to avoid becoming part of these startling statistics.

Wet floors

Bathrooms are particularly hazardous because they’re built for showers and, in some cases, for laundry too. The kitchen is another area highly prone to wet floors.

Adding non-slip mats to your shower and kitchen, wearing good non-slip shoes, or even installing safety grab rails in your bathroom can help prevent slip accidents.

Poor lighting

Poor lighting can make it difficult to see potential hazards in the home, especially in dimly lit areas such as hallways and staircases. Addressing poor lighting in your home can help reduce the risks of slip and fall accidents.

You should:

●     Ensure all your home lights are working,

●     Use brighter bulbs, and consider adding lamps in poorly lit areas, and

●     Keep natural light flowing through the house by leaving shutters and curtains open for as long as possible.

Loose rugs

Loose or wrinkled rugs are a trip hazard. They can also be a slip hazard if not properly secured to the floor.

You can try to prevent accidents by:

●       removing unnecessary rugs from your home, especially in high-traffic areas,

●       using non-slip rug pads under all rugs to avoid slipping and tripping, and

●       using double-sided carpet tape to secure your rugs to the floor.

If your rugs are showing signs of wear and tear, consider replacing them if you can. Curled edges and frayed corners can also create tripping hazards.

Poison hazards

Exposure to a poisonous substance in an amount that harms the body can cause accidental poisoning. And according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), it’s among the ten most common reasons for injury hospitalisation in the country3.

It’s vital to be aware of the potential dangers and take steps to prevent accidents with poison at home.


Prescription and over-the-counter medications can be toxic if taken in incorrect doses, by the wrong person, or in combination with other medicines.

To prevent poisoning, always follow your doctor’s recommendations and keep them out of reach of children and pets.

Never take medication past its expiry date and dispose of it safely – one way is to mix it with an unappealing substance (like coffee grounds) and put it in a sealable bag or container before putting it in the bin.


Plants add life and a great touch to any home, but some popular indoor Aussie houseplants can be toxic if ingested. Here are some of them:

●       peace lily

●       philodendron

●       dumb cane

●       oleander

It’s vital to be aware of the potential toxicity of indoor plants and to keep them away from pets and children. If you suspect that you or someone in your home has ingested a toxic plant, seek immediate medical attention.


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1 In Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania, the Electrical Equipment Safety System (EESS) is responsible for the safety of household electrical equipment. South Australia and Northern Territory are transitioning to the new EESS. New South Wales is not participating in the Electrical Equipment Safety System. For NSW requirements visit the Fair Trading NSW website.

2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Injury in Australia: Falls - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (

3 Injury in Australia: Accidental poisoning - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (

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The information is intended to be of general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.