Make your house a much safer place to live by addressing these top five home hazards.

Back in 2004, The Home Safety Council completed the most comprehensive study ever done of the severity and causes of home injury in the United States. The survey is called "The Home Safety Council's State of Home Safety in America Report".

While the report is a few years old, the findings should still be relevant (and eye opening) to the homeowners of today. They can be used as a guide to help kick start a home safety regimen. After all, home injuries cause 21 million yearly medical visits and almost 20,000 deaths, 2,000 of which are children. If you haven't already assessed your home for hazards, there's no reason to hesitate. Delays can be deadly!

While there are literally millions of home hazards that exist, the study was able to separate out the five leading causes of unintentional home injury. These five leading causes are:

1) Falls: Falls account for more than one third of all unintentional home injury deaths. And, of course, they affect seniors and children the most - very few deaths from falls occur in adults under 60. Homeowners should assess all staircases, rugs, and bathrooms for safety.

2) Poisoning: Poisoning is the second leading cause of unintentional home injury deaths in the United States. The most effective prevention efforts generally focus on keeping poison out of the hands of children. For homeowners, this means locking up all cleaning supplies and chemicals. Better yet, they should store them outside of the home in an outdoor shed or garage when possible.

3) Fires/burns: Residential fires and burns are the third leading cause of unintentional home injury deaths and the ninth leading cause of home injuries resulting in an emergency department visit. Burns can come from fires, but also from water that is too hot. Homeowners should make sure to turn their water heaters down to 120 degrees and place fire extinguishers and fire alarms throughout the home.

4) Choking and suffocation: Obstructed airway injuries are the fourth leading cause of unintentional home injury death in the United States. In fact, unintentional choking and suffocation is the leading cause of death for infants under the age of one. Parents of small children should take special care to make sure that no small objects are left within easy reach of infants or small children. Parents should be equally vigilant about cutting up children's food into small pieces.

5) Drowning/submersion: While most drownings don't occur in the home, of those that do, 80% involve children ages 4 and under and most of these occur in swimming pools and bathtubs. Still, drownings are the fifth leading cause of home injury death in the US. Homeowners should make sure that children are never left unattended in the bath or in pools. They should also make sure that adults do not use drugs or alcohol when they are anywhere near a pool or bath.

Home safety is no casual affair. The action plans detailed here for each hazard are just a tiny outline of the many, many things that can be done to prevent injury or death. If you really care about taking your house and making it into a real home, you'll start the process of making your home safe now.

Published on May 28, 2011