The earliest burn prevention campaigns were instigated by voluntary organisations and industry bodies. The National “Safety First” Association (formed in 1916, and renamed the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in 1941) established a reputation for conveying simple safety messages through visually-striking posters. Its first known home safety poster, 'Guard Open Fires', was produced in 1937, and we have traced its display in public exhibitions across the country, including those organised by local branches such as the Birmingham Accident Prevention Council. The poster uses vivid colours – the red represents the dual security and danger posed by fire – to stress to parents the significance of a guarded open fire-place for the safety of young children.
Between 1940 and 1949, approximately 7,800 children suffered fatal burns or scalds, with roughly a fifth of these involving under-fives. Burns and scalds accounted for the second largest number of accidents in the home, behind falls, with a disproportionate number affecting girls. A major report into domestic burns accidents, published in 1953, identified three particular risks facing children in the home - unguarded fire-places, saucepan handles sticking out over the edge of the stove, and loose tablecloths covered with hot teapots and teacups, which could be easily pulled off by a child.
Posters continued to incorporate an image of a child as the recipient of burns injuries. The Fire Protection Association, an industry body formed in 1946 by insurance professionals, produced a poster called 'Protect Your Child from Fire' featuring a young girl whose dress has caught fire, to shock parents.