Your kitchen is one of the busiest rooms in your home – and also one of the most dangerous. Every year, kitchen accidents account for thousands of emergency calls and visits to the emergency room for burns, cuts, fires and more.
The potential for accidents in the kitchen shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Basically, you’re surrounded by items that are sharp and hot, and there’s often a rush to get food to the table. Add these elements to the fact that most people have no formal training in kitchen procedures, and you’ve got a real recipe for disaster (get it?). Luckily, with some basic rules and a dash of common sense, most of these risks can be greatly minimized.
Slips & Trips
There are a number of different ways to slip-up in the kitchen. Be diligent and you can avoid most.
- Be sure that the floor surface is always clean and dry. Clean up spills immediately.
- Although everyone likes to hang out in the kitchen during events, try and keep your space as clear as possible. Having to negotiate around your guests, especially with hot items, increases the risk of an accident happening.
- Keep kids and pets out of the kitchen and out from under your feet while you’re cooking
- Watch for any tripping hazards that may cause a problem. This could include grocery bags, loose rugs, shoes etc.
- Never stand on chairs to reach items if you can help it. Better to invest in a sturdy stool with wide steps and rubberized footpads.
- Try and organize your kitchen space so that your most-used food and cookware items are easily accessible. That way you can avoid unnecessary travel and climbing.
- Another way to avoid slips is through the use of rubberized mats at the sink and food prep areas
Cutting yourself in the kitchen is one of the most common, and potentially dangerous, of the hazards you may face.
The use of knives poses the biggest risk for cuts when working in the kitchen. Here are a few tips that can help to maintain safety:
- Keep knives sharp. Duller knives require more force to use and are much more likely to slip and cut the user.
- Learn how to use knives properly. Always cut on a sturdy surface, keep fingers curled-in when chopping and always cut away from your body.
- Use the right knife for the job and don’t be tempted to cheat just to save time
- Carry knives point-down and to the side of your body. And be sure to never try to catch a falling knife, no matter how instinctive it may be.
- Get into the habit of cleaning and putting away knives immediately after use. That way you reduce the danger of any inadvertent cuts. For instance, leaving them in the sink covered with water is just asking for trouble.
- Store your sharper knives separately in their own drawer, a wooden block unit or magnetic wall-mounted holder
- Be sure to remove can lids with a tool and never with your fingers
- Broken glass should be swept up with a broom and dustpan and disposed of right away. For those really tiny pieces, use a sturdy, damp paper towel to clean them up rather than your fingers.
Aside from cuts in the kitchen, burns tend to be one of the most common, and painful, ways that you can hurt yourself.
- Keep a pair of dry oven mitts near the stove and microwave and always use them. Never substitute with dishtowels, as they can slip and just aren’t made for that type of thing.
- To prevent accidental tipping, turn pot handles toward the center of the stovetop, away from the cook, kids or anyone else passing by
- Avoid steam burns by always opening lids away from you
- Cover pans with a spatter screen when cooking with hot oil
- Be sure to avoid wearing loose sleeves, and tie back long hair when cooking
- Keep a 1-meter kid-free zone around your cooking area. Where possible, it’s best to keep children out of the kitchen altogether while hot food is being prepared.
- Avoid placing hot food items near the edge of tables and countertops where they could potentially be tipped over
- Give yourself some distance and stand back when pouring hot liquids or draining pasta. Splatters can easily cause severe burns.
- Never mix hot items in a blender, as they can explode out of the container even with the lid on
- Use the stove’s back burners to ensure that hot pots and pans are out of reach of young children
- When microwaving, be sure to open containers slowly and facing away from you to avoid steam burns. Also be aware that microwaved food can heat unevenly and can have hot spots capable of burning your mouth or throat.
- In the event of a minor burn, place the area under cool running water until the pain subsides. Cover with gauze and seek medical treatment if the burned area is large or is causing severe pain or blistering.
Follow these housekeeping rules to help prevent kitchen fires:
- Ensure that you have working smoke detectors in-place close to your kitchen
- Have a fire extinguisher close by and one that is rated for all fire types
- Never leave dishrags or anything else combustible near your stovetop surface
- Keep stovetops and range hoods clean and free of grease
- Never leave stoves or other equipment unattended when in use
- Don't overload electrical outlets and be sure to only use appliances that are in good repair and are Underwriter Laboratories (UL) certified. Also get into the habit of unplugging appliances when not in use.
- For stovetop grease fires, quickly cover with a lid and immediately turn off the appliance. Use salt or baking soda to stop the flames and NEVER use water, as it will just cause the fire to spread.
- For conventional oven or microwave fires, turn off the appliance, keep the door closed and let the fire burn itself out. Unplug the appliance if possible and be sure to have it inspected before using again.
- Keep a well-stocked first aid kit handy to be able to handle minor kitchen cuts and burns
- To help avoid electric shocks from your appliances, keep away from sources of water, always dry your hands before using, use polarizing plugs and be sure to unplug before cleaning
- Never store cleaning products in the same cupboards as your food items, to avoid accidental poisoning or any cross-contamination
- If you have young children in the home, be sure to secure any cabinets that contain cleaning products, potent seasonings, medicines, supplements or anything that could pose a choking hazard
- Follow safe food preparation and storage rules to avoid any incidences of food contamination and the sickness that can come with it. That means good sanitation practices for counter tops, cutting boards and kitchen tools plus proper cooking techniques and the refrigeration and safe storage of food items.