For many people, the home kitchen serves as a communal hub where families and friends gather together to share great conversations and even better food. Interestingly, it’s also one of the most accident-prone areas in a household. To ensure the safety of those in your home, here are some simple kitchen safety tips that will help keep your culinary area a secure haven.
Causes for Common Kitchen Accidents
Beyond the basic cuts and burns, there are many ways to injure yourself in the kitchen accidentally. You can smoosh your fingers in a drawer, pull a muscle opening a jammed drawer, slip and fall on a forgotten spill or even burn the whole place down if you aren’t careful.
Being aware of the causes of these common accidents is the first step in promoting kitchen safety. Equipped with this knowledge, you can take proactive measures to prevent these incidents or quickly intervene if they do occur. The simple act of consistently prioritizing kitchen safety through these actions is an easy way to avoid accidents and injuries before they even happen.
Reduce the Risk of Accidental Cuts
The number one way to reduce your risk of accidentally cutting yourself is to keep your cutting utensils sharp, including knives, scissors, vegetable peelers and anything else with a blade. While it may sound counterintuitive, cutting food with a dull edge will cause you to increase the force required to cut, which also increases the chance you will slip, cutting yourself instead of the food.
Beyond using sharp utensils, ensure you are using the right tool for the job and handling it correctly. Always push the knife blade away from your body, never towards it. Use a sturdy cutting board on a flat surface. If the cutting board slips or feels unstable, place a wet kitchen or paper towel under it to increase its grip. Consider using a guard or glove when slicing vegetables with a mandoline.
Store knives and other sharp implements in a secure location. Knife blocks, magnetic knife strips and drawers are all good options. If you have little ones with access to your kitchen, teach them about the risks and ensure these items are well out of their reach until they fully understand that they are tools, not toys.
“My teenager loves to cook. One of the first things I taught him when he first started wanting to cook at around age 7 was the claw technique for cutting (hiding the fingers on the hand that is holding the food you are cutting). The second thing I taught him was ‘never try to catch the knife. Jump back to get your feet out of the way and let it fall.’
—Robin Donovan, AllWaysDelicious.com
Reduce Your Risk for Burns
Hot water from the tap is just one way to burn yourself in the kitchen. You also have to consider the oven, stove, air fryer and all of the hot pots and pans in and around these devices. While you can take action to reduce the risk for some of these, others simply require being aware of your surroundings.
For the water faucet, adjust the water temperature on your boiler to be no hotter than you can handle without burning or scalding yourself. For most homes, that is 120º, as it takes about five minutes of exposure at that temperature to result in burns. At 140º, the standard manufacturer’s setting, it takes a mere 6 seconds of exposure to cause a burn, which is especially risky for little ones and older adults.
Do not use wet or damp pot holders when handling hot items, as the heat will go through them. Do not use kitchen towels to remove a hot roast or casserole from the oven unless you know they are heatproof. Microfiber towels are great for drying but will melt against the oven’s heat. Instead, keep dry pot holders or heat-resistant gloves in an accessible place, within easy reach of your oven and stovetop.
When opening the oven or removing lids from hot pans, stand clear of any escaping steam. Lift pan lids with the opening away from you to direct steam away from your face. When opening your oven, stand to the side and allow the initial blast of heat to clear before you reach inside.
Turn all pan handles away from the edge of the stove. Not only will this keep little ones safe by reducing their reaching, but it will also prevent you from bumping into them as you move through your kitchen.
Falls in the kitchen can happen for many reasons, but two of the most prominent factors are spills and trying to reach things that are just out of your grasp. Thankfully, both are easily preventable with a bit of planning and awareness.
Spills in the kitchen are inevitable. You would be hard-pressed to make a meal without cleaning up at least one mess, if not more. The problem isn’t necessarily the mess but how you handle the cleanup. The best action is to clean up spills immediately so they don’t become a falling hazard. Keeping tools like a broom and dustpan, kitchen towels and a mop and bucket nearby will make clean-up quick and easy.
The other common cause of falls in the kitchen is when individuals resort to climbing onto countertops or chairs to access items out of reach. While it may seem like a minor convenience, this habit can lead to severe accidents. Using a sturdy stepstool or ladder to increase your reach is much safer and will prevent potential injuries. If you often need a boost, store your stool in the kitchen to make it even more convenient.
When working with food, you often play with literal fire, especially if you have a gas stove or use an outdoor grill. While fire and heat are essential to creating magic in the kitchen, it’s vital to maintain control over them at all times. By being prepared, you can prevent accidental flare-ups and better manage them when they happen.
Ensure you keep kitchen towels, pot holders and other flammable materials away from open flames or hot burners. Do not wear loose clothing while cooking. When pan frying fritters, fish or anything else in hot oil, keep the lid of the pan handy to use as the first line of defense in an accidental flare-up. If all else fails, be ready to fight the fire with a household fire extinguisher.
Keep a Fire Extinguisher in The Kitchen
Buy a chemical fire extinguisher or fire blanket and learn how to use it. If something in your kitchen becomes overheated and catches on fire, it can quickly spread, putting you, your family and all of your belongings at risk.
Ensure that the fire extinguisher is stored correctly, in a spot that keeps it away from the heat of the oven or stove but easily accessible and close enough to grab at a moment’s notice. Do not select a location where it will be pushed to the back of the cabinet, requiring you to dig it out in an emergency. Read the instructions on the extinguisher itself so you know how to operate the one you own.
How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
The PASS technique covers the basics for operating a chemical fire extinguisher. Pull the pin. Aim at the base of the fire. Squeeze the trigger. Sweep back and forth across the width of the fire. Be sure to check it every three months to make sure it is in good working order. Replace your fire extinguisher if any of the following is true: the gauge drops, you notice any sign of rust, the pin is missing or the expiration date has lapsed.
To use a fire blanket, remove it from the pouch, unfold and lay it over the fire, then turn off the heat source. Let it sit until it cools. Replace your fire blanket after using it to extinguish a fire or if it becomes visibly damaged. Some, but not all, have expiration dates, which you can find on their packaging.
If the fire is too big to put out on your own, get out and call the fire department.
Kitchen Safety in Action
Safeguarding your kitchen is paramount to creating a secure haven for culinary endeavors. Adhering to the essential safety tips discussed throughout this article can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and injuries in this bustling space. Remember, prioritizing safety not only enhances your cooking experience but also ensures the well-being of your loved ones, making the kitchen a place where everyone can gather, create and share without worry.