The kitchen is one of the most trafficked areas in anyone’s home or apartment. And, it’s not only loaded with fridge, freezer and pantry food items, it’s also loaded with kitchen appliances and gadgets that can often, and DO often, lead to severe injuries and sometimes even death. Therefore, every family should make it a priority to educate everyone in their household about proper kitchen safety, including how to safely use and store any and all appliances and gadgets that you may have.
I’m going to start with my BIG 3 HAZARDS:
First, last and always….do NOT let your children or pets play in the kitchen. Yes, I’ve raised kids so I know how keeping an eye on them can be challenging, but not only does their running in and through the kitchen increase the likelihood of you getting hurt, it GREATLY increases the likelihood of THEM getting hurt. It’s not just a tripping hazard either. You’re likely to be holding something sharp or hot when a collision occurs, increasing the risk of a serious cut or burn.
First, last and always….keep your kitchen floors clear and dry. Strewn about kids or pet toys are an obvious tripping hazard, but so is a pile of spilled cereal, a smear of dropped butter or a puddle of spilled water or other liquid.
First, last and always….keep all counter-kept appliances, knives and other gadgets, as well as containers of food or liquid (hot or cold) either in a safe drawer, container or pushed all the way back to the wall against the counter. Kids love to explore and reach up onto counter tops, even if they can’t see what their grabbing. I will give you a tragic personal example of mine. When I was 2 years old, I reached up and pulled down a pot of fresh boiling coffee onto me, and suffered 3rd degree burns to my entire right arm and side. My skin literally started peeling off my flesh and my parents rushed me to the hospital, where I underwent unpleasant skin grafting to a large part of my body. It thankfully healed, and I will forever carry those physical scars as a reminder of how quick an accident like that can happen. DON’T let my story happen to one of your own children (or grandchildren).
What about teaching your child to cook? My answer to that is this; if you haven’t first educated your child on kitchen safety, and they’ve proved to you they are able to follow those safety guidelines, then they have no business being in the kitchen. The kitchen is not as benign as many people think, which you’ll see in some of the following statistics.
Ok, now on to the most common of kitchen hazards and safety tips on how to avoid them.
* Most kitchen related accidents involve the knife, especially a dull knife.
* Keeping your knives sharp (AND safely stored) actually leads to fewer injuries.
* Cuts can be a lot worse than you imagine, often severing tendons and nerves, crippling people for life.
* These lacerations or cuts make up to 42% of hand injuries at hospital E.R.’s.
Knife Safety Tips
* Never cut any food in or against your hand.
* Always cut on a flat, secure surface, preferably a cutting board. If the cutting board slides, then place a wet towel underneath to keep it in place.
* Never use a knife to try and pry open a can, jar, bottle cap or other container lid. Use the right tool for the job.
* Never attempt to catch a falling knife.
* I HIGHLY recommend storing knives in a wooden knife block. Storing knives in a drawer leads to many unwanted cuts.
* Wash your knives separate from other silverware, utensils and dishes.
* Over 150,000 home fires are started each year due to cooking equipment.
* Frying was the cause of 63% of stove fires.
* Those fires kill an average of 450 people a year.
* They also injure an average of 5000 people a year.
* Stove top ranges account for the largest share (59%) of home cooking fire incidents, and ovens accounted for 16%.
Fire Safety Tips
* Install a smoke detector in your kitchen, in every bedroom, next to garage door in your home. Homes without smoke alarms are twice as likely to have a fire, and 2/3 of residential fires that kill children occur in homes with no smoke alarms.
* Always keep a fire extinguisher on hand, make sure it is up to date (they have expiration dates), and teach all adults and teenagers in your home how to use it.
* Never throw water on a fire. This will cause the fire to flare up and spread, causing immediate steam burns, and increasing your risk of being physically burned.
* For oven fires, immediately turn off the heat and keep the oven door closed.
* Call 911 and evacuate everyone from your home in the event of any fire.
* More bacteria thrives in the kitchen than any other room in the house, including the bathroom.
* A study conducted by environmental scientists found that 90% of all kitchen cloths FAILED their test for cleanliness.
* Sponges and dish rags are notorious for soaking up bacteria, which you then spread over everything you wipe.
* The average cutting board has 200% more fecal matter than your toilet seat.
* The kitchen drain has an average of 567,846 bacteria.
* The kitchen sponge or counter wiping cloth has an average of 134,630 bacteria.
* The kitchen faucet handle has an average of 13,227 bacteria.
Germ Safety Tips
* Maintain cooked foods at 140 degrees until serving and maintain cold foods at 40 degrees until serving. Many pathogens spread at buffets because of inadequately maintained food temperatures, as well as foods at parties that are kept displayed at just room temperature (which is neither good for hot or cold food).
* Do not let food (hot or cold) sit out more than 2 hours if indoors, and no more than 1 hour if outdoors.
* Use a fresh, clean dish towel EVERY day. Additionally, whenever you can, after washing let them air dry outside in the sun. The UV rays will further sanitize any lingering pathogens.
* Sanitize cutting boards and counter tops with a 50:50 solution of bleach and water and let air dry.
* Always store raw foods in separate containers, drawers and shelves than cooked foods.
Remember, cooking should always be enjoyable and stress-free, but before either of those things can happen you must always first employ vigilant kitchen safety habits.
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina “The Veggie Goddess” Matthews