1 in 8 homes will face this hazard

Can you guess what that hazard is? It’s a cooking fire. The fact is that your kitchen is the single most dangerous room in the house primarily because it’s where we combine heat and flammables in close proximity.

Most cooking fires occur within 15 minutes of having started cooking. The main culprit is people putting a pan on the stove with oil or something in it and walking away to do something else thinking they’ll be right back. Even if you think you’ve got a really great memory don’t risk it. It is too easy for something else to distract, for the task you went to do that was only supposed to take 10 seconds to turn into a 20 minute job. Think about it, how many times have you accidentally left the burner on? If something as simple as remembering to turn off the source of heat when cooking is done and you’re still right there is something that is easy to forget how much more something that is out of sight?

Another common source of kitchen fires are dish towels, rags or curtains that are too close to the burner and ignite. Those cute curtains that make your kitchen look so good flutter when a freeze blows in the window, that dish towel that you dropped on the counter to grab a bowl… if they get too close to the burner can ignite.

Safety tips to prevent cooking fires:

  1. Silence the “self-talk” that tells you that, even though this might be the #1 most dangerous thing you can do, you’ll remember about the pan on the stove because “it’ll only take a second!” I don’t care how good you think your memory is, are you willing to risk your families’ life and everything you own on the fact that it won’t somehow slip your mind?
  2. Never, ever leave anything on a burner in the kitchen if you aren’t there to keep an eye on it. Flash fires can happen even when you’re in the kitchen watching much less when you’re somewhere else in the house.
  3. Never, ever try to grab a pan with a grease fire in it. You might think to take it outside to get the smoke and flames away from your nice home but the odds are that, instead, you’ll drip fire all the way to the door and turn a manageable fire into a blaze that you cannot control.
  4. If a fire occurs in a pan on the burner, snuff it out by putting a lid on it. Fire without oxygen extinguishes. DO NOT pour water on it. Water will simply project the flames, sputtering all over.
  5. Keep a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen and learn how to use it.
  6. Keep flammables (Kitchen rags, towels, dish cloths, curtains, etc…) at least three feet away from burners.


Separate Hand Towels for Kitchen Food Safety

Your kitchen is a breeding ground for germs. Nothing new there, we all know that with raw meat, E. coli and other food borne germs the kitchen is the one area we need to consistently be on guard against microorganisms that can cause serious illnesses.

Hand washing is, of course, the primary way to fight off germs and keep them from getting ingested. Hot water, soap and properly wiping the hands after washing… but wait! What towel are you using to wipe your hands on after you’ve finished washing them?

Most of us don’t have a separate towel just for hand washing and that’s a big mistake. If you’re using the same towel to wipe down counters, pick the lids off the pots, wipe the dishes and wash your hands, you’re just recontaminating your hands after you’ve cleaned them.

A very simple solution to keep that from happening is to designate a specific type of towel as the “hand towel” that gets used for nothing else except for wiping hands after washing. Make sure that everyone in the family knows which towel is the hand towel. Make up a catchy phrase that children (and your husband who, let’s be honest, is just one of the children in many regards :-), won’t forget it. If you purchase green towels to be the hand towels, for example, remind everyone that “Green towels to wipe your hands so you don’t turn green with a stomach virus!” or something like that.

Any towel that isn’t one of the hand towels gets used for all the other chores; the hand towel gets used only for wiping hands after they been washed with soap and water (make sure that everyone knows no to use the hand towel to wipe dirty hands on as it would just defeat the purpose.

With all the food safety issues that seem to crop up almost daily in the news, this is a great time to implement this simple system to protect your family.

Holiday Kitchen Safety Quiz

With the holidays in full swing, you’re probably spending more and more time in the kitchen what with baking and cooking for friends and family as well as for the special meals.

Here’s a quiz to help you make sure that your kitchen is safe, both for you as well as for your kids and guests:

  • Look at your stove… Are the back burners being used first? Are the handles turned to keep the pots from being knocked over?
  • Are the cords for the appliances you are using kept short? Are any of the cords hanging over the edge of the counter?
  • Is the garbage can safely stowed away behind a cabinet door?
  • Do your drawers and cabinets have safety locks on them?
  • Do you have a kitchen fire extinguisher? Is it easy to get to?
  • Are your smoke detectors in or near the kitchen? Are they working?
  • Are your knives properly stored and/put away? Are they out of reach of children?
  • Are your cleaning supplies and chemicals stored away behind a locked cabinet door?
  • Are your medications similarly stored away out of reach of children?
  • Are all flammable items (paper towels, dishtowels, plastic bags… ) at least three feet away from the range top?
  • Are you using a tablecloth with small children present (small children can pull on the tablecloth and pull everything including hot food, down on themselves)?
  • Are all your kitchen outlets GFCI (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets?

Keep your kitchen safe this holiday season. Oh… and if you need someone to taste test your cookies and candy you can send them over to us at National Safety. We’ll let you know how good they are.

Top Ten Things to Watch for at Home

Having just finished the “Deadly Dozen” of conditions and unsafe acts, as applied to the workplace, I wanted to now turn my attention to the home. I don’t have 12, but I do have 10.

The home is supposed to be a haven, a place of rest, a place of safety. Unfortunately, in many cases, it is anything but. It reminds me of the guy who moved 12 miles away from where he used to live. When asked by his friend why he moved he answered “I heard that 80% of accidents happen within 10 miles of your home so I moved 12 miles away”

There’s a guy who didn’t quite understand the nature of the problem. The truth of the matter is that a home can be a safe place with a better understanding of the nature of the issues that cause accidents in the home.

Today’s number one…

  1. Unattended cooking

I think that I’ve probably already mentioned it before… I have a relative who almost burned her house to the ground because she put some oil on the stove and ran upstairs while it was heating up and forgot about it. The result was a kitchen fire that almost destroyed the whole house. She was able to get herself and her son out of the house so no one was injured but a few more minutes and it might have been a whole lot worse. As it was it cost a lot of money and a lot of time to fix the smoke and water damage from the fire department. The truth is that unattended cooking is still the number one cause of home fires.

The Fix

  1. Don’t leave! I don’t care how good your memory is and how short a time you’re going to be gone, DO NOT LEAVE something on the stove and leave. It is simply to easy to get distracted and forget. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds for a fire to spread rapidly and become unmanageable.
  2. Always have a lid nearby. The fastest way to put out a fire once it has started is to starve it by putting a lid on the pan.
  3. Keep baking soda nearby as well. Baking soda will also starve a fire of oxygen and won’t cause splatters or explosions. NEVER PUT WATER ON A KITCHEN FIRE. Water and oil don’t mix and when water hits hot oil, it causes an explosion that will send droplets of oil all over the place, spreading the fire and causing serious burns.
  4. Keep a fire extinguisher handy.

Understanding the potential danger of hot oil or grease on a stove; seeing how fast it can spread can be an eye-opening experience. Because we cook every day, we tend to get complacent and careless but the fact is that your stove can be extremely dangerous.

While I’m warning you about the stove… make sure that the handles of all pots and pans on the stove are always turned inward, especially if you have small children.

Even if you don’t have small children, it is so easy to accidently bump the handle if it’s hanging off the edge.


Cooking Safety

I have a relative who’s not only lucky (or blessed) to be alive but fortunate that she didn’t kill her child in the process. How did it happen? She put a pan of oil to heat on the stove and went to throw a load of laundry in the washer while it heated up. Problem was that she forgot about it till the kitchen was engulfed in flames. The baby was sleeping upstairs.

They got out safely but the kitchen was seriously burned and the rest of the house suffered smoke damage. The whole house could have burned to the ground and lives been lost.

Truth is that cooking safety is an aspect that most people don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about but they should. It is the leading cause of fire injuries and fire injuries are the 5th most common cause of accidental death in the USA.

Here are a few tips concerning kitchen and cooking safety.

  • Never, ever leave cooking food unattended. Don’t allow that voice that says “go ahead, you’ll remember! It’ll just take a second” to talk you into leaving something on the stove while you run out of the room.
  • Keep an eye, not only on the burner but on the area around the burners as well. Many kitchen fires are started when a dishcloth or a paper napkin accidentally comes in contact with the burner. Keep all flammable objects away from the cooking area.
  • Cleanliness is not only next to Godliness, it’s also a good way to make sure you don’t go meet him (God that is) before your time. Grease and oil, build-up and splatters can easily catch fire and rapidly fuel the flames. It doesn’t take long for a fire to get out of control when there’s grease and oil present.
  • While you’ve probably heard never to cook bacon naked (ouch!), you may not have heard that the clothing that you do wear needs to be tight fitting. Loose clothing can hang down and catch fire.
  • Do not allow the handles of the pots and pans to hang over the front of the stove. There are two reasons for this. First of all, handles that are protruding can be grabbed by children and serious accidents can occur. Secondly, those same handles can be accidentally bumped causing hot food, grease, oil, boiling water, etc… to spill. Always make sure that the handles are turned inwards.
  • Always make sure that you use adequate ventilation, especially when you are cooking with gas.
  • If you’ve got a gas range, make sure that the burner has ignited before you start doing anything else. If the burner has not ignited gas can build up and cause an explosion.

Last but not least, use common sense. Stop and think before you start cooking. Anticipate potential problems and take appropriate action before they turn into accidents that might cause injury or death.

Oh, and if you need me to come check out your kitchen while you cook up that lobster in truffle butter, just give me a call! I’ll even let you know if the lobster is good!