Inarguably, the kitchen is the hub of domestic life, which is
ironic considering its potential for safety hazards. Though it’s
unlikely you’ll find a health inspector poking about in your pantry
and doubtful you’ll receive in-home training for meal preparation,
kitchen safety should not be overlooked in the home. There exists a
prevailing philosophy that all accidents are preventable. Proving
the truth behind this involves environmental alertness coupled with
basic safety knowledge.

Environmental Alertness

Though it may sound absurd to imply a person is unaware in
his/her own home, when it comes to safety we all take things for
granted. Before beginning food preparation, it is important to be
aware of one’s surroundings:

* Ensure your kitchen layout is conducive to safety.

* Know where dangerous elements lie.

* Keep alert when operating appliances.

* Maintain familiarity with functionality and location of safety
aids (exhaust fans, fire extinguishers and alarms).

* Keep cleaning materials at hand in case of spillage.

* If you live in an apartment or structure attached to other
units, be familiar with building regulations regarding fire safety
and appliance usage, not to mention fire escape and alarm
locations.

Heat And Fire Safety

The stove is the greatest heat/fire safety hazard in the
kitchen. Safety items to consider are:

* Ensure the pilot light works on a gas stove. If it doesn’t,
turn all dials off and wait for gas to disperse before carefully
relighting.

* When dealing with flames or electric burners, keep all
flammable materials at a safe distance.

* Never reach across the range.

* Always keep pot handles turned inward to prevent spillage by
snagging on clothing (or children’s hands).

* Do not wear loose-fitting clothing while cooking.

* When handling hot items, use oven mitts (which should be kept
close-at-hand).

* Keep the stove clean, wiping excess food/spatter after each
use. Be especially mindful of grease build-up.

* Always remove pot lids by allowing steam to escape farthest
from you. Steam, though invisible, can cause serious burns.

* When cooking with large quantities of oil, be alert at all
times. Be mindful of spillage and never allow water or other
liquids near hot oil. If dropped into the oil, they will turn into
steam and spray with force.

In the event of a kitchen fire, it is important to assess the
situation and act accordingly. If safe to do so, turn off the heat
source. If the fire is confined to a pot or pan, cover tightly with
a lid. Do not attempt to carry away. If the fire is unmanageable,
use a fire blanket, fire extinguisher or sprinkle/throw baking soda
onto the fire. Never use water or flour, which can cause a grease
fire to spread. Always keep a fire extinguisher accessible. Test it
on a regular basis to ensure functionality and teach yourself how
to use it in the event of an emergency.

Electrical Appliances

Electrical fires and electrocution can result from improper
appliance usage. Before using, become familiar with appliance
manuals and note manufacturer-suggested safety precautions. Never
use electrical appliances near water and ensure all outlets in
proximity to water are GFI (Ground Fault Interrupter) wall outlets.
Do not overload circuits with extension cords and plug adapters.
Inspect electrical cords and appliances for faults. And when in
doubt about electricity, always contact an electrician.

Sharp And Breakable Objects

The kitchen is the main place in the home for
utilization/storage of sharp objects. Knives are of primary concern
and are a common cause of kitchen injury. How many times have you
made a slip when slicing a bagel or attempting to cut through a
thick potato? Solutions in these two cases might involve investing
in a bagel holder/cutter and, likewise, a vegetable slicer or
potato cutter.

Some other (mostly common-sense) solutions to keep in mind with
regard to knife safety are as follows:

* Do not store knives loosely in a drawer where hands are as
likely to land upon a blade as a handle.

* Hand-wash knives. Never put knives in the dishwasher, where
points and blades become dangerous unseen obstacles. For the same
reason, never throw a knife into soapy dishwater.

* Keep knives sharp. Sharper knives involve less force when
cutting, thereby minimizing slips and sudden movements resulting in
injuries.

Breaks to glass and ceramic objects are almost as common as the
objects themselves. Exercise extreme caution when using glassware
and ceramics. Avoid heating glass, but when necessary never place a
hot glass item on a cold surface. Breakage is almost guaranteed. In
the event of breakage, clean up carefully and wrap sharp objects in
newspaper before disposing. To prevent refuse collectors from
injury, consider labeling sharp objects. Ensure small particles are
swept/vacuumed from the floor. Alternatively, an effective way to
collect glass fragments is by wiping/sweeping the area with a slice
of bread.

Food Safety

To avoid food poisoning and spoilage, the three general rules
are: 1) keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, 2) keep raw items
away from cooked items and 3) keep everything (hands, utensils,
preparation surfaces) clean. When working with fresh produce,
unless you purchase strictly organic items, pesticides and
chemicals are a reality to be considered. Ensure all fresh produce
is washed before using.