The kitchen has long been seen as the heart of a home, functioning not only as a place to eat, but also somewhere to socialise and entertain. And with many more modern homes being built around open plan living, keeping the space safe and in good working order could be even more important.
Regardless of how your home is set up, and how safety conscious you think you are, it’s still a good idea to remember that the kitchen can be the most dangerous room in the house. It’s packed with a number of potential hazards, and according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), 2.7 million people were treated in hospital for accidents in the home last year. So it makes sense to keep your kitchen as safe as possible to make sure you can avoid the most obvious pitfalls.
Hazards to watch for
Chip pan fires are well-documented: Avon Fire and Rescue Service report that over 50 per cent of all domestic fires start in the kitchen and involve fat catching fire, be it in the chip pan or on a greasy grill. Remember, never leave a chip pan unattended – but if it does catch fire, the advice is not to take any risks. Only turn the heat off under the pan if it is safe to do so, and never throw water on it. Get everyone out of the house immediately and call the emergency services.
One of the easiest ways of avoiding a chip pan fire is to consider if you really need to cook this way at home. Using an oven may be a good alternative, or you may choose to leave deep frying to your local chip shop. But other kitchen hazards can be simple to avoid if you just follow these straightforward guidelines.
Avoid the risk of burns or scalds, especially to young children, by using the back rings on the hob while cooking. Make sure all pan handles are turned to the side to avoid unnecessary knocks or spills. Wipe any spills from the hob to reduce the risk of that catching fire.
Other good advice is to take additional care if you’re wearing loose clothing while cooking, as floaty sleeves may catch fire, and it makes sense to keep tea towels away from the oven or hob as these too may burn.
Almost everyone has a toaster and electric kettle these days, so make sure the plugs and flexes of these are in good condition. Never use an electrical appliance if it has a frayed cord or if the plug is broken. Water and electricity are also a volatile mix; make sure your electrical sockets are a safe distance from your sink – at least 30cm away horizontally – and don’t touch electrical appliances with wet hands. You should also be careful not to overload the sockets.
Don’t try to remove stuck toast from a toaster while it’s still plugged in. All too often we reach for the nearest implement, often a metal knife, and poke around inside the toaster to remove the bread – forgetting that there are live parts inside.
When planning your kitchen storage, place the heaviest items, such as griddle pans and large saucepans, on the lowest shelves so they can’t fall on you when you’re getting them out of the cupboards. And remember to store all kitchen cleaners and bleach in their original packaging and out of reach of children.
If you do experience a household fire, it can cause a lot of damage and the costs of repairing your home and replacing appliances can be high. It’s good practise to always take the appropriate precautions and safety measures in the kitchen, to help prevent the likelihood of these incidents happening. In addition, check that you have adequate home insurance in place to cover the costs if the worst were to happen and give you additional peace of mind at home.