Beautiful Kitchen – Hazardous Kitchen
The best thing you can do for your children is to teach them early on to stay out of the kitchen. But children are curious, and sometimes they disobey. Although as parents or grandparents we should never condone disobedience, we still love our little ones and must do everything we can to ensure their safety.
“Childproof”, as defined by Merriam-Webster, means:
- something “designed to prevent tampering or opening by children”, such as pill bottles with childproof caps
- something “made safe for children (as by safe storage of dangerous materials)”, such as “a childproof home”
When it comes to “child proofing”, we need to make sure we’re not lulled into a false sense of security. Some so-called child proof devices are nothing more than deterrents, easily defeated by children.
It’s easy to become complacent. From time to time we all need coaching – reminders, if you will. I trust you will find these tips helpful as we make every effort to make our homes as safe as possible. Let’s start with the kitchen, the first of three safety articles.
Stoves – a real hot spot
A stove is probably the second-most used appliance in the kitchen. In my opinion, though, it has the greatest potential for injuries to children – primarily burns.
When you use the front burners, be sure to keep the handles turned inward so they do not overhang the front. Using the back burners if possible will help keep handles of pots and pans from protruding over the front of the stove. It will also keep little hands from being burned if they reach up and touch the cook top surface. Never leave anything unattended on a burner.
Keep flammable and combustible items away from the unit. Paper towels, towels, plastic salt, pepper shakers and similar items can get hot and burst into flames. Also, adults, be careful if you wear loose fitting clothes or long sleeves. These can catch on fire very quickly, especially with gas stoves. Also, be sure to keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
When buying a new stove:
Check for safety features such as auto shut-off, red-light indicators for burners being on or still hot, and a cool touch oven door glass. An anti-tip device should come with a new stove.
This device will prevent the oven from being tipped over if a child opens the door and climbs on it, or if an oven shelf is pulled out with a heavy roasting pan on it. You can check for an anti-tip device on your unit by pulling the bottom drawer out and looking for a metal device mounted to the wall at the floor. The oven should be pushed back far enough against the wall so one of the oven’s back feet is under the metal device.
Stove knob covers/stove knob locks
These easy-to-install devices are ideal for gas units, especially those with knobs on or near the front. There are many customer reviews for the various brands, so be sure to read them carefully before making your purchase.
Oven door lock
An oven door lock, like cabinet door locks, will help prevent little ones from opening the oven door and climbing on it. They are inexpensive and easy to affix to your oven door.
You should have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen area and one just inside the door that connects to your garage. Be careful, though, you are not a trained fire fighter. If you have to use a fire extinguisher in your home, you could end up trapped with no way out. Hopefully you’ll never need to use it. A few tips about fires and fire extinguishers:
- Learn when to use a fire extinguisher and learn when to get out! Always pay attention to your surroundings. A fire can quickly surround you.
- Learn how to use a fire extinguisher properly.
- When in doubt, GET OUT!
- Quick thinking and good judgment are essential.
- This is important, so I’m going to repeat it: Please note that a fire extinguisher has limitations. If you have a fire in your home, know when to use a fire extinguisher and know when to GET OUT!
- Do not teach children how to use a fire extinguisher. No, no, no! Teach them to follow the emergency escape plan and get out of the house quickly in the event of a fire.
Electrical Receptacles – the shocking truth
This topic deals with safety for everyone. Current standards require all kitchen receptacles and circuits to be ground fault protected. GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. It is a safety device that can be a life saver. Failure to have ground fault protection can be deadly. Older homes lacking ground fault protection should be upgraded for reasons of safety.
Knives – they come in all shapes, sizes and colors
There are knives for every purpose, and I think we own one of every kind – paring knife, utility knife, bread knife, vegetable knife, to name a few. They all have one thing in common – they are sharp. The danger these pose for children is high. We must make sure they are not readily accessible to children.
- Install cabinet and drawer locks to help deter young children from accessing knives and other kitchen utensils.
- Do not leave a knife near the edge of a counter top, table, or kitchen island where it can be unintentionally knocked off or reached by little hands.
- Knives in knife blocks are an excellent way of storing knives safely.
Knives now come in a variety of bright colors, which can be attractive to young children. Keep them secured and out of reach.
Kitchen Appliance Cords – “choke” and “drop” hazards
Kitchen appliances that reside on counter tops usually have short cords and present little danger (unless they’re damaged). Those that do not reside on the counter top should never be left plugged in or unattended, and no part of the cord should be near the edge of the counter top or hanging over it. A child can grab the cord and pull the appliance off the counter and onto his head. He could also get the cord wrapped around his neck. Certain appliances such as a mixer could be turned on and result in an injury. Never leave appliance cords hanging over the counter top or near the edge of it. Notice in the image below that the cord is hanging down and the receptacle safety plug is not in place.
On a side note – old/older appliances might not have the same safety features as modern ones. Consider upgrading.
Step Stools – fall hazard, for one
A step stool left up against a kitchen counter invites your child to a number of hazards. First, he can fall off the stool and sustain a serious injury. Or he could drown in standing water left in a sink. And a sharp object can result in far more damage than a little boo-boo. Any of these can result in a trip to the emergency room, or worse.
Our step stool has come in quite handy since our granddaughter was old enough to learn to wash her hands. My wife or I helped her, of course, and although she’s now old enough to use the stool without assistance, I still get a little nervous not being right there beside her. Our 1-year-old grandson, on the other hand, cannot be left unattended, and I enjoy still being able to help him. For safety reasons we do not leave the stool at the counter when it’s not in use.
There are step stools with guard rails designed specifically for children. They offer added safety as well as peace of mind for adults. One caution, though, regardless of what type of stool you have, be sure that all unsafe items on the counter or in the sinks are out of your child’s reach. And don’t think for a minute that he won’t try to climb up onto the counter. Keep everything out of reach, including sink plugs, and make sure there is no water in the sink or in any other large object, and keep a close eye on your child at all times.
Dishwashers – shock, cut and fall hazards
Properly installed dishwashers should last a long time. There are three safety concerns I’m aware of with dishwashers. None should be taken lightly. The first is electrical, the second is sharp objects such as knives and breakable glasses or dishes and the third is a drop/fall hazard.
- The dishwasher should be hard-wired to a ground fault protected circuit. If it is plugged into an electrical receptacle, the receptacle should be ground fault protected. An unprotected dishwasher is a shock/electrocution hazard. (Note: disposers should also be hard-wired to a ground fault protected circuit.)
- If the door lock on your dishwasher can be easily unlocked, consider putting a door lock on it. A dishwasher door lock is similar to cabinet door locks and an oven door lock. Knives and breakable glasses, cups and dishes need to be kept secure.
- In addition to #2, an unsecured door can be opened by a small child who can then climb onto the door. If the dishwasher is not properly secured, a loaded rack could slide out and strike the child, or the child could fall off the door, resulting in injury.
Cabinets and Drawers – keep them locked
The following kitchen drawers and cabinets should be properly secured:
- Drawers with knives, kitchen utensils and other sharp objects
- Drawers with baggies and Saran Wrap (suffocation hazard)
- Junk drawers – small objects (choking hazard), sharp objects, matches reside there
- Cabinets or drawers in which medicines are stored
- Cabinets containing chemicals, cleaning supplies, poisons, etc.
Under my kitchen sink there is dish soap, dishwashing liquid, drain cleaners, Windex and bug killer. Oh, and let’s not forget the many plastic Walmart and Kroger bags. These are all common items found under kitchen sinks. In case you’re wondering about the plastic bags, they are a suffocation hazard. Saran Wrap and baggies can also be deadly. Please keep them secured.
I saw our granddaughter unlock a cabinet door recently. Maybe she’ll never get into anything, but she’s still a child. My other concern is that her younger brother might see her and learn how to open the locks. It’s time for better door and drawer locks, isn’t it?
I noted the most common hazards based on my experience. I trust you found these tips to be helpful, if only to serve as a reminder. Please share these with your family and friends.
As always, I welcome questions and comments, and I will reply to yours promptly. If you have additional safety concerns, please share them with us.