7 kitchen safety risks you should know

March 23, 2021 | by Peter Petratos, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Everyone enjoys a good home-cooked meal.

But as enjoyable as cooking can be, the kitchen can be a dangerous place for cooking pros and novices.

A variety of tools — from kitchen knives to toothpicks — are responsible for roughly 800,000 injuries that lead to emergency room visits each year.

A few simple steps can help make your kitchen safer and allow you to enjoy that culinary masterpiece:

  1. Beware of fires, prevent burns. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, cooking is the leading cause of house fires. Never leave food unattended on the stove. Keep oven mitts, wooden utensils, towels, plastic bags, etc. away from the stovetop. When cooking, keep the handles of pots and pans facing inward. Be extra careful when boiling water. Use a timer to remind yourself that you’re cooking. Supervise children at all times near the stove, oven and microwave. Consider keeping a multipurpose fire extinguisher in your kitchen. If a grease fire starts, never pour water on it; instead, turn off the burner, slide a lid onto it and leave it covered until completely cooled. For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. If you cannot extinguish the fire, get out of the house first and call 911.

  2. Prevent food poisoning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that roughly 1 in 6 Americans get sick from contaminated food and beverages and about 3,000 die each year. Wash your hands before and after handling any food — particularly raw meats. Consider using a paper towel or dedicated towel to dry your hands. Use proper food handling techniques: don’t cut fruit on the same cutting board you used to prepare meat; wash fruits and vegetables before peeling, but don’t wash raw meat, poultry or eggs; pay attention to expiration dates; and cook meats to the proper temperature. Regularly clean your fridge to toss out expired foods or leftovers that have spoiled. Learn how to tell if food is spoiled. Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours.

  3. Use caution with knives. Hundreds of thousands of injuries are caused each year by kitchen knives, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. A sharp knife is actually safer than a dull knife (dull knives require more force). Use a nonslip cutting board to cut food. As you cut, keep your hand on top of the knife blade in case it slips. Some other knife safety tips to keep in mind: wash dirtied knives immediately, don’t put them in soapy water to fish out later; don’t hold food in your hands while you cut it, push on a board with your fingers curled; use the correct knife for the job (don’t use a meat cleaver to chop an onion); store knives in a wooden block and don’t leave knives on the counter.

  4. Watch those appliances. Be sure to read the instructions before using that air fryer, mixer or coffee maker. Make sure the appliance is properly plugged in and on a flat, dry and stable surface, away from walls or flammable items. Set a timer for slow cookers (get one with an automatic shut off feature) and keep it turned off and unplugged when not in use. Follow instructions for cleaning after use. Keep your hands away from hot surfaces or moving blades (never put your hand near a blender or garbage disposal while it’s operating).

  5. Keep your kitchen clean and clutter-free. Take time to properly clean your stovetop and oven. Spills can leave kitchen floors wet and slippery, which can quickly lead to falls and injuries. To avoid taking a spill, clean up messes as they occur and keep your kitchen floors clean and dry. If any glass breaks, clean up carefully and thoroughly as tiny shards of glass can be difficult to spot and dangerous. Consider using a kitchen floor mat at your sink area to prevent slips. Keep fragile items out of arms reach. Be careful when using step stools.

  6. Dress for the occasion. Avoid wearing loose fitting clothing (it can catch fire while you are cooking) or dangling jewelry (it can get caught on pot handles or appliances). Wearing durable house shoes in the kitchen can also help protect your feet from a falling object such as a knife or a heavy pan, and prevent slip-and-fall accidents.

  7. Be aware of toxins, choking hazards. Keep all household cleaning products locked and away from small children. Some common baking ingredients, such as nutmeg, can be toxic when consumed in large amounts. When cutting hot chili peppers, use gloves to avoid direct contact with your skin, and wash your hands thoroughly after. If anyone in the family has a food allergy (e.g., nuts, eggs), use extra caution. Keep chocolate away from pets. Cut up grapes, hot dogs and other foods that are choking hazards for small children. Keep the number for poison control on your refrigerator (800-222-1222).

If you haven’t already, make sure to install and maintain smoke alarms on every floor of your home. Test your smoke alarms regularly to make sure they are working properly.

Open around the clock, Edward-Elmhurst Health’s Emergency Departments (EDs) located in Elmhurst and Naperville, and a freestanding emergency center in Plainfield, are ready to care for you. Learn more about emergency care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Our hospitals have earned national recognition in patient safety and quality. We’ve put numerous measures in place to keep everyone safe. Learn more about our Safety Commitment.

Related blogs:

How to handle an emergency

How (and when) to treat a burn at home

What to do if someone is poisoned

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