4 Kitchen Dangers You May Have Overlooked – And How to Design Them Out!
Kitchens are typically a home’s chief gathering spot—a place to cook, eat, watch TV, pay bills, and entertain. But when assembling a kitchen remodeling wish list, it can be easy to put aesthetics and function on the front burner and move safety to the back.
Yet, with all of the tools and cooking equipment located in a kitchen, the potential for accidents—burns, fires, slips, falls, cuts, and more — is there. There’s also the rise of multi-generational families, where young children and the elderly share the same space, which is spurring interest in making the room safe for people of all ages and abilities.
The following are four ideas to help prevent accidents, and design a kitchen for safety:
1. Help prevent burns and fire.
Cooking fires are the No. 1 cause of home fires, accounting for more than 150,000 home fires in 2010, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). To help prevent them:
- Install a sprinkler system. While it costs less to install a sprinkler system when building a new home, contractors can retrofit an existing kitchen with a sprinkler system when remodeling, according to NFPA. A kitchen should also include a fire extinguisher.
- Choose the right appliances and use them properly. Items should be tested and approved by an independent lab and installed by a qualified electrician, taking into account manufacturers’ instructions and area building codes, according to the U.S. Fire Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For example, appliances should be plugged directly into a wall outlet rather than with an extension cord, which may overload a circuit and cause a fire.
- Be sure that appliances have child-lock safety features, if you have small children. This prevents curious tots from opening oven doors and either getting hurt or inserting flammable items inside.
- Keep hooks for mitts, potholders, and aprons away from the range, since these items may catch a flame.
- Locate outlets correctly. All should be installed according to building and safety codes to avoid circuit overloads and fires. GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) devices are required anywhere near water and are designed to shut off an electrical current if the current connects with water.
2. Protect from slips and falls.
Falls account for 8.9 million visits yearly to hospital emergency rooms,according to the National Safety Council. Help prevent them in the kitchen:
- Lay a slip-resistant floor. Good options include wood, slate, rubber, or cork rather than polished—and slippery–marble, says Chicago architect Allan J. Grant. Better still—use a non-slip mat or rug, especially in front of a sink where water might splash and cause you to lose your footing. Rubber and cork are softer materials, and may be more forgiving than harder surfaces if breakables such as glass and china fall.
- Avoid level changes. Avoid any sudden changes in the floor level. If steps are necessary, a different pattern or color or adequate illumination will warn visitors, according to the principles of Universal Design, which is a design philosophy that works to make a room and products safer for all ages and physical impairments.
3. Cut the risk of cuts.
Numerous stores and websites offer products that can pare accidents. Examples: Knife blocks have slots for safe storage, so you don’t reach into a drawer and potentially get cut. Also, Kidsmartliving.com recommends plastic dishes so children won’t break dishes and glasses. Adequate lighting is also essential to perform tasks safely. Allan Grant prefers LEDs, now available in many color renditions, for their longevity and energy-efficiency.
4. Prepare for the unexpected.
Extra planning to arrange cabinetry, counters, and appliances can make a kitchen safer. David Newton, kitchen designer and trainer for the National Kitchen & Bath Association, recommends having enough cabinetry to store small appliances so they don’t clutter counters, which may lead to accidents; planning for sufficient “landing” counters by burners to avoid carrying hot food and drinks; installing pull-out shelves and drawers for cabinetry to help you avoid searching deep into corners and straining backs; and planning for at least 48-inch aisles for two adults to pass safely.
Bottom line: Advance planning can make a big difference in safely enjoying your newly remodeled kitchen!
[Featured Image: Kitchen Design: Karen Swanson, New England Design Works, Manchester, MA; Photo: Evan White]