Cooking Up a (Fire)storm

Cooking Up a (Fire)storm,: Avoiding Trouble with a Health and Safety Plan--Call to Action!Even more useful than knowing just the right sauce or the perfect way to sauté vegetables is developing some common sense around cooking. This means learning how to prevent stovetop and oven fires. Of all the causes for home fires and injuries in the home, cooking is the number one culprit.

Everyone needs to eat, and restaurants are expensive. Most adults can make a basic meal using standard kitchen appliances. For many people cooking is a relaxing, useful skill, and sometimes even a major hobby. Cooking classes and kitchen supply stores are doing a booming business.

Neophyte hobbyists and reluctant cooks all need to know how to prevent fires while cooking. Homes need a health and safety plan just like worksites do. Here are several kitchen strategies to help you prevent and deal with cooking fires.

Some Facts

More than two-thirds of all cooking fires in the home started with food catching on fire on top of the stove or in the oven.  Only one percent of all fires involved clothing first catching fire. However these accidents results in over 15% of the deaths. And fires involving stovetops causes 57% of all fires, while ovens caused just 16%.  50 things you must know about safety leadership

Trying to fight the fire yourself usually doesn’t work. More than 55% of all fire injuries happened when the cook tried to douse the fire herself.

Frying causes the most fires. And Thanksgiving is the most dangerous time of year in the kitchen (even more so if you’re deep-frying the turkey in your garage!).

How to Prevent Fires in the Kitchen

The most effective way to avoid a fire is to stay in the kitchen when food is cooking. Don’t cook if you’ve been imbibing or if you’re drowsy. The result of both conditions is the same: a cook that isn’t attentive to the dangers of fire. If you have doubts about your state, recruit a more alert family member or visitor to help you monitor the stove and oven. Keeping an eye on cooking food is the most important part of your kitchen health and safety plan.

Turn off the stove if you need to leave while grilling, frying or broiling. You can safely leave if you are boiling, baking, simmering or roasting, but be sure to check the food regularly. Using a timer is a good way not to lose track of time.

Keep flammable objects away from the stove. Don’t put oven mitts, dishrags, wooden spoons or other utensils, food boxes or other types of packages on the stovetop. Keep anything that might catch fire away from stoves and ovens.

Oil, a Big Culprit

Daily cooking relies on oil of all types, olive, corn, soybean, canola or butter. It is essential if you want to fry or sauté food.

Be safe by taking these precautions:

  • stay in the kitchen when you fry. Never leave an unattended stove where food is frying.
  • if you see smoke or smell oil burning, turn off the burner and remove the pan
  • always heat oil slowly
  • add food gently to avoid splattering
  • make sure a lid is within reaching distance of the stove. You can use it to smother an unexpected fire.
  • if the fire doesn’t go out, get out of the kitchen, out of the house and call the fire department. Better to be embarrassed than burned.

What to Do in Case of a Fire

First, it is important to get out. Close the door as you leave to help contain the flames and smoke. Then call the fire department outside from your cell phone.

If you choose to stay and fight it, first alert others in the house. Make sure you have a workable exit strategy for yourself.

Always keep a lid near the stove to smother grease fires. Keep it on the pan until it has entirely cooled. If the oven catches fire, turn off the heat and be sure to keep the door closed.  Avoid the temptation of opening it to see if the fire has gone out.

Keep one, or better two, kitchen fire extinguishers close at hand; and learn how to operate it. Check it once a year to make sure it is up-to-date and still works. Although a fire extinguisher is one of the most effective ways of handling small fires, they are found in only a small percentage of home kitchens. They should be part of everyone’s kitchen health and safety plan.fctc-online-banner

Make safe cooking a part of your kitchen routine. Always monitor how your food is doing when using the stove or oven. And never leave cooking food unattended. Most kitchen fires are completely avoidable by exercising a few basic precautions.

~Mary Hannick

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About the Author

safetyBUILT-IN is the safety-leadership learning and development division of SCInc. We believe sustainable safety performance is best achieved through a core-values based safety culture, and that culture must be driven by leadership. Our safety-leadership programs are competency-based, and focused on performance outcomes. We believe in building capability and ownership into our client organizations—as well as sustainability into our programs—so that our clients can continue running those programs long after we’re out of the picture. Our emphasis is on building better leadership presence, better leadership communication and better leadership coaching by first building relationships of trust with people and learning how to engage them on the level of their core values and beliefs.