The kitchen might be the heart of the home, but it is arguably also the most dangerous part of the home, especially for children. It contains sharp objects, hot objects and poisonous liquids, but do we realise just how hazardous these things actually are to our little ones?
This is what we tried to determine with our recent Kitchen Hazard Awareness Test. All participants had to do was click on the items in a kitchen scene that they thought presented a danger to children. While the majority of people did fantastically and were ranked Safety Superstars (scoring between seven and ten out of ten), many participants completely missed five major kitchen hazards that we think can’t be ignored.
Dishcloth close to the hob
When we are cooking, washing up or cleaning up, it’s easy to just throw a dishcloth down without a second thought. This could be why so many people who took our test completely missed the dishcloth left dangerously close to the hob – 67% of people, to be exact!
The hazard here is simple – if the hob was left on, was still very hot or simply unattended while in use, the dishcloth could catch fire. It’s really not surprising that 46% of fatal accidents to children are caused by fire or that, according to the London Fire Brigade, 60% of accidental household fires start in the kitchen.
The good news, however, is that this hazard can be avoided simply by keeping your dishcloths and other flammable materials away from the hob. Store them on the other side of the kitchen or hang them on a special hook – anything to eliminate the fire hazard.
Accessible cleaning products
The most concerning result to come out of our test was that 62% of people didn’t spot the accessible cleaning products, which were kept in a floor-height cupboard. Cleaning products are highly toxic if consumed, which is a likely scenario where young children are concerned.
Inquisitive and adventurous, young children will explore anything within easy reach, which in the case of our test, were the cleaning products. Not understanding what they are, but realising they are a liquid, the natural next step for many curious children is to drink from the containers, leading 30,000 children a year to wind up in A&E with signs of poisoning.
Don’t take the chance; simply keep things like bleach somewhere out of reach or, even better, under lock and key.
Open oven door
Leaving the oven door open is common practice to help cool it down or air it out, but you could actually be creating a hazard which 60% of our test participants failed to spot.
Look at an open over door through a child’s eyes – how easy would it be to clamber on top and see what lives at the lofty heights of the kitchen counter, or crawl inside that perfectly-sized little space you can never reach when it’s closed?
If children decide to act on these impulses (which adventurous youngsters often do!), they could easily end up falling off or even burning themselves if the oven itself or the door are still hot. 50,000 children aged under fourteen visit A&E every year because of burns or scalds, something that could be avoided just by keeping the oven door closed.
Remember, children’s skin is much thinner than ours, so even though the oven might feel cool enough to you, it could still cause serious damage to your little ones.
It might go without saying, but with the number of sharp objects found dotted around the kitchen, another real danger is of children accidentally cutting themselves. This is why we placed knives at the edge of the kitchen counter in our Kitchen Hazard Awareness Test, making them very accessible to curious hands. This didn’t stop 57% of people from overlooking this hazard though.
If this were to happen in real life and a child got hold of a kitchen knife, it isn’t just themselves they could be a danger to – they could also seriously injure somebody else. To stop this from happening, ensure that all knives are either stored in an inaccessible draw or knife rack when not in use.
Whether they are just beginning to walk and are unsteady on their feet, or are experts on two feet and love tearing around the kitchen, there is ample opportunity for children to slip and fall. This danger is even more likely when there are wet patches on the floor, something that 56% of people who took our test didn’t spot.
Falls account for around 44% of all child accidents in the home, so cleaning up spills and patches of water as soon as possible is essential. Make sure that children are supervised after the kitchen floor has been mopped, too, as it doesn’t take a huge amount of water to cause a slipping hazard!
With the most severe household accidents taking place in the kitchen, it is essential to make sure that you don’t let your guard down or become complacent. It could only take something like a knife handle overhanging the kitchen counter to spark a serious accident, so supervised kitchen time – not banned kitchen time – is key to keeping your little ones safe. You could even turn household safety into a game the whole family can get involved in.