Kitchen Safety at the Center of a Kitchen Design
A kitchen’s layout and design plays a crucial role in its function and safety. This is especially true for kitchen safety, which includes everything from appliance placement to overhead lighting to the type of flooring you choose. A kitchen remodel is the perfect opportunity for homeowners to create a safe and efficient space in the room that has become the heart of their home.
Since the kitchen is the most accident-prone room in the home, working with a kitchen design professional will ensure that your remodeled kitchen is properly equipped with the latest safety-focused kitchen products to minimize the risk of injury.
We’ve assembled some information regarding kitchen safety for your consideration.
Stoves: The Most Dangerous Kitchen Equipment
Gas and electric stoves are a source of fires and burn injuries in the kitchen with more than 40,000 people injured using stoves annually.
- Start with the basics: stoves must be secured to the wall. Every year, about 38,000 people are admitted to emergency rooms because of appliance or fixture tip-overs, including ovens. People have been known to use the bottom drawer of their oven as a stepping stool, and children can try to use this drawer to reach high up items.
- A gas stove should not be placed under a window where blowing curtains or breezes can fan the flames.
- Stoves should be installed where they won’t present a work-flow or traffic hazard. If placed too close to a doorway, anyone entering the kitchen may accidentally knock a pot off the stove, brush their skin against the heated metal, or even catch their sleeve on fire.
- A stove should not be within 24 inches of a sink to prevent water from accidentally splashing into a hot pan containing grease. When water lands in a pan containing grease, it can cause the grease to splatter in a way that can burn someone.
- The refrigerator and stove should be kept far enough from one another that anyone transferring hot things from the oven will not run into someone else who is getting food from the refrigerator.
- If your family includes inquisitive children, you may want to ask your kitchen designer about stoves and ovens with a lock-out feature. Most new stoves – GE, LG, Amana, Samsung, Wolf — include an oven lock feature that locks the oven door and disables the oven controls. Some of them have an optional feature that also locks the range top. When locked, there can be no unintended oven or surface burner activation.
Ask Your Designer for a Safe Cooktop
Cooktops with burners in a staggered layout can help prevent scalds from reaching over boiling pots. For the same reason, cooktop controls should be along the side or in the front.
You might think that an induction cooktop will solve the problem of burns from hot cooktop surfaces. However, induction cooktops can get hot, but not like a gas or radiant electric burner. The heat is transferred from the cooking pot to the glass through conduction. As soon as you remove the pot, the heating stops. And because the heat is going from the pan to the cooktop, the glass surface never gets as hot as it does on a traditional radiant electric range.
A nice safety feature about an induction cooktop is that if you turn on an induction burner with no pot on it by mistake, it won’t get hot.
Work with an Expert to Build in Kitchen Safety
Your kitchen designer knows from training and experience the safety features that should be built into your new kitchen. Here are some suggestions to discuss with your designer to maximize kitchen safety and minimize kitchen hazards.
1. Kitchen Safety Requires Good Lighting.
Poor visibility is one of the main causes of kitchen injuries. When you can’t see where you’re cutting with that knife, accidents can easily happen. Good overall lighting, coupled with task lighting that is focused on work surfaces, will decrease the chance of injury while preparing a meal. The lighting should be glare-free and even, without producing any shadows on the work surface.
Not only does the proper kitchen lighting create a safer cooking environment overall, but spills can be noticed more easily and they can be mopped up in time to prevent any slip-and-fall injuries.
Light in Layers. Lighting a kitchen in layers eliminates shadows and helps ensure a safe work surface. The key to lighting in layers is to install light fixtures in a variety of places, including the ceilings, under cabinets, inside cabinets, over kitchen islands and in the form of pendant lighting.
Install Different Types of Lighting. Installing different types of lighting is another way to light in layers. Different types of light fixtures point light in different directions, which ultimately helps ensure kitchen surfaces are properly lit.
Different types of light fixtures found in the kitchen include:
- Pendant lighting
- Recessed lighting
- Track lighting
- Task lighting
- Under-counter lighting
Make the Most of Natural Lighting. Multiple windows, skylights and large windows in the kitchen will maximize natural light.
2. Slip-resistant Flooring Contributes to Kitchen Safety.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that floors and flooring material contribute to two million slips and falls every year. During a kitchen remodel or when building a new home, installing non-slip flooring in the kitchen is recommended. Some types of synthetic material, cork, vinyl planks and laminate are all non-slip.
One of the most common injuries in the kitchen is caused by slipping and falling. When you’re working with slippery substances like oils and water, it’s inevitable that some of them will get on the floor. Then you’re at risk of slipping and hitting any of the various hard surfaces that are common in kitchens. Slip resistance is vital because grease, spills and even wet food can cause a nasty fall.
Some good slip-resistant flooring choices are laminate, textured tile and soft-glazed ceramic tile. Luxury vinyl planks, like Coretec Plus, look like hardwood flooring, but they are waterproof. It has some texture, so it’s slip resistant and less slippery than hardwood flooring.
If you go with tile, a throw rug with a non-skid backing is a good idea, especially around areas that get wet often, like in front of the sink.
No matter the flooring material, the best advice is: Keep the floor dry. Wet floors can make virtually any type of flooring slippery and cause slips and falls. Get spills and splashes wiped up right way.
3. Safe Storage for a Fire Extinguisher.
A fire extinguisher should be visibly located near a room exit, away from cooking equipment. Never locate an extinguisher near or under a cooktop or range, the most likely sources of a fire. You would not be able to reach an extinguisher stored in that area if a fire occurs in those areas.
4. Keep Electric Plugs and Small Appliances away from Water and Wet Hands.
Building codes require that every electrical receptacle be grounded and protected with GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupters). All wall-mounted room controls should be 15 inches to 48 inches above the finished floor. Additionally, power cords of small appliances should be kept away from the sink and plugged into GFCI outlets during use.
5. Install Water-temperature Regulators.
Faucets with anti-scald devices prevent the water temperature from rising to dangerous levels. The technical term for these Anti-Scald Devices is TAFR or Temperature Activated Flow Reducer. These automatic temperature control devices are easy to install and screw-on. Once installed on the temperature-controlled faucet, it will automatically turn off the water if the temperature gets too hot.
6. Design a Safe Floorplan.
Think about how traffic will flow through the kitchen, and design the floorplan to keep that traffic out of the cooking area. For example, avoid putting a range near an entrance or exit.
7. Put the Microwave at a Convenient Height.
Microwaves should be installed at a height that doesn’t require reaching overhead to put food in and take it out. Many homeowners don’t like microwaves on their countertops because they take up precious space and contribute to overall clutter. A microwave drawer installed in the island or other base cabinet will solve this problem.
It’s true that over-the-stove microwave ovens get the microwave off the countertop and puts all your cooking appliances in the same general area. However, in the interest of kitchen safety, this is a risky location. Having to reach over hot pots on the stove to take food out of the microwave can be dangerous.
8. Eliminate Sharp Corners on Countertops.
Use a rounded edge on the corners of countertops, especially islands and peninsulas, to avoid injury to children.
9. Use and Store Knives Safely.
Kitchen knives are one of the most useful tools, but they can also be one of the most dangerous. If not stored properly, knives can present a hazard, even when they’re not in use. Many knives come with a wooden block, designed specifically to store knives safely.
Loose knives should be stored with their tips facing the back of the drawer, handles forward for easy reaching. Cabinet manufacturers offer a drawer insert for safely storing knives, as shown in the photo above right.
Wall mounted knife holders offer additional safe and accessible storage methods.
10. Store Cleaning Supplies Safely.
Cleaning products may keep your home and family safe from germs, but they can also be a hazard during use and also when they are stored. However, you can prevent accidents by storing cleaning products properly and in safe conditions, away from food, children and pets.
Cleaning products should be stored in their original containers, as some cleaning products can warp plastic containers over time. Using new containers can also lead to mix-ups. Further, products that contain bleach should never be combined with products that contain ammonia, so keep them separate.
Manufacturers of built-in cabinet storage accessories offer various caddies for safely storing cleaning supplies. They slide out, then can be lifted out.
When kitchen safety is a priority, ask your kitchen designer to included one of these handy storage caddies in your new kitchen.
Of course, if you have inquisitive children, locks for cabinets where cleaning supplies are stored are a must. Cabinet manufacturers offer various locking options; you don’t have to have those plastic sliding locks if you don’t want them to ruin the look of your new kitchen.
There are many ways to make the kitchen a much safer place in which to work. Even though kitchens contain many hazardous elements, they’re easy to manage with the help of solid design and some common sense.
If want your new kitchen to be as safe as it can be, work with your kitchen designer to incorporate our tips.
,Special thanks to Gary Ashton REALTOR® | The Ashton Real Estate Group of RE/MAX Advantage in Nashville, Tennessee for giving us the idea and information for this article.
KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.