A matter of life or death? Why it’s so important to use kitchen appliances properly

13 May 2020
By Unite Students, Staff writer at The Common Room

Did you know that 48% of building fires in England start with cooking appliances? That’s more than 12,000 fires across the period of one year.

It’s a scary number, isn’t it? In any ordinary household, a fire could put several people at risk. But in student accommodation, you may be sharing your home with hundreds of other people. Act irresponsibly, and you could be risking their health, as well as your own.

It’s not just the fire itself that is dangerous. Even a small fire can pump dangerous levels of smoke around a building, and this can cause huge issues. Chief among them is the spread of carbon monoxide, a gas that reduces oxygen in people’s blood and can very quickly put both yours and your neighbours’ health at risk.

We all play a role in keeping your home safe. For us, that means following all health and safety measures and making sure any fire risk is minimised as much as possible. For example, we run weekly fire alarm tests, use fire doors throughout our buildings and regularly test equipment.

You can help too, and it doesn’t even require much effort. Keeping fire doors shut helps. So does keeping exits clear. But one of the biggest things you can do is make small changes to how you use your kitchen.

Stay in the kitchen while cooking

One of the most effective things you can do to reduce the risk of fire is to stay in the kitchen while rustling up your dinner.

When you leave food cooking unattended, the risk of fire increases drastically. It’s easy to be distracted or forget about your food altogether, so staying with your culinary masterpiece slashes the dangers immediately. It also means that, if something does start to burn, you can take it off the heat.

Keep it clean

Dirty appliances are responsible for a lot of fires. Over time, collections of dirt, food or grease can develop and catch fire.

A good way to get around this is to give the oven or hob a quick wipe once you’ve finished using it and it’s cooled down, especially if any food is left behind. It’s then a good idea to give it a deep clean every few weeks.

Remember, this goes for toasters too. If you don’t regularly empty out the crumbs, there’s a chance they can catch alight.

Read more: Fire hazards: How you can help keep your student flat safe

Avoid any microwave mishaps

A clean microwave is a happy microwave. You also need to remember that you should never put metal into a microwave. This means no tins or foil. Otherwise, you could start a fire.

Remember to stay with your food while it’s cooking, just in case something goes wrong.

Only cook when sober

When you’re under the influence, your judgement, reactions and awareness suffer. It’s much easier to fall asleep and it’s much easier to forget about something cooking in the oven.

It’s just not worth the risk, so if you’re feeling peckish, grab something you don’t need to heat up.

Take care when cooking with oil

Cooking with oil presents a range of risks, as it can catch fire very easily, so it’s best avoided. The following tips are handy to keep in mind if you do need to cook with oil:

  • If the oil is smoking, it’s too hot and you should take it off of the heat.
  • Never add water to hot oil, as it can quickly cause a fire.
  • Make sure any food you’re adding to the pan is completely dry.

Avoid making mistakes

We all make mistakes, but make one in the kitchen and the result could cause harm to yourself or others. Make sure you remember to turn off the oven, hob and other appliances once you’ve finished with them.

Just as importantly, be aware of where you’re putting your tea towel or food packaging after using it. Unfortunately, thousands of fires are started every year by people leaving things on hot hobs or toasters.

Rustling up a delicious feast is one of life’s great pleasures, but it can go wrong if you’re not careful. But if you tweak your behaviour and follow these tips, you’ll be able to channel your inner Jamie Oliver without putting yourself and others at risk.

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Staff writer at The Common Room at The Common Room