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How to stay safe while cooking
Tanya Munshi
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August 01, 2006

Cooking is your passion and you are always in the kitchen stirring up a storm.

Else you may be cooking for a more basic reason -- you need to eat. 

Either way, kitchen safety is very important.

Unfortunately, your kitchen has three key ingredients required to start a fire: fuel, flame and air. "Besides fires, cooking hazards like hot oil splattering and steam are responsible for burns and scalding," says 26-year-old Bangalore hotel management graduate and hotelier Anuj Gemawat. Other culprits include gas leaks and malfunctioning of electrical equipments and cooking utensils.

Well, it's better to be safe than sorry. So, follow our guide and avoid any disasters in your kitchen.

What to wear

Wear loose fitting clothes because they do not stick to the skin. No flowing garments like free-flowing dupattas or wraparound skirts. In case your clothes catch fire, take off your clothes immediately. Preferably wear cotton, as it soaks oil splatters and does not stick to your body. Avoid synthetic materials in the kitchen; if it catches fire it tends to stick to the body, causing harsh burns. Basically wear clothes that breathe since the kitchen is a hot place and you should not feel hot and stuffy in your clothes. Also, avoid wearing a lot of jewellery; as metal retains heat and tends to get very hot near flames or even in case of oil splatters.

Kitchen safety tips

Pets and kids

Kitchen equipment

Pressure cooker

"There are three main parts: the locking mechanism, the gasket and the pressure vent/seal," says Gemawat. If any of these items are not working properly (leaks or worn out), get it replaced/ repaired immediately. Never use a cooker that has exploded before. Get it replaced/ repaired at the earliest, as it can explode anytime again.

Other electrical equipment

Keep all your electrical equipments (except a fridge, of course), unplugged at all times when not in use like the microwave, mixer etc. This will avoid any accidental fires, sparks or short circuits.

During emergencies

Fire

First cut off the source of the flame (gas, stove or electric plug), then douse the fire with a fire extinguisher or a blanket. If it is not possible to get to the source and if the flame seems to be getting out of hand, evacuate the place as soon as possible and call the fire brigade and an ambulance.

Burns (minor/ major burns)

Dr Sailesh Mehta, a Mumbai based practitioner says, "Wipe the affected area with a clean damp cloth or else the wound will start hurting very badly. Then give the area an ice-rub and apply an antiseptic cream. Usually antiseptic creams have a cooling effect that help you to bear the pain and heal the wound."

Cuts and wounds

"If the cut is deep, first hold up the affected part with your other hand so that the wound stops bleeding," says Dr Mehta. "Then put the affected part of your hand/ finger in a bowl of ice to arrest the bleeding completely." You can then administer first aid such as an antiseptic cream or band-aid.

Electrical shock

Immediately isolate the source of the current with a non-conductive element like a wooden plank, rolling pin, wooden ladle or rubber gloves. "If you receive an electrical burn (from a toaster or a hot oven), then treat the affected part with cold water and ice compress," suggest Dr. Mehta.

Hot oil spluttering on the skin

Mehta suggests, "Whenever hot food, water, or oil splutters on the skin, immediately put the affected area under a running tap. The idea is to cool off the skin as heat tends to damage skin tissue. Then give a cold compress and apply an antiseptic cream to soothe the pain."

Steam scalding

Immediately take the victim away from the source, under a fan and apply an ice pack in the affected area.

First-aid/fire-fighting kits

"A kitchen should always have a first aid and a fire fighting kit, which must include a fire blanket and a fire extinguisher," says Gemawat. "Ensure that everyone knows the location of such items and how to use them. All these items must be kept in the open and be clearly visible to all," he says. Several buildings have fire-fighting devices such as fire extinguishers and water hoses installed in the passageways and kitchens.

"In case of a small fire you can cover it with a fire blanket as well as cover yourself/kids for protection while escaping, " says Kishor Handu from Citadel Security Systems in New Delhi, which specialises in fire safety products.

However, it's a good idea to invest in a fire extinguisher, which can be classified into various types:

"The ABC type extinguisher is the best choice as it beats any sort of fire as well as can be operated with ease even by a child," adds Handu. It costs about Rs 1,500 for 2 kg (model). A carbon dioxide fire extinguisher costs Rs 3,300 and is meant for electrical and kerosene related fires.

The Yellow Pages in your city/town has a list of companies, which provide fire safety products like fire extinguishers for home and office use. Most companies offer a demo on how to use fire extinguishers and other fire fighting products.

Have you experienced any disasters in your kitchen? Do you have any safety tips you would like to recommend to others? Post your tips and suggestions.




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