It’s not often we think about whether our microwave is in the optimal place, not to mention what we keep on our counters, where our throw rugs are placed, the lighting or flooring in our kitchens, or expiration dates on food. Yet each of these can cause kitchen safety issues for older adults. Let’s help protect ourselves and our loved ones by learning more about kitchen safety!
We can’t escape the use of appliances in the kitchen, but we can be mindful of their placement. Make sure to unplug appliances when not in use and to avoid using them around water sources. A microwave above the stove is one of the most dangerous places for it. Keep it at a height below your shoulders to avoid potential burns from a spill or from reaching directly over the stove.
Counters and cabinets
Try keeping all cabinets and drawers fully closed when they aren’t being used. Keep clutter to a minimum on counters and in storage areas. Keep commonly used items at counter height. Use sturdy step stools with caution and avoid using them on days that you are feeling off balance.
Many people balk at the idea of removing throw rugs, because we like them for warmth, added color or as cushion to stand on. However, they are dangerous and a common cause of hazardous falls. Instead of using throw rugs as your pop of color, try some new dish towels to warm up a room and add color.
Make sure there’s an ample amount of light above food prep areas, the sink, and the stove. You can also install night lights in the kitchen for those times when you need a late night snack, but don’t want bright lights shining. For easier access, make sure light switches are placed at all kitchen entrances and don’t place furniture in front of them.
Flooring and spills
Non-slip flooring in the kitchen will help prevent falls. If something spills, wipe it up quickly to ensure no one slips and falls.
Have you ever gone through your pantry, fridge, or freezer and looked at the expiration dates? If not, it’s a good idea to do this once a month. A big part of kitchen safety is making sure all food is safe to consume. There’s a lot of confusion over date labeling, which leads to a giant amount of food waste every year. Food is often marked with “sell-by”, “use-by”, and “best if used-by,” and each one means something different.
“Sell-by” is used for retailers to help them manage inventory, but food is still safe to consume past this date.
“Use-by” notifies consumers that the product should be eaten before this date, but often it’s not a safety issue. You will find this used on products like milk and meat. The product likely is consumable after this date; first, give it a visual inspection, then a smell or maybe a taste test to check for freshness. Never consume raw meat, and always cook it to the proper temperature. Check out this USDA reference for temperature guidelines.
With milk, it’s important to store it properly. Refrigerate milk at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less, always return the cap to the container, and never let it sit out at room temperature. By following these recommendations, your milk should last several days past the “sell-by” date on the container.
Lastly, “Best if used-by” is a date suggested by the manufacturer that the product will taste best and be the best quality before this date. However, the product is still safe to consume past this date.
Steps to creating kitchen safety:
- Keep appliances and plugs away from water.
- Place microwave below shoulder height and not above the stove.
- Keep kitchen cabinets and drawers closed when not in use.
- Get rid of throw rugs to prevent falls.
- Use a good amount of lighting throughout the kitchen.
- Have non-slip flooring in the kitchen.
- Clean up spills right away.
- Make sure to properly store your milk.
- Toss out expired food products.
- Go through pantry, fridge and freezer once a month.
By following these simple steps, we can make our kitchens safer and help keep our loved ones happy and healthy at home.