A little home appliance safety training can go a long way toward preventing needless accidents and tragedies. Get tips on how to best operate and maintain a variety of commonly used convenience appliances.
Learning to Use Your Appliances Safely
Training yourself and other family members in safe ways to operate appliances around your home is the best way to also extend the life of your units.
Improperly maintained furnaces present fire and carbon dioxide (CO) hazards. To keep your furnace running at optimum capacity:
- Have your furnace professionally cleaned and serviced each autumn.
- Clean the air filter monthly.
- Check periodically to make sure the flame burns blue and steady, and never burns outside of the furnace housing.
- If you detect a natural gas leak, evacuate everyone from the home and call 911 immediately.
Additionally, you should install a combination smoke alarm and CO detector on every floor of your house to provide early warning of potential dangers.
- Have your chimney inspected, cleaned and serviced annually by a professional chimney sweep. Problems to look for include:
- Creosote build up (highly flammable)
- Make sure the damper is open before you begin burning.
- Never burn trash or green wood in your fireplace because it causes excessive creosote build up.
- Always clean out ashes and debris from the last fire before you burn again.
- Always use an appropriately sized fireplace screen to catch sparks and prevent falling logs from rolling out and starting a fire.
- Keep combustible items well away from the flames.
According to the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission, close to 16,000 clothes dryer fires happen annually, resulting in an average of 10 deaths each year. Many of these fires could have been prevented by following basic home appliance safety training practices:
- Be sure to clean the lint filter after every load. Always check the back of the dryer for additional trapped lint.
- Clean out the dryer vent as well to reduce the hazard of a fire, increase air flow and reduce drying time.
- Have your dryer cleaned and serviced periodically by a qualified appliance maintenance professional.
- Use only fire-proof metal exhaust hoses and vents.
- Never dry fabrics that have been exposed to flammable materials such as gasoline, solvents and oils.
- Read the manufacturer's manual and only use your dryer in accordance with the recommended guidelines.
- Heed all warning labels on the machine.
Many common household accidents happen when operating the family oven. To reduce risk of danger:
- Keep burners, stove top and oven clean and free of grease and other flammable debris.
- Never leave flammable items such as hot pads or towels near burners.
- Never leave food cooking unattended.
- Never spray aerosols such as non-stick products and air fresheners near flames.
- Always turn pot handles inward to avoid the possibility of knocking a pot off the stove.
- Never wear clothing with long, loose sleeves while cooking.
- Periodically inspect electrical cords and gas connections for wear and damage.
Microwave ovens can present some of the same dangers as traditional ovens, plus a few additional risks. Be sure to:
- Never operate a unit with a door that is bent, warped or otherwise damaged in a way that prevents it from closing firmly.
- Never operate an empty oven.
- Avoid standing directly in front of a microwave while it is in operation.
- Avoid overheating liquids or they may super-heat and erupt, causing severe burns.
- Never use metal pans and utensils in the unit, or arcing will occur.
- Keep the inside of the oven, the door and all seals clean and free of debris.
- Periodically check for microwave leakage with an FDA-approved testing device.
When used in accordance with the manufacturer's guidelines, space heaters can be an excellent secondary heat source in areas where extra warmth is required. However, there is a definite danger of starting a fire when these appliances are placed in inappropriate areas and left unattended. Safety tips for operating space heaters include:
- Always read the operating manual before you use the appliance.
- Only place the heater in areas specified in the manual.
- Avoid placing the heater near water, or you run the risk of electrocution.
- Always inspect the unit and cord for damage before each use.
- Never operate a space heater without adult supervision.
- Teach children how to behave safely around the heating unit.
- Place the unit at least three feet away from furniture, draperies and other combustible materials.
- Only purchase and operate units that feature heat element guards and automatic cut off switches.
- Avoid using extension cords with your unit.
- Always unplug your heater when you are finished using it.
Garage Doors Openers
There is great potential for adults and children to become trapped, injured and even killed beneath automatically operated garage doors. Reduce the risk of accidents by:
- Thoroughly reading and understanding the operation manual before you install and use your unit.
- Keep the remote out of the reach of children.
- Keep your eyes on the door until it is completely closed.
- Never try to duck under a moving door.
- Test the automatic reverse mechanism on the unit once a month.
- Have a qualified maintenance technician inspect and perform any needed repairs on a bi-annual basis.
Operate Your Home Appliances With Confidence
Everyone should learn how to maintain and operate their home appliances without fear of something going wrong. Review these safety recommendations from time to time, put them into practice, and feel more confident about your family's well-being.