Holiday Safety – Part 1

I probably should have written this post last week where you might have had time to think about all the temporary hazards that arise during the holidays.  November and December are some of the most dangerous months of the year.

The number one hazard is STRESS!  We’re worried about who will come to dinner, and who’s not coming to dinner.  We worry about whether dinner will be acceptable to all, and then the mental choices and physical things of the day begin to happen.  Stress makes us “distracted” which I discussed last time.

While we’re trying to please everyone, we sometimes place the whole event at risk.  There are quite a few families that cause structural fires in their homes each year from cooking equipment.  In fact, according to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), there were over 1400 such incidences in the United States in 2006 and 2007.

FOLLOW the manufacturer’s instructions for your cooking equipment.  They are required by law, to have safety devices in place to keep the user from the “point of operation”.  They are required by law to instruct the user to operate the equipment safely.  If the manufacturer doesn’t do these things, they can’t sell the product.  Do NOT remove the safety guards thinking they aren’t necessary.  They ARE necessary to keep users from getting injured.  Safety protection is not designed to make people miserable, it’s designed to protect them from areas where people have been injured.  Simply put,  without safety protection, people get hurt.

Let’s take your deep fryer for instance.  How many people begin this cooking adventure remembering that oil is lighter than water, that boiling oil does not get along with water, and that if a fire starts as a result of the fryer tipping over, or somehow, the oil finds the burner, that water is not a good solution?

What’s the right way to be safe with this piece of cooking equipment?  The manufacturer has told you specifically, but just in case you have lost your instructions, here goes:  the boiling cauldron of oil belongs outside, away from buildings, on level cement.  Do not overfill the fryer with too much oil, or place a bird that is wet or partially frozen inside.  If your fryer does not have a thermostat the oil will simply heat up until it catches fire, so you must manage the flame instead.  Do not leave the fryer unattended, even for a short time to go get a beer.  Keep children and pets away from the fryer even after the turkey is removed, because the oil will remain hot for a long time.

It may sound silly, but PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is also a good idea when operating this piece of cooking equipment.  Safety glasses or goggles will keep the splattering oil from burning your eyes.  OK, wear sunglasses if you need to be cool, but remember, you can’t see as well with a shaded lens.  Wear long sleeves to keep the oil from leaving battle scars, and have an “ABC” type fire extinguisher close by.  Putting water on an oil fire really makes the fire big.  The burning oil simply floats on top of the added water, and the fire will not go out.  If you have to use the fire extinguisher, remember the acronym “PASS”.  (1) PULL the pin, (2) AIM the nozzle at the base of the fire from a few feet away, (3) SQUEEZE the handle, and (4) SWEEP from side to side.

Thanksgiving is the first safety hurdle of the holiday season.  It will be filled with temporary hazards that may not exist any other day of the year.  We keep our workplaces safe by identifying hazards, and either fixing them ourselves, or telling someone so we can get them fixed.  When your children identify hazards, don’t ignore them.  If you think something is unsafe, it probably is.  If someone tells you something is unsafe, it probably is.  Take a moment to investigate the claim before something gets out of hand.

I believe the first settlers had to be safe to just get those three, tiny boats across the great Atlantic Ocean.  The cooks had the best living spaces on those three ships because they carried a burden others didn’t have.  They were charged with keeping the crew fed without burning down the ship, the same task all cooks will face tomorrow.

I’m thankful for my family, my friends, for God and for my Country.  I’m thankful that American Indians brought food for the 53 pilgrims that were still alive (half the original party) on their adventure to the “New World”.  And, I’m really thankful to have the time and space to maybe keep some of you safe during this special day.

Remember, safety is NOT what we talk about, it’s about what you actually DO.

Dave

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