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Monday, October 18, 2021

Protecting yourself in the kitchen – a sobering safety message


This guest post comes to us from journalist and Qatar resident Sindhu Nair, who burned her face and lost her eyebrows last month when her gas stove malfunctioned. Here, she reflects on the incident and offers tips on how others can protect themselves while in the kitchen.

By Sindhu Nair

It is now a month since my accident. Enough time to heal, to retrospect and now it is time to act.

One afternoon during a cooking experiment with my kids, and in the process of lighting my gas oven – the final act of baking our dish – gas that leaked from the open upper burner caught fire from the already lit bottom burner and jumped to my face as I peered into the oven.

It was just a first-degree burn but the pain was unbearable. I was rushed to emergency and timely medication helped in the recovery process.

This is not an incident I would want to write about. I would rather flaunt my new shoes or write about my kids and their creativity, or better still, post pictures of our latest holiday in an exotic locale. (Not that I am going to stop doing that!)

But now, since the burning incident is behind me and I have fully recovered, except for the lack of eyebrows and a changed hairline (I am sure you have conjured up a frightening picture of me, which is far from the truth), I have to write about this burning issue of safety in our kitchens.

What happened to me could have happened to anyone, anywhere, but the fact that this happened in Qatar makes me want to share some safety points that I have learnt in the process of healing here.

This incident made me aware that we don’t give much thought about our own safety especially when we are doing something as mundane as cooking.

This is for all the talented homemakers who spend hours in the kitchen and for some not so talented ones who enter the kitchen only in absolute necessity! This is about the dangers that we constantly come against while working with fire.

So please take care, you might not be as lucky as I was!

  • When using gas ovens, make sure that only the required burner is on as most ovens have a grill burner on top in addition to the lower burner for baking.
  • In case of a small fire, do not panic! Just shut off all gas burners’ supply or better still, shut off the main regulator prior to exiting the kitchen. Get the extinguisher or a blanket to avoid major incidents.
  • The kitchen should be well-ventilated either by the exhaust chimney or the traditional exhaust fan which should be running when you are working in the kitchen.
  • Ensure that the portable fire extinguisher is in good condition with adequate charge pressure. It could be either a DCP or a CO2 , the latter being preferred for use in electric fires. The placement of the fire extinguisher should be just outside the entrance of the kitchen and not inside it.
  • A fire blanket made of fire resistant material (or a thick woolen blanket) should also be placed next to the fire extinguisher and could be used for smothering the flames in cases of pan fires caused due to overheating of oil.
  • Make sure all flammable materials like cloth, paper, conventional matchboxes, lighters and packings of any kind are kept away from the cooking hobs.
  • In case you are using gas burners, the gas regulator and the tubes should be inspected regularly and replaced in case of any damages. Never modify the original regulators as they will cease to retain some of their built-in safety features.
  • Lastly, never allow kids to cook on their own. I cannot even imagine what would have happened if one of mine were near me when I was lighting the fire.

This incident has made me even more thankful for the small things we take for granted, the love and care of my family and our close network of friends.

The constant reminders from my two girls that I was the most beautiful mother on earth when my face was just a dark red mess, the mixture of relief and horror on the faces on friends when they saw the damage while realizing what more could have happened, the constant care from hubby, prayers from Amma and sis, well, all this made this ordeal so much less painful!

Thank you all for being there! Be safe.


Credit: Photo by Steven Depelo

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