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Appliance Safety and Avoiding Home Injuries

How to Safely Enjoy Your Appliances

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Making sure that the products and appliances you buy have been safety tested and certified is an excellent start, but product safety does not end there. Liability also rests with the consumer to make sure that the product is used as intended and that care is given when operating the appliance. If we are not careful, we can easily create by our actions (or lack of), a hazardous situation that can have long range effects on our loved ones or home.

Most products come with manufacturer warnings and recommendations for safe use, but unfortunately, few read these important product manuals and many who do, quickly forget to implement them. This important appliance literature is often discarded along with the packaging, especially when set-up instructions were not required during assembly. Fortunately, many product manuals are easy to find online, but there's no guarantee you'll find yours, when you need it.

It's sad but true, even some products that have met standards can later be found to have a faulty design or part that poses a health threat. You can report such products or also check to see if appliances you are using have been subject to a safety recall, by checking with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Other safety precautions are learned from experience, which is not always the best way to learn, while others are just as important but more basic in nature. And some appliances come with additional risks such as warm mist humidifiers which contain very hot water and could possibly pose a scalding risk, should the unit be pulled off its perch or tipped over. The heating component also remains extremely hot; keep children away from warm mist humidifiers when in use. Learn why some prefer a cool mist over a warm mist humidifier, when children are in the home.

When operating appliances, be pro-active and follow a few basic appliance safety tips after of course, getting familiar with the manual. Keep everyone safe, including yourself:
  • Never drape an appliance cord over or into a sink or across a walking area or pathway. Gather excess cord and confine in a safe area behind the appliance.
  • Electricity and water shouldn't meet - do not allow electrical cords to sit, lay or come into contact with water or other liquids.
  • Always use more caution when operating appliances with small children in the home. And teach older children/young adults how to use appliances safely; don't assume they already know.
  • Steam can burn - always use care to protect your hands where steam can be present.
  • Always place a humidifier on a stable platform, out of reach of baby's crib or toddler's access. Avoid draping cords that could be pulled. This is especially important when using a warm mist humidifier which contains very hot water.
  • Do not use any appliance that has a frayed cord, exposed wires, melted plugs or burn marks on the prongs. Repair or replace damaged cords and plugs, or discard for safety sake.
  • Do not plug any appliance into a suspected faulty electrical receptacle.
  • Have a qualified person check any receptacles that show signs or arcing, flashing, smoke, are loose or give any concern.
  • Never use any appliance that does not have a UL seal of approval and certification.
  • Use an appliance only for what it is designed and intended for; other uses could pose a hazard, void the warranty or reduce its lifecycle.
  • Appliance cords are short for a reason - to keep the appliance as close to the receptacle as possible to avoid a hanging/draping cord hazard.
  • Only use appliances that are safe to use. Watch for unusual smells, noises or other sensory incidents that should not be present when operating that particular appliance. For instance, an iron that leaks could signal that interior seals are faulty; a humidifier that squeals or makes louder-than-usual noises could have worn fan bearings; a vacuum that emits a burning smell may signal an overheated motor.
  • Appliance cords should never get overly hot (could be warm). This could signal an electrical problem with the appliance or the receptacle.
  • Cords should not be used in close proximity to heat sources where it could become hot, melt or deteriorate.
  • Vintage appliances require even more caution and care because of age deterioration and possibly lack of certification or misuse. Some vintage appliances may not meet current electrical codes and should be used for display purposes only.
  • Appliances should be operated only on stable and dry surfaces.
  • Appliances should seldom, if ever, be used with an extension cord. If you must, make certain the cord is certified and rated for that appliance's wattage.
  • An auto shut-off function is a wonderful appliance safety feature, but do not misuse it. If there's only a smidgen of coffee left in the carafe, relying on the auto shut-off to turn the coffeemaker off in two hours, could pose a fire risk.
  • Monitor appliance use. Though some appliances may be safe to operate while out of the room, others require constant attention.

    Read More About Appliances & Consumer Tips:

    How to Handle Appliance Problems
    How to Extend Appliance Life
    Appliance Parts & Repair - Sources
    Appliance Buying Tips - Index
    What's a Polarized Plug?

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