March 2010, Volume 21 Number 1 Search All Oracle Editions

Small Appliances in Classrooms – Is it Worth the Risk?

Over the past few years the Oracle has featured articles discussing the injury hazards associated with microwaves in classrooms and televisions mounted on A/V carts. Since then, the use of a variety of small appliances, such as kettles, toasters, portable heaters, etc. has continued to proliferate in classrooms. For school boards who allow this practice, the increased use of such devices (outside curricular requirements) in a school room setting, brings a growing risk exposure to serious injury for students.

While the benefits of hot meals, drinks and snacks in the comfort of the classroom at first may sound appealing, OSBIE has seen numerous avoidable injuries from heating/cooking appliances. Scalding and burn injuries have occurred from hot liquids being spilled on other students while carrying cups to their desks, or by knocking cups off desks, ledges, etc. In one case, a student tripped over an electrical cord and pulled a boiling kettle off a table causing serious and painful scalding injuries. In another “near miss” incident, students were caught trying to explode a D-cell battery in a microwave oven, narrowly avoiding serious injury. Portable space heaters pose injury hazards, as they can reach high temperatures quickly, causing burns if they are touched while in operation.

These types of hazards would not be present, or these incidents and injuries would not have occurred, if heating/cooking appliances were not present in the classrooms where students had access to, or could come into contact with them. It is recommended that, with the exception of classroom facilities designed to support curricular programs (e.g. family studies, life skills, etc.), that such appliances be restricted to cafeterias or where proper eating / cooking facilities exist and where there is proper supervision.

 David Beal,
Director of Risk Management