Dishwashers – My Love/Hate Relationship
I love my dishwasher!
It saves me a huge amount of time and effort each and every day. Yes, I know that they are expensive to run and they don’t always get the dishes as clean as you would like first time around, but I just don’t care. For me, life is just too short to spend it standing at the kitchen sink hand-washing pots and pans.
However, there is one thing that really annoys me about dishwashers (or rather dishwasher loaders) and that is their obsessive compulsion to load knives into the dishwasher with their sharp points facing upwards towards my face and the faces of my children!
This practice is dangerous and, if you are one of these “dishwasher sticking-up knife offenders”, I suggest that you stop immediately! For those of you that think I am over-reacting and demonstrating the “health and safety gone mad” culture that the Daily Mail likes to moan about from its front pages, I suggest you open up Google and type “dishwasher knife accidents”. Go on … do the search and come back to this post.
Yes, such accidents are rare, but often result in death or serious injury. They are described in the media reports as “freak accidents” as if no-one could ever imagine such an event occurring. I don’t accept this categorisation – these accidents are obviously foreseeable and preventable. If they weren’t obvious to the unfortunate victims in the past, these accidents are certainly foreseeable now that we have access to these media reports.
Whenever I question this dishwasher loading behaviour amongst friends and relatives and politely suggest that this practice is dangerous and unnecessary, I am invariably met by one of the following responses:
- The knives won’t get clean if the blade is facing downwards;
- Oh, don’t be silly, what are the chances of someone getting hurt?
(1) Unclean Knives?
These people must be doing something wrong!? In the 15+ years that I have been using a dishwasher I can’t say I have ever noticed that my knives have been unusually dirty as a result of placing them into a dishwasher point-downwards. Is this an urban myth that has survived from a bygone age when dishwashers were badly made and chose not to clean knives unless they stuck upwards? Are these people ramming 50 knives into a single cutlery compartment so that the water can’t circulate? Or are they just spouting the same nonsense that they were told by many years ago by someone else?
Anyway, who cares if the occasional knife needs another go in the dishwasher or (heaven forbid) you have to clean off the stubborn residue by hand?
I would much rather risk a slightly dirty knife once in a while than risk my child suffering death or serious injury as a result of a sharp knife sticking out of the dishwasher.
(2) What are the Chances?
Firstly, if you googled this subject you will already know that these incidents are not unheard of. In addition to these very serious reported incidents, carelessly placed knives are responsible for thousands of more minor injuries each yer.
But, most importantly, this attitude demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the “risk assessment” process. As parents, we are conducting ad-hoc risk assessments all of the time without realising it. Assessing risk is not a 1-stage process, it is a 3-stage process in my opinion. The 3 questions that you must ask yourself when considering the safety of an activity are:
- How likely is the accident?
- How serious are the likely consequences of such an accident?
- What are the costs of preventing the accident?
When I refer to “cost”, I don’t necessarily mean money … but rather the child’s loss of liberty/independence/enjoyment etc.
People very often stop after question 1 – their rationale is that if something is very unlikely to happen then it probably won’t happen to them so lets just get on with it.
However, Questions 2 & 3 (when looked at together) are key ingredients of the risk assessment process. I don’t care how unlikely something is to happen … if the consequences of it happening are death or serious injury to my children, and the cost of preventing that risk is “zero”, I am going to prevent the risk! Why wouldn’t you?
Of course, parents cannot guarantee the safety of their children at all times and sometimes the “cost” of removing all risk is too high is you want your child to develop life skills and a healthy degree of independence. But dishwasher knife safety has nothing to do with preventing your children from exploring the world and there is a simple solution to the problem.
You’re Still Going to Do It?
If, despite my advice, you insist on putting the cleanliness of your steak knives above the safety of your children at least have the sense to keep the door of the dishwasher closed and perhaps use a cupboard strap-lock to keep it that way!
What to Do if Your Child Suffers a Knife Injury?
Obviously, if your child has a knife stuck into any part of their body you need to call the emergency services.
I am not qualified to give you detailed instructions on what to do whilst waiting for them to arrive – you can get this information from a first aid website, book or training course.
However, the one thing that you must never do is remove the knife from the child’s body – this is likely to cause more damage and cause greater blood loss!