Two years ago, a friend told me a story no parent wants to tell. A pot of water was put on the stove to boil. His daughter was able to reach the pot handle. In an instant, she grabbed the handle and hot water poured down and scalded her.

Since then, my wife and I had our first child. He is now two years old and is fascinated by the stove in our kitchen. He is constantly trying to climb the stove by pulling on the oven door and standing on the handle of the pot drawer at the bottom of the stove. It is a never-ending battle to keep him from trying to climb the stove and to keep his hands away from the stovetop and the hot pots and pans he finds so irresistible.

Children’s fascination with stoves and the tools we use to cook on them is not a new phenomenon, but it is an incredibly dangerous and costly one.

A five-year-old Missouri boy was awarded $35 million in lifetime benefits when a pot of boiling water slid off a stove that tipped when he stood on its open door trying to reach a pot. The stove was not equipped with an anti-tip bracket. When the stove tipped, the boy suffered severe scald burns to his groin and thighs. It was an easily preventable tragedy.

According to a comprehensive study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 1,700 emergency department treated injuries involving stove instability and tipover. From 2000 to 2006, there were 13 reported fatalities and one injury associated with instability and tipover of stoves, ovens, and ranges. Most of the reported fatalities involved children under the age of 10. The stoves most commonly involved in tipover fatalities and injuries are freestanding or slide-in ranges with oven doors that swing downward, much like the stove pictured here.

The majority of the reported injuries caused by stove instability and tipover were scalds and burns. Frequently, the injuries occurred when weight was added to an open oven door, such as when a child would open the door to stand on it. When that occurred, the stove would tip forward and the hot contents of pots and pans on the range would spill onto and scald the victim.

In response to the danger presented by stove tipovers, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) created standards that require all ranges manufactured after 1991 to be capable of remaining stable while supporting 250 pounds of weight on their open doors.

In addition, manufacturers’ instructions require that anti-tip brackets sold with freestanding stoves be installed with the stove.

In each of the instances reported by the CPSC, the stove was not anchored to the floor or wall. Inspections for anti-tip brackets are required for freestanding ranges in many municipalities and are recommended for all freestanding ranges by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

Anti-tip brackets are simple metal devices designed to prevent stoves from tipping over when weight is applied to an open door, and can be purchased for less than $10. This simple, inexpensive device can and should be installed on every freestanding stove and range. It will help to prevent serious, sometimes fatal burns and injuries caused by stove tipovers.

In addition to anti-tip brackets, there are a number of simple steps you can use to prevent burn and scald injuries in your kitchen:

  • Place objects in your kitchen so that they cannot be pulled down or knocked over.
  • Turn pot handles away from the stove’s edge.
  • Use dry oven mitts or potholders. Hot cookware can heat moisture in a potholder or hot pad, resulting in a scald burn.
  • Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
  • Establish a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove.

When you buy or rent a home or purchase a new stove, you should be sure to inspect for an anti-tip bracket. If there is not already one in place, make sure you have one installed. Be vigilant in your kitchen. Scalds and burns caused by kitchen stoves are preventable. Tragically, when they are not prevented they can result in catastrophic injuries.