Healthy Living in the North

Tales from the man cave: Don’t get burned

Put on your hard hats

Men – put on your hard hats and be your own home safety inspector.

February is Fire, Burns and Scalds Prevention Month – something that should be very important to all of us.

I have to say that for me, I have a strong feeling that we men need to be our own health and safety inspectors when it come to the family home. Regular inspections are warranted in all areas of the home as well as walkways and paths outside.

Fire in the kitchen

The kitchen is a dangerous place and requires a serious evaluation.

It’s easy to get distracted. I once got carried away playing guitar and set my kitchen on fire. A pan of oil burst into flames, and I had to pull off a dressing gown, throw it in the sink, soak it, wring it out and throw it over the pan. Meanwhile, the flames were running across the ceiling looking for something to ignite. It was ethereal and I never knew that flame could react like it did. It was literally above my head and covering the entire ceiling.

I had a toddler upstairs in a cot and a three-year-old playing on the living room floor. The whole episode took literally less than three minutes before I had closed the door, ran to the electrical box, switched off the power, grabbed the kids and headed out the front door to safety. I also know that somewhere in that madness I also threw on some clothes and shoes. Don’t ask me how.

Luckily for us it was a Scottish kitchen and house which was small and had doors that closed off, robbing the fire of its oxygen. Here in Canada it could have been a different story and different outcome with open-plan living and consequently fewer doors to hold back fire and more space for it to develop.

Emergency services

This episode was about two days before Christmas and, sadly the entire house was black from wall to wall. But we still had a house.

Although I did the correct things such as avoiding pouring water on the fat fire which would have made it explode unpredictably, I bitterly regretted that momentary lapse. When the fire brigade came, they patted my back for a job well done as well as kicked my butt for being so stupid in the first place. Next came the hard part as I had to phone my wife at work and tell her: “Honey I think there might be a little problem having Christmas dinner at our place this year. Oh and in case I forget, love, the kitchen sort of went on fire.”

Note to self: don’t try and learn a new guitar lick and cook with oil at the same time.

Scalds in the Kitchen

I have always been afraid of fire as I had spent a few days in the burns unit in Glasgow, where I had to endure the screams of a three-year-old as her dressing was changed and it has stuck with me all of my life. It was too painful for me with children the same age. She was burned by a falling kettle of boiling water which she pulled over herself and had third degree burns over one third of her body. She was lucky to survive and I sometimes wonder how she is coping with life now.

My own family gets pretty cheesed off at me as I’m paranoid when it comes to anyone being in the kitchen when I’m cooking. I freak when kids come anywhere near me when I am cooking. Admittedly I’m older now and more fretful in this regard, especially when it comes to my grandchildren. Still, it’s better than the alternative.

Put on your hard hat

So, guys, put on your hard hat and get into safety inspector mode – you’ll not regret it. Also don’t be afraid to share your stories, maybe someone else could benefit from your experiences.

More resources for you:

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.