Are Toasters Fire Hazards?


If your toaster is showing signs of neglect or wear and tear, it’s crucial that you pay attention because it could be a fire hazard. Whether you’re at home or at work, this little appliance could be a disaster waiting to happen if it’s not used and cared for correctly.

Toasters are one of those appliances that we rely on to be there when we need them – and don’t have the time to fix when we think they might not be working properly. But is a broken toaster really an issue you need to be worrying about?

Could my toaster be a fire hazard?

All toasters are potential fire hazards because they expose bread products to intense heat. When the toaster is working fine, it’s generally not a problem, but many people forget the basic safety principles that they should follow when operating a toaster. Be aware, your perfectly operating toaster can be a fire hazard — it doesn’t need to be a broken toaster to cause a safety issue. It’s all about following some simple rules for operating toasters. 

Toaster on fire

Here are some of the key safety points to think about:

#1 Don’t leave the toaster unattended

This goes for most electrical appliances – certainly those in the kitchen. If you’re keeping an eye on your toaster, you’ll spot the first sign of an issue. If you’re at the other end of the house when it catches alight, you could be dealing with a disaster.

#2 Clean the crumb tray of the toaster regularly

Toaster issues are easily minimised by cleaning out the crumb tray of your toaster regularly. It’s like the base of a fire in your fireplace. When you have an open fireplace, you leave some of the ashes in the bottom of your fireplace because they provide a good base for the next fire to be lit more easily. The crumbs in the bottom of your toaster are just the same.

#3 Don’t re-toast your bread when it doesn’t look ‘done’ enough

We’ve all had this situation. Your toast pops in the toaster – it doesn’t look toasted enough and so you put it on for another round. So far so good – but where most people go wrong is that they don’t keep an eye on the toast and instead of manually cancelling it when they think it’s had the additional browning they need, they rely on the toaster which goes through another full cycle. You know that smell of charcoaled toast through your home or office? Many times, it’s because of double toasting. And if all you can smell is burned toast –consider yourself lucky, because you could easily have had a kitchen fire on your hands.

Fire hazard

#4 Make sure your toaster is in a well-ventilated area

Toasters are often stored in coffee nooks or appliance cupboards and while that might be neat and tidy, it’s not generally the safest place to operate the appliance. If your toaster is stored in a cupboard that opens up so that you can use the toaster without moving it out from the cupboard, beware. Toasters need air around them to operate safely.

The main concern is the heat coming from the top of the toaster so if your toaster is sitting under shelves in an appliance cupboard, make sure it is pulled well clear of the shelves before it is used.

People often just use the toaster where it is positioned in the cupboard and that’s a safety issue. You know those scorch marks on the underside of the shelf above the toaster, or the blistered paint that’s forming on the shelf nearby? These are all clues that the toaster isn’t being used safely and is creating heat that’s too intense for the materials around it. This means you’ve got a potential fire hazard and you should take steps to ensure that the toaster is moved to a safer place with clear ventilation space around the appliance.

#5 Don’t stick a knife (or any other object) into the toaster

This is the one we’ve all heard of. And there’s a reason we’ve heard of it – because it is a real danger in the kitchen in your home or office.

Sticking a metal object into a toaster extends the toaster’s electrical circuit to include you – and that’s not a party you want to join. Never insert any object into an appliance connected to an electrical circuit. And even if the toaster isn’t connected to an electrical circuit, be wary of sticking anything into it. Because there’s always a risk that the appliance you thought was pulled out of the wall is still connected.

These days in Australia, most electrical circuits are protected by safety switches or Residual Current Devices (RCDs) which cut the supply of electricity to the current almost instantaneously, vastly reducing the risk of electrical shock or electrocution. But don’t take the risk.

How can I tell if my toaster is broken?

If you suspect that your toaster is broken, then there are several steps you can take to check if it is safe to use:

  • Inspect your toaster for visible damage. If your toaster is showing signs of wear and tear such as frayed cords, damaged plugs or discolouration of the plastic exterior of the toaster, then that’s a sign that it could be past its prime. Don’t use any toaster that has any signs of visible damage unless you have had it tested and tagged to ensure it’s safe to use.

If your toaster shows no signs of visible damage, but you’re still not sure that it’s safe to use, the next step is to:

  • Get your toaster tested and tagged. Testing and tagging is a process of testing a portable electrical appliance (such as a toaster) to ensure that it is safe to use. First the appliance is inspected visually, then it is tested using a Portable Appliance Tester. The toaster will be tagged following the test to indicate if it is safe to use and when it next needs to be tested.

How can I make my toaster safer to use?

To make your toaster safer to use, follow the safety steps for using your toaster that were outlined above, get your toaster tested and tagged and ensure you have the appropriate fire protection measures in place in case there is an issue with your toaster.

In a workplace, you should have a working fire extinguisher on the site to deal with any fire emergencies. And there should always be a fire blanket in place in any commercial kitchen. Jim’s  Test and Tag provide testing and tagging services for all portable electrical appliances and can also provide fire protection equipment if needed on your premises. The Jim’s Test & Tag team have all been qualified in providing testing and tagging and fire protection advice so they can advise you on the best course of action to ensure you have a safe electrical environment for all your electrical equipment and appliances including your toaster. Jim’s Test & Tag have over 150 franchises across Australia so there’s bound to be one close to you, phone 13 15 46 for more information.

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