Refrigerator Safety Guide

Safety Team
Updated Feb 1, 2021
12 min read
While you might not consider a refrigerator to be a particularly dangerous item, it is still important to keep in mind that refrigerators can and do cause injury.

Refrigerator Safety Awareness

Possible injuries that can be caused by a refrigerator include bumps and bruises, cuts, pinches, electrical injuries including electrocution and fires, burns from coolant chemicals and coils, poisoning from inhaling coolant chemicals, and even crush injuries.

While statistically-speaking, more injuries are caused each year by ovens and stoves than refrigerators, The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) estimates that there were more than 7,000 injuries to children under the age of 18 caused by refrigerators that were treated in hospital in the United Stated in 2013.

The number of actual injuries caused by refrigerators is likely quite higher than this, as the data from the CPSC only looked at those injuries which resulted in medical treatment at a hospital, and minor injuries were likely treated at home or another medical treatment facility not included in the reporting data.

Besides physical injuries caused by falls, pinches and more, it is worth noting that food-borne illnesses can also be directly attributed to improper refrigerator use or function. In fact, the CDC estimates that about 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases each and every year, which makes ensuring your refrigerator is working properly of the utmost importance. Young children, pregnant women and the elderly are all at increased risk of contracting a food borne illness.

With research from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), finding that only 40% of Americans know eating food stored in a refrigerator with a temperature higher than 40°F increases the risk of food borne illness, more education is also clearly needed.


Safety considerations when purchasing refrigerators

  • For the most part, safety standards for refrigerators have been created by a mix of consumer groups, government agencies, producers, retailers, and suppliers and are completely voluntary on the part of manufacturers. Look for a sticker on your refrigerator that tells you it’s been approved by CSA, ASTM, ANSI, UL, CPSC or some other such safety association. Be cautious of purchasing a refrigerator made in China, as regulatory standards are much different there than in the United States. The Refrigerator Safety Act provides a requirement that all refrigerators sold in the USA have the ability to open a door from inside the unit.
  • Other safety features to look for include anti-tip technology, sealed cooling and electrical components, safety glass or shatter-proof glass shelves and shelves that adjust without removing – which can reduce the risk of cuts.
  • If your refrigerator came with a warranty or registration card, be sure to complete the form and mail it in to the manufacturer. This way, you’ll be notified of any recalls or other safety information in the event of a problem with your model. Surveys done by Consumer Reports National Research Center show that most people seldom or never take this essential safety step.
  • Have a trained professional install your refrigerator and ensure you’ve made allowances for any space or other clearance requirements necessary for safe installation. Your refrigerator should also have its own dedicated spot on your electrical circuit in order to prevent power overloads and other electrical problems.
  • If you have young children in your home, installing aftermarket refrigerator safety products such as an appliance latch or lock can help to keep them safe.


Safety considerations when operating refrigerators

  • Experts recommend storing food in cold temperatures (40°F or below) in order to prevent harmful bacteria from growing. Know that refrigerator temperature can fluctuate depending on the season, so you will want to adjust the controls as necessary to ensure the interior temperature stays at 40°F or below.
  • If your refrigerator does not come with one already installed, look at purchasing an aftermarket refrigerator thermometer in order to ensure your refrigerator is keeping food at a safe temperature. Leave it on the middle shelf and check regularly.
  • Clean up any spills immediately to prevent the growth of bacteria and risk of food borne illness.
  • Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation, use and cleaning of your refrigerator, and don’t hesitate to contact them if you should have a question about something specific that isn’t covered in your user manual.


Cleaning refrigerators safely

  • Ensure there is adequate ventilation before you begin cleaning your refrigerator. The fumes from many household cleaners can be toxic and make you ill.
  • Ensure any residue from cleaning products is thoroughly removed before you use your refrigerator to store food again.
  • Ensure the refrigerator is turned off before you clean any electrical components or disassemble the ice or water dispenser unit to clean it. You’ll also want to turn off the refrigerator before cleaning the condenser coils (use a brush or vacuum).
  • Make a habit of vacuuming the front grill free to keep it free of dust in order to allow proper airflow to the condenser which will give you the best cooling and efficiency from your unit.


In case of accident

  • In case of a cut, pinch or mild bump, immediately remove yourself from the area and seek first aid treatment when necessary.
  • If a more serious accident should occur, do not hesitate to contact 9-1-1.

With the above tips in mind, in no particular order, here are 25 of the refrigerators we consider to be the safest, based on available features and average customer reviews and ratings.

Home Security Experts

Safety Team

The Safety Team is a group of experts that handle provider research, product reviews and recalls to make your home safety and security search as easy as 1-2-3.

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