April 8, 2010
Considered an essential small appliance in most American kitchens, mixers are used for whipping, pureeing, and other food preparation activities. There are two primary types of mixers:
- Hand mixers are inexpensive, lightweight, can be cleaned quickly and easily, fit in a drawer or cabinet, and are used primarily for light mixing in a separate bowl or other container.
- Stand mixers are more heavy-duty, allow for hands-free operation, and are suitable for tough jobs that a hand mixer generally cannot accomplish, such as bread dough kneading. Stand mixers are a larger unit with an attachable mixing bowl and often occupy a substantial amount of countertop space. They can be both heavy and cumbersome to move or store when not in use but are most often preferred by those who cook often. Those who own stand mixers often also have hand mixers for smaller jobs such as whipping of cream or eggs.
Both hand mixers and stand mixers are electrically-powered small appliances. There are many mechanisms and aspects of mixers which may cause personal injury or property damage if the unit is defective, poorly designed, or misused. Below are some common mixer defects and vulnerabilities that may cause a risk of injury:
- Malfunctioning wiring causing risk of fire, burns, smoke, melting, scorching, and shock
- Potential of electrocution due to accidental immersion in water
- Damage to hands, fingers, and other body parts if mixing blades or other moving parts are touched during operation
- Breakage of internal components such as fan blades, with contamination of food and choking hazard from broken parts
- Hair entanglement in mixer blades can cause major scalp injuries
General Product Failure
As most hand and stand mixers are similarly designed and manufactured across multiple brands, the same defects and failures tend to afflict more than one company’s distribution. Some examples of mixer failures include:
- Sunbeam recalled 1,400 stand mixers in 1990 due to risk of severe electric shock to users caused by defective design and manufacturing. No injuries were reported prior to the recall.
- According to a 1987 physician review of kitchen mixers, electric mixers present a substantial risk of injury to children in particular. An injury of concern is the entanglement of hair in mixer blades leading to injury and disfigurement.
Statistics of Failure
In a January to December 2008 sampling by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), 21 emergency room visits were attributable to hand and stand mixer accidents and injury. The sampling provides a general view of the types of injuries caused by mixers :
- 13 incidents involved hands, arms, and fingers being sprained, bruised, and cut by moving mixing blades
- 4 injuries involved lifting or dropping of heavy stand mixers, including one incident of a heavy stand mixer falling from a shelf onto the victim’s head
- 2 injuries surrounded hair entanglement in the blades
- 1 victim’s hand was crushed within a stand mixer
- 1 person received a minor cut while cleaning the mixer
- 5 injuries were to children under the age of 18 years, with the hair entanglements involving a 2-year-old and a 9-year-old
Some examples of defective mixer design and manufacturing-related death and injury due to mixers include:
- In 1992, Rival Manufacturing recalled its handheld mixers after initial reports of incidences involving breakage of internal fans and subsequent contamination of food with the broken fan components. Twenty-seven incidences occurred and several involved minor injuries to the mouth or teeth of consumers who ate mixed food.
- Hamilton Beach/Proctor Silex also reported 15 incidents of fan blade breakage and subsequent mouth injuries due to food contamination in 1992.