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When I was asked to write a blog on Fire Safety Rules For Businesses with Kitchens providing food it made me think back to what I had come across whilst conducting fire risk assessments in these types of establishments.

A reoccurring issue is that of a lack of staff training. This is especially noticed where agency or franchises provide staff to operate the kitchen facilities. In most cases the staff are told to raise the alarm and evacuate.

With this approach all staff are quickly out of the building, but the fire, which was originally small is growing and spreading which then affects the rest of the building.

Simple and basic fire safety training of staff working in high fire risk areas should be informed of the risks and trained in the use of the fire fighting equipment provided. This not only gives them confidence in themselves to tackle fires in their early stages but reduces the risk of fire spread and loss of the facility quite considerably. A rule of thumb for fire growth in compartments is that the intensity of the fire doubles every minute it is not attacked.

Other tips to help reduce risk and lower the consequences of a fire starting

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions

In kitchens there is inevitably a lot of equipment that could potentially be dangerous if badly installed or misused. Cooking appliances and apparatus such as ovens and deep fat fryers must always be properly installed and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Also, don’t cut corners when it comes to maintenance. Looking after your equipment is essential to ensuring safety in the kitchen.

Major fire risk with deep fat fryers

Deep fat fryers commonly used in fast food outlets and restaurants are a common cause of kitchen fires. Overfilling them can lead to the oil being ignited and going up in flames. Once started, the fire can spread very quickly, causing serious risk of injury and even death. Take care to fill to the appropriate level and never leave unattended if in use. A documented cleaning regime must be in place!

Also, if possible try and choose a fat fryer with a special system, built in to automatically turn off once the oil reaches a certain temperature, this stops overheating and reduces the risk of a fire.

Remote power shutdown for an emergency situation

Passive fire protection is important to ensure the layout of a kitchen helps prevent fire as well as aiding attempts to contain fire and make the area safe. If a fire starts, it’s crucial that the power or gas supply is able to be shutdown remotely, to make the situation safer for fire services and avert a potentially bigger disaster.

All surfaces should be kept clean and tidy

It probably goes without saying that a kitchen should be clean, but special attention must be paid to keep areas free of oil and grease. Build-up of grease inside cookers and oven tops can lead to a fire, so regular cleaning of ovens and equipment is essential.

In general, kitchens should be a tidy environment, without any clutter that could block exits and prevent escape in an emergency. All waste cooking oil should also be disposed of properly and not be left on the premises for longer than is necessary.

Ensure kitchen staff wear appropriate clothing

Again, in commercial kitchens, all staff should be very familiar with this basic safety rule, but in smaller establishments this may be less strictly regulated. Loose clothing should not be worn whilst cooking, sleeves must be rolled up and long hair tied back. Aprons are ideal for keeping clothes away from flames.

Never leave cooking unattended

The golden rule in preventing both domestic and non-domestic kitchen fires is to always pay attention to what you are doing. In a busy restaurant kitchen this may not always be easy, but timers can be really useful to alert chefs when food is ready, to avoid it being left in the ovens for longer than it should.

If for any reason cooking must be left, it’s important that all staff are instructed to turn off appliances and take pans off the heat. Even if you think that you’ll only be away for a moment, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Make sure the premises is secured at night –and checked!

As we all know how easy it is to forget to turn the oven off, it’s important that at the end of each day a final check is carried out to ensure all cooking appliances and equipment are properly switched off.

Ideally this would be the responsibility of the owner or the last person to leave at night. Creating a checklist for staff is a good idea to ensure the premises is secure.

Fire Safety Management System

A fire safety management system can significantly reduce the risks and minimise the potential effects of fire. Fire safety management need not be complicated for your food business. Fire Risk Assessments must be suitable and sufficient, therefore need to be completed by competent persons. We can help all sizes of food business (including, catering companies, hotels, restaurants and fixed/mobile takeaway companies) to ensure they get it right.

If you require information on how we can help you and your food business, please call us today. You’ll also find helpful tips in other blogs on our website.

Andrew Ferguson

Andrew Ferguson

Fire Safety Compliance Manager

Andrew is a professional life safety commercial fire risk assessor with 30 years’ experience. He is responsible for client fire risk assessments, fire safety training, consultancy and legal compliance.

Read more blogs from Andrew.

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