10 Ways to Prevent Commercial Kitchen Fires

Fires in commercial kitchens are a common occurrence and can have potentially devastating effects on businesses.

According to UK government statistics, over half of all fires attended by the fire services involve cooking equipment, with many of these occurring in restaurants, canteens, hotel kitchens and fast food outlets.

There is a very high fire risk associated with professional cooking environments, as the potential for accidents is great in a fast paced, highly pressured environment. Combine this with large volumes of flammable cooking oil, naked flames and heat sources – and you have a recipe for disaster!

How to reduce the fire risk in restaurants and professional kitchens

A kitchen fire can start in an instant and take hold very quickly. As fires caused by cooking have the highest injury rate, it’s important to take steps to reduce the likelihood of a fire breaking out to safeguard employees and visitors.

If you’re a restaurant owner or work in a commercial kitchen, here are some practical steps you can take to protect yourself and prevent fires.

Get a fire risk assessment of your premises

With fires, prevention is better than the cure. If you’re unsure how to best protect your business, this is where fire risk assessments come in. Required by law, a professional will identify hazards on your premises that could result in a fire and how to mitigate the threat. Please note, it’s important that this is carried out by a qualified fire risk assessor or it may not be valid.

Always follow 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.

Be extra careful 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.

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 in an emergency

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.

Ventilation and extractor systems

In 1997 a fire broke out in a fast food restaurant at London Heathrow. The flames spread from the ventilation shaft above a fat fryer, through the air ducts, almost bringing the entire airport to a standstill. Due to its poor design and lack of fire safety, the ventilation system allowed the fire to spread throughout the terminal. This shows the importance of ensuring that ducting and extractor systems are designed with fire safety in mind.  

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 premises is secured at night

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.

Have firefighting equipment on hand

If your best attempts to prevent a fire from starting in a kitchen fail, then having the right equipment to extinguish any flames can make the different between an inconvenient mess and a business ruined. Special fire extinguishers for Class F cooking fires are essential for commercial kitchens and fire blankets are handy for smaller pan fires.

All staff should be trained in the proper use of firefighting equipment and know when a fire can be dealt with safety and when it’s best to get out.

Is your kitchen protected against fire?

At Euro Fire Protection, we provide fire risk assessments and safety equipment for a range of businesses. Let our qualified fire risk assessors help you protect your premises.

Call us today on 08000 515 199.

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