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.Tags: class f fires, kitchen fires, restaurants
What are Fire Blankets?
Fire blankets are ideal for putting out small burning pans, so it’s recommended to keep one in the kitchen and learn how to use it correctly and confidently.
When cooking, if a pan catches light under no circumstances should you pour water onto the flames. This will result in the fire spreading out rapidly, often with devastating consequences. Therefore if you decide to tackle a pan fire, the most safe and effective method is using a fire blanket.
Fire blankets are made out of glass fibre fabric, with a thin fire resistant coating. They work by stopping the airflow to the fire, starving it of Oxygen – one of the vital ingredients that fire needs in order to keep burning. They are a much safer option than the traditional wet tea-towel approach, which since 2008 has been advised against in government fire safety campaigns.
Make Sure Blanket is Correct Size
Before using a fire blanket, firstly you have to judge if it safe to fight the fire. This will depend on whether the blanket is big enough to cover the full area of the fire and therefore cut off the Oxygen supply to the flames. As always in the case of fire, you should use caution and if there’s any doubt that you can put out the fire safely, shut the kitchen door behind you, get out and dial 999 straight away.
Step by Step: Using a Fire Blanket
- Turn off the source of heat if it is safe to do so, if not do this as soon as possible after the flames have been extinguished.
- Pull the fire blanket out of its container and stretch it out fully, making sure that it covers the size of the fire.
- Keep the blanket at arm’s length and approach the fire – looking over the top of the blanket, so you have a clear view of what you are doing.
- Cover the burning pan, completely smothering the flames.
- Leave the blanket in place for at least 30 minutes to an hour before removing to avoid re-ignition.
- After putting the blanket on the flames – leave the room, shutting the door behind you and call the fire brigade. They will need to make sure everything is safe before you can re-enter the building, so this is important even if the fire has been put out.
For fires in commercial kitchens it is also recommended to have a wet chemical fire extinguisher as these are the only type of fire extinguisher designed specifically for use on fires in the kitchen involving large volumes of cooking oil as in deep fat fryers.Tags: cooking oil fire, fire safety, fires in the kitchen, pan fires, using fire blankets, what to do if a pan catches fire