Fire Risk Assessment in Catering Facilities
Within catering facilities there can be many fire hazards, with cooking appliances accounting for 3.4% of all accidental fires in non-domestic premises in Great Britain in the period 2010/2011* , more than any other cause. Here we discuss basic fire safety management principles and look at typical fire hazards in catering workplaces.
Fire Safety Culture
A positive fire safety culture is essential to ensure that fire safety legislative requirements are met and adequate resources are committed to fire safety management. Management commitment to fire safety is essential to assist with achieving suitable fire safety standards in premises and in the maintenance of a staff culture of fire safety.
The first step to implementing a positive fire safety culture is the appointment of a Responsible Person who should ensure that an appropriate policy on fire safety is developed and implemented. The policy must be brought to the attention of appropriate persons.
It is not enough to simply have a policy in place, it must be implemented, therefore a fire safety strategy should be developed to ensure that the fire safety policy objectives are implemented.
A fire risk assessment process should be developed to identify the most significant risks as well as the control measures deemed necessary to control those risks. Legislation requires the responsible person to undertake a fire risk assessment, the intention being that in less complex premises this can be achieved by following government advice and guidance. More complex premises will probably need to be assessed by a person who has comprehensive training or experience in fire risk assessment.
All cooking equipment can be deemed to be a potential source of ignition. This includes gas-fired equipment with a naked flame, deep fat fryers and electrical equipment such as toasters, griddles and even microwaves.
As well as producing heat as part of the cooking process, electrical equipment itself can create an ignition source. As an example, electric fan-motors can fail or overheat when covered in hardened grease.
There can also be an abundance of fuel sources within kitchen environments. These include quantities of oils and fats, food products, the gas supply to the facility and even deposits of fat or grime in or around equipment. As an example, it has been known for flames and sparks to ignite combustible deposits inside extraction system ducting and also inside ovens.
Air supplies can be increased in kitchen environments. It is common practice in many such facilities to leave doors open to improve natural ventilation, while mechanical ventilation systems may supply large quantities of fresh air.
Overheated and/or poorly maintained equipment, faulty electrical equipment or gas appliances usually cause outbreaks of fire. Direct contact with naked flames and human error (e.g. leaving on equipment at the cessation of work or leaving equipment unattended) can also be a major cause. However, the risk of fire can be increased by:
- lack of employee awareness of fire risks/misuse of equipment
- poor design of extraction systems
- insufficient cleaning of equipment
- lack of certainty over who is responsible for care and maintenance of equipment and plant where contractors are utilised
- poor housekeeping
- long hours and fatigue, as staff may be tempted to cut back on cleaning.
The responsible person must ensure that employees are provided with adequate safety training at the time when they are first employed and on their being exposed to new or increased risks. This training must include suitable and sufficient instruction and training on the appropriate precautions and actions to be taken by the employee in order to safeguard themselves and other ”relevant persons” on the premises. This training must:
- be repeated periodically where appropriate
- be adapted to take account of any new or changed risks to the safety of the employees concerned
- be provided in a manner appropriate to the risk identified by the risk assessment
- take place during working hours.
Under UK fire safety legislation, the responsible person must ensure that the premises and any fire-related facilities, equipment and devices provided in respect of the premises are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair by a competent person. This requirement also extends to any facilities, equipment and devices provided for the use by or protection of firefighters.
Fire Inspection and Auditing
Fire safety inspections are a proactive means of monitoring certain elements of the fire safety management system, particularly relating to physical fire risk control measures that may have been adopted. A system of regular inspections should be developed for the premises, with this role being given to specific persons.
Auditing is a method of monitoring preventative and protective measures and supports fire safety inspections and incident reporting by providing those responsible for fire safety with information on how effectively protective and preventative measures and the other components of the fire safety management system are being implemented. Again audits should be carried out by a competent person.
Comprehensive documentation and records relating to all aspects of the fire safety management system should be maintained including, but not limited to:
- the testing and checking of escape routes and associated emergency exit devices
- the testing of fire-warning systems, including weekly alarm tests, maintenance by a competent person and recording of false alarms
- the testing and maintenance of emergency escape lighting systems, fire extinguishers, hose reels and fire blankets and other fire safety equipment
- the training of relevant people and fire evacuation drills
- the maintenance and audit of any systems that are provided to help the fire and rescue service.
*Source: Department for Communities and Local Government Report Fire Statistics Great Britain, 2010 – 2011