Managing a commercial kitchen implies a lot more than being able to fulfill orders in record time, as you may already know, commercial kitchens can be chaotic places with lots of potential fire hazards; one misstep or oversight could easily lead to a major fire.
For this reason, today we’ll examine the issue of fire safety in commercial kitchens. The following are 10 tips to avoid fires in commercial kitchens.
1. Perform Fire Risk Assessment
You should carry out a thorough assessment of your kitchen so as to identify the vulnerabilities that could lead to a fire outbreak. Call in a professional fire safety inspector to help with the evaluation.
After the assessment, you will be able to identify the changes that need to be made, the equipment that needs to be installed, and the steps that you and your staff need to take in order to prevent fires.
Professional fire safety inspectors are well versed in fire codes and safety standards that are stipulated under the law, and heeding their advice should be your first step towards fire safety.
2. Review Ventilation And Extractor System Design
If they are not properly designed, kitchen ventilator and extractor systems can cause small fires to rapidly spread through the air duct system.
In one incident back in the late 90s, activities at Heathrow Airport were almost brought to a halt because a small fire from a restaurant kitchen spread through the ventilation system and affected the entire terminal.
To avoid the rampant spread of small fires, ensure that fire safety is factored in during the design and installation of your kitchen ventilation system.
The system should be properly outlined, and it should have flame safety features.
3. Promote Adequate Commercial Kitchen Attire
Insist on proper attire for all kitchen staff, commercial kitchen attire was created for a reason.
It’s easy to overlook kitchen dress codes, but when it comes to fire safety, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Many small restaurants allow casual outfits in the kitchen, which is quite risky. Your kitchen staff should avoid wearing loose clothes, ties, and scarves in the kitchen.
Those with long hair should tie it back, and long sleeves should be rolled up. It is advisable for everyone in the kitchen to wear either a chef jacket or an apron.
4. Have Access to Firefighting Equipment
Have functional firefighting equipment within easy reach.
Small kitchen fires can be expected in commercial kitchens; however, to keep such small fires from spreading, you should have firefighting equipment within reach.
In a well organised kitchen, most fires can be put out before they become a big issue. At the very least, you should have fire extinguishers, a metal garden hose, and functional sprinklers installed in your commercial kitchen.
A fire extinguisher could be the difference between having a minor fire incident in the kitchen and a having an entire restaurant burnt to the ground.
Ensure that the type of fire extinguishers that you install correspond to the classes of fire that are most likely to occur in your kitchen.
5. Operate Kitchen Equipment As Intended
Operate kitchen equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure that you and your staff have read the operating manuals for your kitchen equipment and that you operate them the way they were meant to be operated.
It can be tempting to overload fryers or ovens in order to simplify your work or increase your output in the kitchen; however, using electrical and gas appliances in ways that aren’t recommended by the manufacturer raises the risk of fire outbreaks.
Be patient, and only cook an amount of food that your appliance is designed to handle at any given time.
6. Keep Kitchen Surfaces Clean And Clear
Most kitchen fires begin as a result of the ignition of oil, grease, or other cooking products or byproducts.
Grease tends to slowly build up on surfaces and appliances in the kitchen over time. If the grease is not frequently cleaned out, it could potentially get ignited and cause a fire.
When cleaning out grease from surfaces, you should pay attention to grill tops, hood filters, and the exhaust system.
Although it doesn’t fireproof the kitchen, cleaning greasy surfaces significantly reduces the chances of a fire outbreak.
You should also clear out pieces of paper or bits of food from all kitchen surfaces that are close to the flames.
7. Pay Special Attention To Your Deep Fryer
Deep fryers are a staple in any fast food kitchen. They use large amounts of flammable frying oil, which makes them particularly susceptible to accidental ignitions. When a deep fryer catches fire, the oil goes up in flames, and it can spread very quickly.
Deep fryer fires can burn anyone standing nearby and spread through the exhaust hood and the ventilation system into other rooms. When using a deep fryer, you should avoid overloading it or leaving it unattended.
You should also try to invest in a deep fryer that has automatic temperature controls that are designed to guard against overheating.
8. Ensure That All Cooking Is Supervised At All Times
Most kitchen fires tend to break out when people aren’t paying attention. You should make it a rule in your commercial kitchen, that someone should always be watching whatever is being cooked.
If there is no one in the kitchen, appliances should be turned off, and flames should be put out. Ensure that your cooks use oven timers whenever they are baking so that they don’t leave food in the oven any longer than they need to.
Even if you are stepping out for just a moment, it’s better to turn off an appliance in an abundance of caution.
9. Train Your Staff On Fire Safety
All your kitchen staff should undergo fire safety training. Anyone working in a commercial kitchen should know how to put off different types of kitchen fires before they escalate.
Fire safety training should cover fire prevention, the use of extinguishers and other firefighting tools, and full-fledged fire drills.
Everyone in your kitchen staff should be able to assess a fire outbreak and know whether they can fight it or whether it’s time for them to exit the building.
Your employees should know how to safely evacuate your patrons in case the fire gets out of control.
10. Give Proper Maintenance to Your Equipment
Properly maintain your cooking and firefighting equipment. By all means, don’t let any of your electrical or gas cooking appliances fall into a state of disrepair.
You should ensure that all your catering equipment is properly serviced and is always functioning optimally.
Being a woodworking enthusiast, I own quite a number of power tools, and a rule of thumb I always follow is to check all my electrical equipment for frayed cords, damaged switch plates, and exposed wiring as often as possible.
Gas equipment should be inspected for loose valves, leaks in the piping, and faulty regulators.
Fire safety installations such as sprinklers, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers should be periodically tested to ensure that they are functioning properly.
Be sure to replace old or faulty appliances and fixtures.
Did you like the list, and did you find any of these tips useful?
I compiled this list because I believe that fire safety should be prioritised by everyone at home and in public places.
Let me know what you think about these tips in the comments section.
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