How To Stay Gas Safe In Catering & Hospitality
The catering and hospitality sector involves the installation, use and maintenance of gas-fired equipment, primarily used for cooking. This equipment typically uses natural gas or LPG and involves work in hotels, restaurants, fish and chip shops, mobile catering units and at hospitality events.
Gas Safe registration
From 1 April 2009, the Gas Safe Register took over from CORGI for the running of the mandatory gas registration scheme for plumbing and heating engineers working legally with gas.
As with most safety-related disciplines, the people working with catering equipment must be competent to do so, and with respects to gas equipment, whether contractors or internal staff are carrying out the work, the company must be Gas Safe registered and the individual staff must hold valid certificates relevant to the type of work taking place.
Therefore, the basic duty of any employer in the hospitality and catering trade is to take reasonable steps to ensure contractors or employees have this relevant certificate of competence.
General responsibilities of users
- A competent person must inspect gas appliances, flues, pipework and safety devices to ensure they are maintained in a safe condition. The frequency of inspection is dependent on the frequency of use and manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Users of gas equipment should be trained in its proper use and should carry out daily visual inspections for obvious faults.
- A competent person can carry out routine tasks such as connecting and disconnecting plug-in gas connections and cleaning or moving cylinders, without the need to be Gas Safe registered.
- It is good practice to install a mechanical ventilation system. This is critical in presenting a comfortable working environment which also complies with health, safety and hygiene regulations. These systems usually utilise a canopy installed over the cooking appliance to remove odours, vapours, hot air and steam. Clean and cool air is introduced through air vents, louvres or serving hatches and sufficient ventilation also prevents incomplete combustion of gas and the consequent production of harmful carbon monoxide gases.
BS 6173: Specification for installation of gas-fired catering appliances for use in all types of catering establishments
This standard was published in May 2001 and from September 2001, all new installations should comply with this standard. It covers the installation requirements for new and second-hand gas-fired appliances and adds extra emphasis on food hygiene and ventilation requirements.
As a statement of good practice, the new standard includes the following:
- Flame supervision: Flame supervision devices and appropriately upgraded gas controls should be provided when installing second-hand ovens and similar enclosed burner equipment. With gas-fired hobs, flame supervision doesn’t have to be retro-fitted unless a risk assessment suggests otherwise, and the HSE accepts that over time old equipment will be replaced with new.
- Isolation of gas supplies: All fixed appliances should be fitted with a single manual means of isolation for servicing or cleaning.
- Interlocking of mechanical ventilation system and gas supplies: Regulation 27 (4), Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 requires the provision of an interlock which shuts off the gas supply to an appliance in the event that the ventilation system fails. For existing installations where no interlock system is present, users need to carry out an assessment of what risks might arise and take action to ensure any hazards are removed.
- Risk assessments: any user of gas equipment who has any concerns over the safety of an installation should seek urgent assistance from a competent person. They should not wait until the next routine inspection. A competent person can then carry out a full risk assessment of all relevant factors to establish what action is required.
- New installations: in general the interlocking requirements set out in the standard should be applied whenever a new kitchen or mechanical ventilation system is installed, but the replacement of just a single cooking appliance would not be regarded as a new installation.
- Pressure switches: these are now widely used in catering and hospitality to activate interlocking mechanisms as they avoid malfunction of moving parts due to the build-up of fat and grease in ducting. This is a common problem in catering. Switch failure should therefore be avoided, systems should shut down and accurate airflow measurements can also be taken for monitoring purposes.
Safety standards for new appliances
The Gas Appliance (Safety) Regulations 1995 dictate that all new appliances for commercial catering must be CE-marked. This indicates conformity with the regulations and that a notified body has approved the appliance for use.
- Mobile equipment: appliances fitted with castors to allow them to be cleaned must be fitted with lockable castors that are regularly maintained.
- Mobile catering: these vans usually use LPG and so any appliances should not be lit whilst the vehicle is in motion.
- Carbon Monoxide alarms: many of these are for domestic use only and not designed for the harsh environment of a commercial kitchen. If installed, an alarm should be linked to an automatic gas shut-off system. Alarms should also only be considered as a back-up to a proper ventilation system.
- Blowtorches: kitchens use these for caramelised dishes and they should not be placed on or near hot surfaces and should always be installed and tested by a Gas Safe registered installer.
- Ventilation ductwork: A build-up of grease and fat in ductwork can cause fires when open-flame practices are used, ie. flambéing, flame-grilling or stir-frying. Such ductwork therefore should be regularly cleaned.