Operation of a commercial grade kitchen, many safety considerations should be addressed, including food safety, employee and volunteer safety, and fire safety. This blog post addresses the specific issues associated with providing adequate fire safety for your kitchen.
Commercial cooking operations are defined as kitchens that have cooking equipment that produce grease and grease laden vapors. This includes flat grills, char broilers and deep fat fryers. The typical residential range (electric or gas) would not be considered a grease producing appliance. Other equipment, such as ovens, microwaves and steam kettles also fall into the non-grease producing appliance category. The following is information regarding two of the most common types of equipment that produce grease and/or grease laden vapors.
Deep Fat Fryers
Deep fat fryers are a major cause of kitchen fires. Oil can splash and easily come into contact with an open flame from an adjacent piece of cooking equipment, such as a gas-fired range top. A 18-inch clearance must be maintained between the deep fat fryer and the open flame cooking equipment. If a 18-inch clearance is not possible, a vertical steel barrier extending 12 inches above the top of the deep fat fryer or open flame appliance(s) can be used as an alternative means of protection.
The normal temperature range for food service frying is 325 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. As the oil temperature increases, so does the risk of an accidental grease fire. All deep fat fryers should be equipped with a high temperature limiting device, which will shut off the fuel or energy in the event the cooking oil exceeds a temperature of 475 degrees Fahrenheit
Flat grills and griddles are typically used for frying hamburgers and bacon. When used for this type of cooking, grease and grease laden vapors will be produced. To adequately control the fire hazard associated with these types of cooking operations, two fire protection components must be installed: a hood and ventilation system and an automatic extinguishing system.
Hood and Ventilation System
A kitchen hood and ventilation system will include an exhaust hood or canopy, ductwork, fan system, and a means of providing adequate make-up air. This system will effectively remove the heat, grease and grease laden vapors from the cooking area.
- The hood and ventilation system should be professionally installed according to National Fire Protection Association Standard 96. (NFPA 96 Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations.)
- Local fire officials also should be consulted, as additional requirements under county and/or municipal codes could apply.
- The hood must be equipped with the appropriate grease removal filters. Only baffle style filters comply with NFPA 96 and should be used in cooking operations that produce a moderate to heavy amount of grease. Mesh filters are not appropriate for commercial cooking operations and do not comply with NFPA 96. Filters should be cleaned regularly to prevent the build-up of grease.
- Lighting units should be equipped with tight fitting protective globe lights with steel enclosures that are mounted on the outer surface of the hood. All electrical equipment should be installed in accordance with NFPA 70 National Electric Code by a licensed electrician.
- Hoods, grease-removal devices, fans, ducts and other equipment should be serviced by a qualified contractor at intervals necessary to prevent the accumulation of grease. Frequency of cleaning will depend upon the amount of grease observed during an inspection. A six month interval is standard, but unusually heavy grease accumulation may require more frequent cleaning.
- A written cleaning schedule should be established indicating the methods of cleaning and the time intervals.
- Following the inspection or cleaning, a label indicating the date cleaned and the name of the servicing company should be prominently displayed. It is recommended that this label be attached to the exterior of the hood in a visible location.
Automatic Extinguishing System
- All cooking equipment that produces grease or grease-laden vapors should be equipped with an approved automatic extinguishing system.
- The automatic extinguishing system should meet the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) 300 standard. UL 300 went into effect in 1994 as the result of the high temperature oils used in cooking today. Dry-chemical systems do not adequately extinguish grease fires associated with using these high temperature cooking oils.
- The automatic extinguishing system should be inspected and serviced every six months only a qualified contractor.
- A minimum of one manual activator should be installed. The activator is to be used if a fire occurs and the automatic extinguishing system fails to activate.
- The manual activator must be accessible in the event of a fire and located along a route of egress from the kitchen area.
- Kitchen staff must be properly trained on the proper operation of the manual activator.
- The automatic extinguishing system must be inter-connected to an automatic fuel/power shut off that cuts all fuel/power from the cooking equipment immediately after the automatic extinguishing system is activated.
- Prohibit the operation of cooking equipment when the extinguishing system or exhaust system is non-operational or otherwise impaired.
- Wet chemical fire extinguishers are the best portable extinguisher available for kitchen operations. K-rated extinguishers are recommended for commercial kitchens. They operate in the same manner as a UL300 pre-engineered restaurant fire extinguishing system. The agent discharges as a fine mist, which helps prevent grease splash and fire re-flash, while cooling the appliance.
- The fire extinguisher should be located no more than 30 feet from the cooking area.
- Fire extinguishers should be maintained at regular intervals; at a minimum of once per year, or when specifically indicated by a manufacturers recommendations. Maintenance should be conducted only by an approved/licensed contractor. Servicing is intended to give maximum assurance that an extinguisher will operate effectively and safely.
- The kitchen’s floors and walls around cooking appliances need to be periodically cleaned to prevent the accumulation of grease. Frequency of cleaning will depend upon the frequency and type of cooking being conducted; however a minimum of once a week is recommended.
- Floor and wall coverings surrounding the cooking equipment need to be of an appropriate material that will prevent grease saturation and be easy to clean and maintain. Examples of appropriate material include ceramic tile on floors or stainless steel on walls.
In the end, whether you operate a commercial grade kitchen or rent one for your small business cooking operations (such as bakery), note that each and every insurance company is going to thoroughly evaluate the safety features of the kitchen and won’t provide insurance coverage if the following is not warranted:
- Food products must be clearly labeled as to their ingredients;
- Quality Control Plan in place;
- Recommended: “Sell by Date” on Products;
- Recommended: Serial Number for Tracking;
- Recommended: Formal Complaint Investigation
- Automatic Fixed Extinguishing system covering all cooking surfaces
- High Temperature automatic Shut Off
- 18″ Clearance between cooking surface and combustible surface
- Dry chemical fire extinguishers in all cooking areas or an automatic fixed extinguishing system regularly serviced by outside contractors
- Hood/ducts regularly serviced by outside contractors
- Required: Vent grease extraction filters daily cleaned by employees
- No use of dry bulk storage containers/bins or silos for storage of flour, cornstarch, rice, grains, sugar or other powdered products
- Required: Contingencies in place that would help ensure business operations will be maintained in the event of a loss or catastrophe, such as
- Alternate manufacturing/processing facilities available if needed
- Machinery and spare parts stocked to expedite repairs
- Back up generators in place and tested monthly
- 3rd party manufacturing
All of the above is subject to inspection and compliance with recommendations.
If you need to get an insurance coverage for your use of commercial grade kitchen, such as bakery, catering, food manufacturing, etc. submit a short application online at https://www.paperless-insurance.com/get-a-quote-now/ or get speak to a licensed agent at 800-339-0104.