New HSE guidelines for solid fuel appliances could affect your commercial kitchen

Solid fuel cooking appliances, such as tandoori ovens, charcoal grills and wood fired pizza ovens are increasingly popular, so it’s not surprising that the HSE have recently updated their guidance on the safe use of this type of equipment in commercial kitchens.

This updated guidance reflects the possible exposure of employees and members of the public living adjacent to commercial kitchens to carbon monoxide gas. Outlined is a summary of the guidance which was developed in collaboration with the Solid Fuel Association, the Hospitality Industry Liaison Forum and the Heating and Testing Approval scheme.

An Overview of the New Legislation

The legislation requires employers to protect their employees and others who could be affected by the business undertaking from risk arising out of the business:

  • Workplaces must be adequately ventilated to prevent exposure to dangerous substances which includes carbon monoxide gas.
  • It is essential that your fire risk assessment and control of hazardous substances assessment (COSHH) includes this equipment, its ventilation and fuel storage with the controls you need to implement as a specific piece of equipment due to its risk potential.

When solid fuel is burned, carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas) is released. It has no taste, smell or colour and moderate exposure can lead to serious permanent ill health effects or even death.

Commercial kitchens wanting to install and use solid fuel appliances should ensure they seek competent technical advice relating to the installation: ventilation, plus extraction maintenance and use – we would recommend doing this prior to purchase and installation. Organisations that can provide this type of support include Catering Equipment Suppliers Association, Solid Fuel Association, Building and Engineering Services Specifications for Kitchen Ventilation.

How Might This Affect Your Kitchen?

The kitchen design and layout are important in relation to overall ventilation and the extraction of fume as well as carbon monoxide. There are several questions that should be asked about the ventilation of the kitchen when one of these ovens is being considered:

  • Is your extraction system suitable and sufficient to withstand the corrosive nature of solid fuel combustion gasses and the high temperatures involved?
  • Is the appliance only for indoor use? Is there a sufficient flow of fresh air into the kitchen?
  • Does any canopy remove all products of combustion effectively and safely to the external air?

It is recommended that all mechanical extraction systems should be fitted with an automated overrun facility on the extraction fan or should continue after the oven has ceased to be used to remove all products of combustion and whilst the fuel is fully extinguished. This will afford protection for the kitchen as well as any neighbouring properties that could be affected by a leak in the ducting.

To further ensure effective ventilation you need to consider:

  • If there is the need for a ducting system?
  • Where does it terminate?
  • Is there a potential impact on neighbouring properties?

Seek guidance from the Local Authority Building Control Department and a competent engineer to help design as well as install any extraction system.

It is strongly recommended that the right type of fuel is used for the oven involved. The fuel should be stored in a dry and well ventilated area and the manufacturers or suppliers advice should be sought for specific recommendations/requirements for their product.

It is important to have a regular cleaning regime in place for any extraction system involved with such ovens and subject to design, layout construction and positioning could involve the need for a specialist contractor to undertake such work. Extraction systems for solid fuel commercial appliances are subject to a statutory thorough examination and test every 14 months which must be undertaken and certificated by a competent person.

Following the installation of such ovens it is important to monitor the environment to ensure that there is no build-up of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere. The fitting of an audible carbon monoxide alarm (to BSEN 50291) is strongly recommended. It will also be necessary to have in place procedures to deal with an evacuation should the alarm be activated.

You will need to ensure all relevant employees who work in this environment or could be affected by carbon monoxide in the atmosphere are provided with specific information, instruction and training to ensure they have the knowledge and understanding of their work, the equipment used and what to do in the event of an emergency.

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Mark Flanagan

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