Grease fires are a threat to every commercial kitchen. They can occur in cafes, restaurants, as well as schools and care facilities. Essentially, if a cooktop is in use then precautions should be taken in order to prevent grease fires.
Measures which you can take to minimise the risk of grease fires in your business
1. Install fire suppression systems
An automatic fire suppression system activates in the event of fire. Once triggered it covers the surrounding area with water or fire suppressing chemicals. Because of this, a fire suppression system is one of your best defenses against fire.
However these systems do require servicing. Without regular maintenance, systems can become less effective or even dangerous. So ensure that your system is regularly checked and repaired by a professional service-person.
2. Store fire extinguishers & fire blankets within easy reach
When a grease flair-up happens, you or your staff may have only moments to react.
By containing the fire early, you can stop it from spreading further.
Therefore it is vital that fire extinguishers and fire blankets are close at hand.
There are a number of regulations regarding the types of fire extinguishers and fire blankets required by commercial kitchens.
There are also standards for storage and maintenance.
You can view the Australian Standards for portable fire extinguishers and fire blankets here.
3. Maintain your electrical equipment
Frayed cords and broken wiring is often hard to spot, especially if it’s behind heavy equipment or storage items.
Often it takes a professional service-person to accurately assess and effectively remedy electrical problems. That makes servicing of electrical systems a must.
“By containing the fire early, you can stop it from spreading further.”
4. Have exhaust systems cleaned regularly
Grease build-ups within kitchen filters, canopies and exhaust systems are a leading cause of kitchen fires. The only way to prevent build-ups is with effective cleaning of kitchen exhaust system and regular exchange of the kitchen’s filters.
All exhaust system cleaning should be carried out by licensed and experienced professionals. Doing it yourself or hiring a non-professional cleaner can result in a range of risks, including more obscure grease build-ups being missed.
For more information on exhaust system cleaning, check out our blog article: The Common Cause of Commercial Kitchen Fires [And How to Avoid It].
5. Prepare your members of staff for fire
Much of your fire prevention equipment is only as good as the people operating it.
If your staff aren’t trained and knowledgeable about what to do in a fire, then equipment may not be used effectively.
To avoid mistakes in an emergency situation, ensure that your staff know how to properly use fire extinguishers, fire blankets and other equipment.
It is also worth pinning simple, easy-to-follow instructions near fire-fighting tools. This will help your staff to stop the fire before it spreads.
Professional courses, which prepare staff for fire are available through organisations such as Fire & Safety Australia.
6. Immediately clean up spilt grease
If grease is spilt, have it cleaned by staff straight away. Grease left on floors, walls or work surfaces can be extremely dangerous. Not only is it a fire hazard it can also cause falls and other workplace injuries.
Make it a rule within your kitchen – if there’s a spill, clean it up immediately!
7. Keep combustibles away from the cooktop
Keep things such as towels, absorbent wipes and recipe instructions away from the cooktop. Should a grease fire occur, these items can quickly become fuel, thereby extending the flames’ reach.
Store any flammable liquids or chemical solutions away from cooking areas. Make sure that chemical spills, like grease spills, are cleaned up immediately.
8. Train staff to not throw water on to grease fires
Throwing water onto a kitchen fire may seem like the logical thing to do.
However, in the event of a grease fire, this is the worst action someone can take.
When water hits a grease fire it quickly sinks and then evaporates.
This causes an explosion of oil and flames, spreading the fire.
See here for an example.
So make sure that your staff know not to throw water onto a grease fire.
Instead train them in the proper procedures, such as using fire extinguishers or fire blankets to put out the flames.
9. Train staff to power down systems
Train your staff in how to shut off your commercial kitchen’s gas or electricity supply. Knowing what to do in the event of an emergency can be crucial.
Simply, by stemming the flow of fuel, you can stop the spread of fire.
10. Have a fire plan
By taking all of the above precautions you can minimise the risk of fire within your commercial kitchen. However it is still important to have a fire plan, should despite these safety measures, a fire take place.
A fire plan needs to include a simple list of instructions that staff can follow to (if possible) contain the fire. As well as instructions on how to evacuate staff and patrons. Emergency exits should also be well marked and well known.
“Knowing what to do in the event of an emergency can be crucial.”
For further advice on developing your emergency action plan, see the emergency management section of the Australian government’s business information website. You can access that site by clicking here.
This blog article contains numerous valuable recommendations for preparing and preventing grease fires. However this is not exhaustive list. For more information on controlling grease fires and commercial kitchen safety see your state’s emergency services website.
A number of these fire-preparation techniques were originally sourced from a recent article on the International Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning Association (IKECA) website. You can view that article here.