Hazards Overlooked by Many Foodservice Operators

The Fire, Safety, and Environmental Hazards Overlooked by Many Foodservice Operators

For most foodservice operators, what happens on the roof, is a distant concern to the daily challenges happening on ground level and there are a number of commonly overlooked commercial kitchen hazards.

It’s understandable considering all the issues there are to deal with – staffing, food prep, customers, maintenance, purchasing, food cost control…the list goes on and on. And as the hustle and chaos goes on in the kitchen, there is often a quiet and costly hazard being overlooked on the roof: grease discharge from the upblast exhaust fan.

Here’s what happens. Fats, oils, and grease are turned into aerosols during the cooking process and are pulled up into the exhaust hood system. They travel up the through duct work and exit through the upblast exhaust fan.  Ultimately, these highly flammable fats, oils, and grease seep out of the fan and onto the roof.

This grease buildup on the roof is cause for concern for several reasons, each with their own consequences.

First, roof grease damage poses a very serious fire hazard. Even if hood filters and ductwork are being properly cleaned and maintained, the grease spilled onto the rooftop is just as flammable and just as dangerous. Because this potential hazard is even more “out of sight, out of mind” than other fire hazards, many restaurant owners and managers don’t consider the risks of improper rooftop grease control until it’s too late.

Beyond fire hazards, grease leaks and spills can cause significant damage to rooftops themselves, breaking down roofing materials and causing warping, splits, cracks, softening, and blistering. This means reduced stability for the roof itself, which translates into the potential for catastrophic building damage, employee injury, or at the very least, the need for costly roof repair.

Excess rooftop grease damage also poses a significant environmental concern. If grease is allowed to spill or leak onto rooftops, over time it will be washed into gutters and storm sewers by the rain, eventually finding its way to bodies of water and causing damage to plant and animal life. Not only is this irresponsible, it can also result in fines from the Environmental Protection Agency for water contamination!

Similarly, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) also has standards in place for rooftop grease containment and grease control. Beyond the costs associated with fire damage, employee injury, insurance premiums, or rooftop replacement, failure to comply with NFPA and EPA regulations can result in fines, and even forced closure of your restaurant.

The solution to this problem, however, is actually quite simple. With the installation of an affordable grease containment system,  you can protect your roof from grease spills and excess runoff – as well as all of the costs associated with improper maintenance.

Rooftop grease containment systems are available in several designs to accommodate all exhaust fans and every situation from operations with low volume grease discharge to high volume needs. Every system includes its own type of grease absorbent filters (or pillows) to trap grease and repel water.

Compared to the potential costs of not addressing the problem, installation and maintenance of grease containment systems is minimal.  Systems range from $70 to $700 depending on the level of protection you need and the absorbent pillows should be changed each time the exhaust hood system is cleaned.

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We are super pleased to currently be rated 5 stars through Google. Although as most know in the service industry it’s very tough to please everyone. We will continue to put customers first,because without customers we would not exist.  So Thank you to all of our customers,  some of which we have serviced over 25 years.

Inaccessible Ductwork Kansas City

Restaurant owners: is this your access to inaccessible ductwork? Code states that a worker needs to have room to work, or body access, to an access panel. Most times ductwork is installed prior to electrical, HVAC, gas lines, lightning, etc. Inaccessible areas in ductwork are against NFPA 96 code. This creates a fire hazard. Call us to help solve this issue for you.

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Fire prevention 101: The basics on restaurant fire safety

Restaurants—with their open flames, hot equipment, electrical connections, cooking oils, cleaning chemicals and paper products—have all the ingredients for a fire to flame out of control. Nearly 8,000 eating and drinking establishments report a fire each year, according to 2006-2010 data tabulated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in Quincy, Mass. These fires caused an annual average of $246 million in direct property damage.

A fire can devastate your business, leading to lost revenues and even permanent closure. But there are steps you can take to prevent fires and minimize the damage.

Preventative maintenance

  • Install an automatic fire-suppression system in the kitchen. This is crucial because 57% of restaurant fires involve cooking equipment. These systems automatically dispense chemicals to suppress the flames and also have a manual switch. Activating the system automatically shuts down the fuel or electric supply to nearby cooking equipment. Have your fire-suppression system professionally inspected semiannually. The manufacturer can refer you to an authorized distributor for inspection and maintenance.
  • Keep portable fire extinguishers as a backup. You’ll need Class K extinguishers for kitchen fires involving grease, fats and oils that burn at high temperatures. Class K fire extinguishers are only intended to be used after the activation of a built-in hood suppression system. Keep Class ABC extinguishers elsewhere for all other fires (paper, wood, plastic, electrical, etc.).
  • Schedule regular maintenance on electrical equipment, and watch for hazards like frayed cords or wiring, cracked or broken switch plates and combustible items near power sources.
  • Have your exhaust system inspected for grease buildup. The NFPA Fire Code calls for quarterly inspections of systems in high-volume operations and semiannual inspections in moderate-volume operations. Monthly inspections are required for exhaust systems serving solid-fuel cooking equipment, like wood- or charcoal-burning ovens.

Staff training

Train your staff to:

  • Find and use a fire extinguisher appropriately. An acronym you may find helpful is PAST – pull out the pin, aim at the base, make a sweeping motion, (be) ten feet away.
  • Clean up the grease. Cleaning exhaust hoods is especially important, since grease buildup can restrict air flow. Be sure to also clean walls and work surfaces; ranges, fryers, broilers, grills and convection ovens; vents and filters.
  • Never throw water on a grease fire. Water tossed into grease will cause grease to splatter, spread and likely erupt into a larger fire.
  • Remove ashes from wood- and charcoal-burning ovens at least once a day. Store outside in metal containers at least 10 feet from any buildings or combustible materials.
  • Make sure cigarettes are out before dumping them in a trash receptacle. Never smoke in or near storage areas.
  • Store flammable liquids properly. Keep them in their original containers or puncture-resistant, tightly sealed containers. Store containers in well-ventilated areas away from supplies, food, food-preparation areas or any source of flames.
  • Tidy up to avoid fire hazards. Store paper products, linens, boxes and food away from heat and cooking sources. Properly dispose of soiled rags, trash, cardboard boxes and wooden pallets at least once a day.
  • Use chemical solutions properly. Use chemicals in well-ventilated areas, and never mix chemicals unless directions call for mixing. Immediately clean up chemical spills.

Be prepared: Have an emergency plan

If a fire breaks out in your restaurant, your staff must take control of the situation and lead customers to safety.

  • Be prepared to power down. Train at least one worker per shift how to shut off gas and electrical power in case of emergency.
  • Have an evacuation plan. Designate one staff member per shift to be evacuation manager. That person should be in charge of calling 911, determining when an evacuation is necessary and ensuring that everyone exits the restaurant safely. Ensure your staff know where the closest exits are, depending on their location in the restaurant. Remember that the front door is an emergency exit.
  • Offer emergency training. Teach new employees about evacuation procedures and the usage of fire-safety equipment. Give veteran staff members a refresher course at least annually.