Carbon Monoxide – also called CO – can be a dangerous gas for catering and hospitality staff, which is why through this article we strive to raise awareness, and alert all employers of the dangers.
Gavin Evans, expert lawyer from Simpson Millar shares some legal advice for employers.
Carbon Monoxide Can Kill
Raising awareness about this potentially harmful and even deadly gas is crucial to preventing unnecessary exposure and consequent injuries or victims.
Yet as pointed out by CO-Gas Safety’s President and Director Stephanie Trotter OBE, most still remain unaware or only have limited knowledge about the dangers CO exposure can entail and how these can be avoided and prevented. As carbon monoxide is odourless and colourless, it cannot be smelt or seen by humans, posing a considerable threat in terms of detecting a leak and the associated risks, as CO can kill very rapidly, which many are still unaware of. In fact, less than 2% of carbon monoxide in the air can kill in as fast as 1-3 minutes only.
Help us raise awareness.
Catering staff and employees are most at risk
Chefs and catering staff working in the catering industry, alongside people living above or next to restaurants or takeaway shops for example, can be most vulnerable due to their proximity and/or exposure to highly active kitchens.
Indeed, kitchens or catering establishments/facilities can be more dangerous workplaces than more traditional offices, as feature many gas and solid fuel appliances such as grills and ovens which can be harmful if ventilation is limited. In addition, long term low level exposure can also be dangerous, as can cause health problems, whilst short term high level exposure can be instantly fatal.
Gas Safety Advice
- Clean the hob: Don’t allow food residue to build up around your gas hob as this could cause the flame to starve of oxygen, this incomplete combustion leading to carbon monoxide building up.
- Use smaller pots & pans: If you are using pots too big for the hob, this could once again starve flames from oxygen, leading to carbon monoxide building up.
- Beware of the orange flame: You want to make sure that you always work with a blue flame. If the flame on your hob burns orange, this is probably due to the presence of CO.
- Ventilate the kitchens: It is essential that employers ensure kitchens are sufficiently ventilated, notably charcoal ovens and grills, which should be constantly ventilated, whether the staff is present or not as their incapacity to be switched off can cause carbon monoxide to build up.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms
Being aware and alert of symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is vital, as could enable you to save an employee’s or co-worker’s life.
CO symptoms include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Loss of consciousness
CO Health & Safety Law & Regulations
- Health & Safety at Work Act 1974: Under this act, employers have a duty of care towards their employees to take every measure necessary to ensure the workplace and its equipment are safe and not endangering or putting at risk their health.
- Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992: Under this act, employers are responsible in ensuring kitchens in the workplace are suitably and effectively ventilated.
- Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998: Under this act, additional duties of care from employers are owed to employees in ensuring gas appliances, installation pipeworks or flue installed at any place of work is safely maintained to deter any risk of injury. Read the “Gas Safety in Catering and Hospitality” Health & Safety Executive publication for more information.
- Gas Safe Regulations & British Standard BS6173: These regulations require that interlock systems be fitted to all kitchens where extraction systems are installed. If there is no inter-locking system in place, employers are due to take this into consideration in assessing risk, and implementation additional controls for higher risk levels. Interlock systems often operate alongside commercial carbon monoxide and dioxide alarms, automatically shutting off gas supplies if and when detected.
It is essential that you make sure your kitchens are appropriately ventilated, and that you have all your appliances and equipment regularly services in order to avoid prosecution from breaching these regulations. If you’re are held responsible for not ensuring a safe workplace for you employees, and someone gets injured or worse, you could be faced with manslaughter by gross negligence charges.
Carbon Monoxide Risk Assessment
If you don’t already have a carbon monoxide poisoning risk assessment in place, do not wait any longer to put one in place.
To do so, ensure you identify and include all possible sources and or causes of gas leaks in the kitchen in your carbon monoxide in your risk assessment, also putting in place controls as well as preventive measures, ensuring frequent and regular cleaning, inspections and safety checks.
Make sure you install an adequate extraction system too for optimal ventilation. We recommend you even seek professional advice to verify the size of your canopy hood, and ensure it is suitable in providing sufficient extraction and ventilation to avoid CO building up. All checks and inspections should be documented for legal purposes.
Online Gas Safety Training & Courses
Educate your employees and catering staff to make them aware of carbon monoxide, its risks and dangers, to encourage them to be as careful and vigilant as possible when working in or near a kitchen. Online gas safety training courses are available to help employers and employees become increasingly alert of these risks and making them more alert to signs, signals and symptoms which could indicate CO poisoning,
If you think you may have a gas leak of any description, urge all staff and clients to evacuate the building immediately.
If in doubt, evacuate. Don’t risk it.
What to do if you suspect a CO gas leak?
- Call 0800 111 999 – Get in touch with the National Gas Emergency Service
- Call 999 – Fire brigades have breathing apparatus enabling them to switch off appliances, gas supply etc
- See a doctor – Tell your staff to go to the A&E or visit their GP as soon as possible informing their doctor they might have been exposed to carbon monoxide. The quicker they can get tested the better as CO can disappear from their blood rapidly, making promptness essential to an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.
- Alert neighbours – Make sure all people living nearby such as upstairs or in adjacent properties to your kitchen are made aware of it.
Ensure your staff is safe and business protected by ensuring employers and employees go through the necessary health and safety training courses.