Engineers have ‘moral responsibility’ over solid fuel checks

Catering engineers are being advised to follow supplier guidelines and undertake standard safe air checks when dealing with solid fuel appliances in the absence of any over-arching regulation governing the issue.

The catering equipment industry has been grappling with standards and regulations linked to kitchen air quality and gas-fired kit for some time.

But the rapid uptake of solid fuel appliances in restaurant kitchens has added a new dimension to the challenge.

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And although the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has engaged with manufacturers on the subject, there is currently no specific legislation dealing with kitchen air safety.

John Scott, chairman of the CEDA Technical Steering Group, said solid fuel appliances were the “relatively new kid on the block” but could no longer be ignored.

“Equipment such as wood-fired ovens and charcoal ovens are becoming more popular in the market, but other than the general Health and Safety at Work Act and COSHH regulations there are currently no regulations relating to the use of solid fuel appliances in commercial kitchens. Yet similar, potential problems exist as gas equipment — and are potentially more dangerous.”

Scott noted that solid fuel gases are hotter and more corrosive than those from gas appliances, while the amount of carbon monoxide produced actually increases as solid fuel dies down and extinguishes.

“At present, DW/172 provides only limited guidance on air extract rates for this type of equipment, therefore it is important that system designers seek information from the given supplier,” said Scott, adding that CEDA is currently trying to collate information from suppliers with a view to issuing a guidance document.

One particular challenge, he noted, was that while the installation of carbon monoxide detectors are recommended, question marks surround the availability of ‘fail-safe’ devices. “Grease deposits, for example, can stop the sensor from detecting carbon monoxide and give a safe sensor condition,” he said.

While there are no concrete standards dictating the way engineers handle safe air quality relating to solid fuel appliances, Scott suggested engineers have a “moral responsibility” to ensure that workplace safety checks are carried out.

Speaking at the recent Catering Equipment Technical Conference, Scott said there were a number of steps that engineers could take when assessing safe air quality in relation to solid fuel appliances.

1) Engineers should take air quality readings to measure safe levels of carbon dioxide as they do with gas equipment installations.

2) Engineers should be equipped with a meter that can read carbon monoxide levels.

3) If levels of CO2 exceed 2,800 ppm, find ways of improving ventilation, such as opening windows and doors, until such time as the ventilation can be increased to bring levels down consistently.

4) Provide a report to the responsible person on site.

5) Carbon monoxide readings should be taken at a height of 1.5 metres.

6) If a reading is in excess of 30 ppm, the responsible person on site should be alerted and the area should be evacuated until such time as ventilation is increased and the figure is reduced. (Figure based on COSHH regulation governing workplace exposure limit based on an eight-hour average).

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