A crackdown on restaurant compliance with respect to gas safety has led to several local councils issuing stern warnings and, in some cases, shutting down outlets with immediate effect of late.
Whether we want to admit it or not, there would appear to be a lot of operators out there which are running their businesses in a way that flouts regulations and potentially poses a danger to staff and the public.
Closing a restaurant down — even if only temporarily — certainly provokes a reaction and forces the culprit to change their ways, but it ignores the more fundamental issue of why this blatant disregard of equipment safety persists so widely in the first place.
While it is counterproductive to start looking for scapegoats, there does come a point where you wonder where the root of the problem lies.
In some cases, it comes down to the ignorance and, dare I say it, arrogance of the operator. If they feel they can get away without conforming to safety policies they perceive to be complex or expensive to comply with then what incentive is there for them to change unless a council inspector knocks on their door or a serious incident exposes their shortcomings.
To be fair, I am sure the more common scenario is that many operators simply don’t realise they are even breaking any rules. Or they might be vaguely aware of certain obligations but have no idea how to go about checking them.
Let’s face it, with a whole range of official standards from DW172 and DW144 on canopies to BS6173 on gas safety equipment to worry about, keeping on top of compliance can seem like a thankless task for even the most seasoned kitchen professional.
Council crackdowns draw attention to the topic and I’m sure they make other operators think twice about their responsibilities, but they still doesn’t address the knowledge void that would appear to exist once equipment is installed and in use.
While the catering equipment industry can’t be expected to police every outlet that exists, particularly when customers are using kit that pre-dates many of the laws currently in place, the reports being released by local authorities would suggest many operators are crying out for advice on equipment and utility safety.
Should distributors be offering more targeted safety compliance programmes within their services portfolios? Does the industry have an obligation to run initiatives that educate operators on compliance?
Whatever the answer, it seems absurd that most suppliers and distributors know what kitchens need to do to stay on the right side of safety regulations and yet operators are found to be making the same mistakes over and over again.
Somehow, something needs to be done to join up the dots.