As of 2017, the NFPA now requires fire safety instruction for restaurant workers. All in all, this is a good thing as restaurant kitchens are almost always at a higher risk for fires than other, non-commercial kitchens.
The reasons for this are numerous, but at the end of the day – restaurant spaces are all unique places unto themselves and due to their structure and composition – can present the owner with a variety of potential risks to grapple with – ranging from ignition sources and flammable liquids to combustible materials and even the risk associated with using specific appliances.
Staying on your toes is important – and training your employees to do the same without having to remind them is not only something that will greatly reduce the risk of a fire, but is – frankly – the law. It became the law thanks to the 2017 version of NFPA 96 which upholds the Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations.
What is it, what does it mean and how can we help you? Well, that’s what we’re here to answer today. Let’s jump right in!
Why it’s important
Simply put these new guidelines make it a requirement that you teach your staff how to protect themselves in the event of a fire in a restaurant kitchen. That means teaching them what order to use certain tools, how to operate fire extinguishers, how pull stations work, how to notify the fire department and of course – understanding when to leave the property.
It’s important that these things stick because even the best restaurant employees get tied up in their minute to minute tasks. The nature of their work fast paced and hazards can sometimes be overlooked. Simply put – the best time to plan for an emergency is before it happens and taking the time to help employees make it a part of what they do on a day to day can potentially save you from disaster.
What you’ll be working with
Generally speaking, NFPA 96 requires that restaurants and cafeterias have both an automatic fire extinguisher system and portable extinguishers.
Unlike most situations where people will gravitate to using portable extinguishers as their first line of defense against a fire, in the case of restaurant fires, you will be using a thing called a Class K Fire Extinguisher. A class K extinguisher shouldn’t be used on a protected appliance fire until after the main suppression system has been discharged. Making sure there are placards explaining this should be near each extinguisher.
Long story, short – it’s going to be your suppression system that does the most to combat fires. Not only will the wet chemical systems be specifically designed to help combat cooking-related fires, but they’ll also be engineered with an interlock that will automatically shut off any and all heat sources (including gas and electrical) to a given appliance.
This is important – specifically with regards to things like oil in fryers, grease, griddles, and the like. Once the chemical hits these substances it’ll foam up like soap and help you suffocate the fire. More importantly – it helps to prevent re-ignition.
What employees should do
Simply put, under the new guidelines, restaurants are required to train their employees in both how their equipment works and how they should handle said equipment. Not only is it mandatory that this training is done at hiring, but it is to be repeated at least once a year from there on out.
As for what they need to be trained on, it usually revolves around the proper operation of pull stations, what proper protocol is when dealing with the fire company (what information to provide on the phone, when the fire crew gets here, etc.) and what the evacuation plan is for both employees and restaurant patrons. And regardless of how big or how small the fire might be – if it’s in the kitchen, your entire restaurant needs to be evacuated until the fire is contained and extinguished.
What you need to know
The outcome of a restaurant fire is most dependent on the actions of the people who encounter it first – you and your employees. People’s safety and the future of your business could be on the line. It’s important that everyone in your place of business know how to use their fire safety equipment, how the suppression systems work and specifically what they need to do in the event of a fire. It’s your responsibility as the owner to make sure everyone’s trained and on the same page.
If you’d like us to come through and help with your employee training, system maintenance or just need a roadmap of where to begin, then give us a call today. Good luck!