We hope you aren’t feeling a bit peckish as you read this because we’re talking food! Did you know there’s a national fish and chip day? It caught our attention because we love our fish and chips. It’s taking place on the 3rd June and it celebrates one of Britain’s best loved dishes as well as everyone involved in creating it. When you think about it, that’s quite a lot of people and businesses: fisherman, farmers, pub chains, restaurants and of course fish and chip shops. But while chip shops are something of a national institution, there can be a less cheery side to owning one.  As is clear from the news stories that have been appearing with alarming regularity over the past 12 months, our much loved fish and chip shops have their work cut out when it comes to fire safety.  There have been several fires recently caused by electrical faults. But a substantial proportion of the fires were connected to the use of hot oil. Some fires started in deep fat fryers. Some started in duct work and extraction systems. But the common denominator is always oil and the build-up of grease. If you’re not convinced of the damage that a fire originating in a commercial deep fat fryer can do, just take a look at these photos. And let’s not forget that in some instances fish and chip shops and other types of fast food premises have people living (and depending on the time the fire starts, sleeping) in accommodation directly above them – potentially adding to the devastation. Fire safety in commercial kitchens There are many reasons why fires can break out in chip shops or indeed in any other type of commercial kitchen. But given that one of the biggest hazards comes from the build-up of oil on kitchen surfaces, in equipment and in the extraction system ductwork, maintenance and regular cleaning is absolutely essential. Ducting systems are a particular issue as fires can spread rapidly through them and into other parts of the building, devastating it in minutes. It’s vital that fire risk assessments are kept up to date and appropriate action taken to reduce any risks identified. Don’t forget if you do have people living above your premises, you must factor that into your risk assessment too and make sure steps are in place to protect them - this is rapidly becoming a priority issue for the fire service. If a fire did manage to break out you must be prepared. Make sure you have suitable fire fighting equipment available including wet chemical fire extinguishers. They are specifically designed for use on cooking oil or fat fires and use a lance applicator so they can be operated from a safe distance. They work by releasing a chemical spray that reacts with the oil to create a dense layer of soap-like emulsion that quickly puts out the fire. Consider installing a suppression system too. Fit thermostatic controls and cut off valves. And make sure employees know what to do in the event of a fire and always keep fire escape routes clear. IMG_3253Staying safe when you’re cooking with oil Cooking with oil isn’t just something that happens in commercial kitchens. We all do it at home – and as no one’s required to carry out risk assessments it’s easy to get complacent about it. But there have been many instances of fires breaking out in houses as a result of cooking oil and yes, those deep fat fryers are major culprits in the home too. So here’s some advice to bear in mind.
  • Never fill a chip pan more than one-third full. Even better, use a thermostat-controlled deep-fat fryer which will make sure the fat doesn’t get too hot. Better again – buy oven chips!
  • Heat the oil slowly to the temperature you need and be careful that it doesn’t overheat - hot oil can catch fire easily. Remember wisps of smoke are a danger sign that the oil is too hot.
  • Dry your food before putting it in to fry as water can make oil splatter.
  • Make sure pan handles don’t stick over the edge of the hob where they could be knocked or grabbed by children.
  • Always stay in the kitchen when frying.
  • Don’t cook when you’ve been drinking alcohol.
If a fire did break out, would you know what to do? Rule number one. Never try to use water to extinguish a fire in a pan of fat or oil as it will create a fireball. And don’t attempt to move the pan. Turn off the heat if you can but only if it’s safe to do so. If you’ve a fire blanket (and again only if it’s safe to try to do this) use it to smother the flames. Alternatively if you’ve a lid nearby and the fire is small, slide the lid over the pan then turn off the heat if you haven’t managed to do so before. Don’t lift the lid again until the pan has completely cooled down as it’s possible the fire could re-ignite. If the fire doesn’t go out or you don’t feel comfortable trying to tackle it get everyone outside, closing doors as you leave, then call 999. Increased awareness of the hazards that cooking with oil can present means it’s far more likely you’ll have greater success managing the risks whether at home, in a large commercial kitchen or in the local chippy. Here’s to safe frying and enjoy your fish and chips on 3rd June!