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Solid fuel catering appliances - enforcement guidance

Summary

Enforcement support for Inspectors visiting commercial catering premises where solid fuel appliances are used.

Introduction

HSE’s Catering Information Sheet ‘Preventing exposure to carbon monoxide from use of solid fuel appliances in commercial kitchens’ is aimed at commercial caterers using solid fuel appliances.

It has been published to raise awareness of the dangers of exposure to carbon monoxide from solid fuel catering appliances, which can affect workers and members of the public.

When solid fuel is burned, products of combustion, including carbon monoxide gas, are released. Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas with no taste, smell or colour. Even moderate exposure can lead to serious permanent ill health effects or even death. Children, pregnant women and people with heart or breathing problems are particularly at risk.

This guidance compliments the catering information sheet and is aimed at inspectors visiting commercial catering establishments who may encounter solid fuel appliances. It provides support to inspectors in making proportionate enforcement decisions and advises when specialist support is likely to be required.

Action

Consult this document when inspecting commercial premises where solid fuel catering appliances are in use. Read it in conjunction with Catering Information Sheet - ‘Preventing exposure to carbon monoxide from use of solid fuel appliances in commercial kitchens’ and 'Catering Information Sheet 10 – Ventilation in catering kitchens'.

Inspection Tips

When it comes to solid fuel appliances, you should be looking to satisfy yourself of the following;

  1. The appliance is sited in a suitable place, i.e. where there is free movement of air and that it has a working extraction system.
  2. There is evidence of regular thorough examination as required by regulation 9 of COSHH.
  3. There is a functioning, audible CO alarm, sited in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and that all employees know what to do if it is activated.
  4. The employees are aware of the signs and symptoms of exposure to CO and know how to raise any concerns.
  5. A system is in place to ensure that fans are switched on when fuel is lit, and left on until it has stopped smouldering altogether.

Inspection Guidelines

The following, used in conjunction with the EMM, will help you determine what enforcement action is appropriate:

  1. Galvanised steel extraction systems.
    Stainless steel is preferable, but galvanised steel is not illegal. You do not need to ask what the extraction system is made of and many caterers will not know anyway. Appropriate cleaning, maintenance and examination of the system is the key because this will ensure that the system continues to function regardless of what it is made of.
  2. Gas or electric appliance converted to burn solid fuel
    Using solid fuel in a gas or electric appliance introduces the risk of overheating, fire and increases in carbon monoxide production. Seek specialist advice before taking enforcement action. Initial Enforcement Expectation: PN
  3. Appliances intended for outdoor use
    It may not be obvious if an appliance is intended for outdoor use, however the main issue is whether it has an extraction system associated with it. Any solid fuel appliance that is being used without extraction should be prohibited. If you suspect an appliance is intended solely for outdoor use, but is being used indoors with extraction, ask to see the manufacturer’s instructions and seek specialist advice before taking enforcement action.
    Initial Enforcement Expectation: PN.
  4. Issues associated with siting of appliances, location of termination points and adequacy of make-up air
    Seek specialist advice.
  5. Thorough Examination under COSHH
    Regulation 9 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations 2002 (as amended) states;

    “Where engineering controls are provided to meet the requirements of regulation 7, the employer shall ensure that thorough examination and testing of those controls is carried out – (a) in the case of local exhaust ventilation plant, at least once every 14 months…”

    To many businesses, this will feel like a ‘new’ duty. If there is no evidence of immediate risk and if CO is otherwise controlled (a CO monitor will help) provide some leeway on the timing of the first examination, but stress the importance of on-going compliance.
    Initial Enforcement Expectation: IN

    Contact with 3 random suppliers (January 2015) indicates an estimated cost of thorough examination under COSHH at £150 + VAT (every 14 months).

    Enforcement officers cannot recommend specific companies but should direct businesses to use a competent person. HETAS, B & ES, CEDA and CESA will be able to advise duty-holders.
  6. Monitoring
    Advise that a commercial grade CO detector is necessary as part of the control measures. An IN can be issued if necessary. Interlocking is not mandatory, however the duty holder will need to be able to explain how they are going to control inadvertent exposure of persons after the extraction system is switched off.

    Consideration must be given to anyone remaining in or close to the property after the extraction system is switched off, e.g. cleaners; neighbouring properties and anyone re-entering the property after it is closed.
    Options include
    1. Emptying coals* – A safe method of doing this must be in place and employees should be trained in it. It will be helpful if written procedures are displayed, but this is not mandatory.
    2. Leaving extraction on 24/7.
    3. Working out how long until coals burn out completely, then using a timer (+ time buffer and periodic checks).
    4. It is important to ensure that extraction systems are switched on when the appliance is lit and not left off until cooking begins.
    5. Duty holders might have their own suggestions, but ensure they are appropriate (e.g. simply putting a lid over a tandoori oven is not a suitable control measure).
  7. Selection and Storage of Fuel
    It is not always possible to look at manufacturer’s instructions, but they can be useful if they are available. Contact manufacturer directly if you are concerned about this. Solid fuel should be stored in a dry and ventilated area. Requirements may vary depending on the quantity and type of fuel so you should refer to the manufacturer or supplier’s storage instructions for specific advice.
  8. Information Instruction and Training
    If possible speak to the workers to check their understanding. Training is not costly or time consuming as information is widely (and freely) available.

Background

The risks from exposure to Carbon Monoxide (CO) are well known and duty holders must take reasonably practicable measures to prevent or control exposure to employees, customers and others, such as people in neighbouring properties.

While there have been a handful of high profile cases of CO exposure associated with the use of solid fuel appliances in commercial premises, there is currently no evidence that significant harm is being done to workers in the industry or customers as a result of using solid fuel appliances. The guidance for duty holders ‘Preventing exposure to Carbon Monoxide from use of solid fuel appliances in commercial kitchens’ is intended primarily to educate and Inspectors should, in the first instance, use it to promote safe working practices in an advisory capacity. Notwithstanding this, Local Authority inspectors may encounter poor practice, and in circumstances where there is evidence of exposure to individuals at levels of CO in excess of the WEL, take appropriate enforcement action, to safeguard persons.

If considering enforcement action, you will need to provide evidence of exposure to individuals rather than or in addition to CO levels measured solely using static sampling equipment. Levels of Carbon Monoxide can vary widely throughout a kitchen and exposure will partly depend on where people are working in relation to the appliance. Variations can also occur within a fixed area due to appliances being opened and closed and because of air movement.

For this reason, if you are thinking about taking enforcement action based on exposure to carbon monoxide you should seek specialist advice.

Organisation

None

Targeting

HSE does not expect Local Authorities to change their existing approach to targeting duty-holders or to enforcement of the relevant statutory provisions as a direct result of this guidance, Inspectors should refer to Local Authority Circular (LAC 67/2) for guidance on planning and targeting of interventions to enable the requirements of the National Local Authority Enforcement Code to be met.

While it is acknowledged that solid fuel appliances in the commercial sector form part of the list of higher risk activities appropriate for targeted proactive inspection, it should be noted that there may be more effective ways of reaching a wider audience. This could include holding seminars to promote the publication or providing awareness training as part of a SHAD covering other relevant topics. Local authorities will be best placed to know what manner of intervention is most beneficial in their area.

Some of the information contained in the guidance will be new to many duty-holders. A proportionate enforcement approach should recognise this. On the other hand, the release of the guidance should not prevent you from taking enforcement action that you would have taken anyway.

In the end, enforcement decisions rest with the enforcement officer, and matters of evident concern (MECs) should be dealt with in the usual way. MECs are defined as those that create a risk of serious personal injury or ill-health and which are observed (i.e. self-evident) or brought to the attention of Inspectors.

Timing

Local Authority discretion

Resources

Inspectors should seek specialist (Occupational Hygiene) support when taking enforcement decisions relating to exposure.

Health and Safety

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas and can, in certain concentrations cause serious health effects or death. It is highly unlikely that you would be unaware of dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide on arrival at a premises because of the effect on the workers. Notwithstanding this, you should not enter (or vacate) any premises that you believe to be unsafe.

Diversity

‘Preventing exposure to carbon monoxide from use of solid fuel appliances in commercial kitchens’ is available in a number of languages. When inspecting premises where the dutyholder does not speak English or does not have English as a first language, direct them to, or provide a copy of the appropriate translation.

Further Information

The principal legal requirements on exposure to hazardous substances such as CO are set out in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002.  Employers providing solid fuel appliances for use at work have a duty to assess the risks of exposure from CO and to either avoid or reduce to an acceptable level. Carbon Monoxide gas has a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL), which must not be exceeded. Further information is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/

See also Catering Information Sheets:

Contacts

Local Authority Unit

Updated 2015-11-27