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OPINION: Don’t let faulty appliances cost you a date with the HSE

Electrical testing

Busy commercial kitchens can be hazardous for those working in and around them, especially when it comes to appliances that can cause injury and accidents if used improperly. But operators can take some simple steps to ensure they don’t find themselves up before the HSE, writes Beckie Hatton.

Appliances are a key component in any busy commercial kitchen, and while they help you get the job done, it’s important that you keep a close eye on these to ensure they’re always in full working order.

When they’re not, these pieces of equipment can be particularly dangerous, with government statistics showing that there were 3,799 non-domestic fires in 2017-18 caused by appliances that were faulty or misused.

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While you will have already instructed your workers on how to properly use your appliances, it’s not always easy to predict when things may go wrong.

Learn which appliances are most hazardous

Although all electrical appliances can cause accidents and injuries, there are some that are more hazardous than others. And, before you begin implementing safety procedures for these, it’ll be good to know which pose the greatest threat to your workers.

The appliances in your professional kitchen will be categorised as class 1, 2 or 3, with class 1 being the most dangerous and class 3 the least dangerous.

  • Class 1 appliances: fridges, freezers, dishwashers, microwaves, toasters, kettles.
  • Class 2 appliances: food mixers
  • Class 3 appliances: chargers

Being aware of the appliances that are most at risk can help you remain vigilant and ensures which units need to be tested frequently.

According to PAT.org.uk, all commercial kitchens should have portable and handheld equipment tested every six months, whereas stationary and other moveable equipment like dishwashers should be tested every 12 months. However, do be aware that there are no set guidelines on how to do this and how often they should be tested.

Carry out regular electrical testing

Under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, it’s a requirement for all employers to ensure that any electrical devices used in the workplace are safe and fit for purpose. This means that all equipment used in your professional kitchen must be inspected regularly – although, as previously mentioned, there is no set way to do this.

Any electrical testing should include two things:

  • Visual inspections: This will involve looking at the general condition of the appliance, as well as any wires which may be damaged. Looking at the cleanliness will also be important as build ups of dirt and debris, especially in ovens, can burn and catch fire.
  • Physical testing: Once you’ve checked there is no damage on the interior or exterior of the appliance, you will then need to test it is working as it should. To do this you’ll need to turn off your appliance and then attach the terminals of the device to a multimeter. Switch your appliance back on and take the reading – a low ohm reading indicates a good appliance whereas higher than 120 ohms or 0.L will indicate a defective one.

If you’re not comfortable carrying out electrical testing for yourself, you can obviously get experts in to do this for you. The frequency of testing for each appliance will differ as they will each pose a different risk level according to the electrical class and category of the appliance.

Watch out for common faults and mistakes

With so much going on at once in a commercial kitchen, it can sometimes be difficult to know what signs of damage there are to look out for. Some common faults and hazards include:

  • Worn electrical cords on worktop appliances e.g. handheld whisks, toasters and kettles
  • Working with water around electrical appliances
  • Faulty wiring and damaged plug sockets and outlets
  • Misuse and damage of extension cords

Although it’s not always possible to stop the above from happening, there are some ways you can try to prevent these. This includes:

  • Pulling on the plug itself rather than tugging at the cord to unplug appliances
  • Don’t unplug any cords that have gotten wet. Also, avoid touching cords and plug sockets if your hands are wet
  • Monitor the temperature of extension cords – if they feel warm when the appliance is being used, they are at risk of causing a fire or electrocution. Instead, getting heavy duty cords will be better.
  • Turning appliances off by the mains and unplugging them fully when they are not in use

Most importantly, you’ll also need to know how to shut off the power of any appliances in the case of emergencies. Each appliance in your kitchen should have this information detailed in their instruction manuals, so make sure you keep any existing or new documentation.

Maintain your appliances

A key way of reducing the likelihood of your appliances becoming dangerous and causing harm is to ensure you are maintaining them properly. No matter how often you use your appliance, keeping them clean is important for both hygiene and safety reasons.

It can be easy for your workers to neglect the oven when they’re busy cooking and serving up plates of food but doing so can raise the likelihood of kitchen fires. When food scraps and splashes aren’t cleaned up, they can burn and cause a lot of smoke, or at very worst, a fire. To avoid this, your kitchen staff need to make sure they clean your oven each day.

It’s important to know when it’s best to seek an engineer’s advice. If you see any damaged or exposed wires, or hear any unusual noises coming from your appliance, the best thing to do is leave it and call the manufacturer of the product to see if they can send someone out to have a look.

Commercial kitchens are busy environments to work in, but don’t let that distract you from taking the necessary safety measures when it comes to your appliances. The equipment you use can cause injury, accidents, and even fatalities, if not used and cared for properly.

Beckie Hatton is product manager at repair specialist Home Appliance Care.  

Tags : commercial kitchenselectrical testingsafety
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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