With summer sure to appear at some point this year, it's worth checking that your barbecues and patio heaters are working safely. Pat Perry explains how to make sure that gas equipment is fit for purpose
We have just bought a mid-sized hotel which contains a number of fairly old gas appliances in the kitchen, a gas barbecue and several liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) patio heaters. What are our legal duties in using and maintaining gas equipment?
Any equipment used at work must be safe, properly maintained and fit for purpose. Employees need to have training in how to use the equipment.
Gas equipment has the potential to cause major accidents, including fatalities and major fires, and it is therefore essential to ensure that all equipment is properly serviced and maintained.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 must be followed, as should the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.
Equipment which uses LPG is also covered under the above regulations and also the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000.
In addition to the specific regulations, the use, including maintenance, of gas equipment comes under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Employers must carry out risk assessments and ensure that anyone using the equipment is made aware of any hazards and risks along with the control measures needed to eliminate or reduce the hazards.
The first task would be to have a competent gas engineer carry out a check on all the gas-fired equipment, including those using LPG, so as to ensure that they are safe to use. A faulty gas appliance can cause an explosion which can have fatal consequences and/or cause a major fire.
Engaging the services of a competent gas engineer is essential. A competent engineer will have a Gas Safe registration (this is the scheme which has replaced CORGI). Check their registration card to ensure that they have the correct competency to work on commercial gas appliances.
Regulation 35 of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 requires employers to ensure that gas appliances, flues, pipe work and safety devices are maintained in a safe condition.
As the new owner of the business, you may not have information about when they were last checked, so it is sensible to have the gas appliances and all safety locking devices and cut-off valves thoroughly inspected. Keep a copy of the inspection check list.
In addition to checking the actual gas appliances, all ventilation systems should be checked to ensure that they are working correctly.
Ventilation in a commercial kitchen is often by way of a canopy and extractor filters, or an extraction fan. Ventilation not only provides a comfortable working environment, but also ensures that the products of combustion are removed and that incomplete combustion doesn't take place, as this produces harmful carbon monoxide gas.
Ovens and steamers with enclosed burner equipment must have flame supervision devices.
Also, canopy and extraction systems should have an interlock which will shut off the gas supply to the appliance in the event of an air movement failure.
A competent Gas Safe engineer will understand all of the above and carry out the correct checks.
A primary responsibility of any employer is to ensure that all employees have suitable information, instruction and training in all aspects of their job function, including how to use and clean equipment safely. As the owner, it is essential that you get your team together and review what equipment they use and check out what training they have had. Do they know, for instance, how to light the gas appliances safely, how to switch them off in an emergency (for example, where the emergency stop valves are). Again, keep records of the training they have been given. Often, equipment manufacturers can provide thorough on-site training on how to use their equipment.
Appliances running on LPG will also need to be checked to ensure that they are safe to use. Barbecues and patio heaters need to be maintained in a safe condition (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) so gas pipes, connectors, valves, and so on, should all be regularly checked. Rubber pipes perish and may need to be changed, for instance. A competent person needs to carry out the checks.
Review where the LPG cylinders are being kept - they must be outside in a well-ventilated area and never kept in the cellar or a closed area, or in direct sunlight or near heat sources.
Make sure patio heaters are not used near canopies or "jumbrella"-type awnings as it is easy for fires to start.
Develop your own risk assessments for using all gas appliances and equipment - don't forget to include emergency procedures.
Finally, remember to review the fire risk assessment for the premises to ensure that it covers any increased risk of fire from using gas or LPG appliances.
â- Check all ventilation canopies and extractor fans to ensure that they are working correctly.
â- Locate the emergency shut-off valve, label it and keep it clear.
â- Create an external, secured storage area for LPG cylinders.
â- Provide all employees with suitable training in how to use equipment, how to make user checks and what to do when things go wrong.
â- Devise a plan to replace any suspect equipment with new. Always pay for the best you can afford - for example, choose equipment with fail safe/gas cut-off devices.
â- Develop risk assessments for using all gas appliances and equipment.
â- Develop an emergency procedure to cover events such as gas leaks and ensure everyone is trained.
Things can go wrong… An employee suffered severe burns after he tried to light a gas appliance which had a gas leak - the escaped gas ignited causing a ball of flame to engulf the employee. The employer knew the gas appliance was faulty but took no action to rectify it.
Prosecution followed and hefty fines were imposed by the court - £20,000 for failing to maintain equipment in a safe condition; £20,000 for failing to have a safe system of work; £5,000 for failing to train employees in how to operate equipment safely.
Under the Health and Safety Offences Act 2008, the employer could have been given a prison sentence of up to 12 months.
Pat Perry is executive chairman at Perry Scott Nash