The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is investigating whether the industry should do more to make operators aware of the risks associated with indoor charcoal ovens, Catering Insight has learned.
The safety body said it is seeking the views of suppliers and distributors after discovering installations had not been carried out properly or the equipment was being incorrectly operated, potentially exposing workers to poisonous gases.
A spokesperson for the HSE said: “We became aware of instances where commercial solid fuel appliances — such as barbecues and solid fuel stoves — had not been installed by a competent person, or they were being used inappropriately. This potentially risks exposure to carbon monoxide. By law, industry must ensure employees and customers are protected against such risks. It’s important, and a legal requirement, that those who create the risk also ‘own’ and mitigate against it.”
It is likely there will now be a call for greater collaboration among suppliers to ensure the end-user market is clearly educated on using and maintaining indoor charcoal ovens safely.
The HSE has already begun examine the current level of information conveyed to operators by the supply chain, it said.
“HSE is now in discussions with manufacturers, suppliers, installers and commercial caterers to establish whether there is a need to raise awareness of the risks associated with solid fuel appliances,” added the spokesperson.
Suppliers said they had encountered no cases yet where indoor charcoal grills had proved to be a danger. All stressed that they provide clear guidelines on how such equipment should be installed and maintained.
Michael Eyre, product director at Jestic, which distributes the market-leading Josper brand in the UK, says that while a build-up of carbon monoxide can occur when charcoal is burned, it shouldn’t be an issue if the extraction is left on and working properly.
“We recommend users leave the extraction on low over night — or have it on a timer to go off a minimum of three hours after the kitchen is closed and to come on a minimum of one hour prior to anyone entering the kitchen,” he says. “We also recommend the use of a Solar & Palau fan which has two separate motors controlled by Hall Effect bearings that talk to the controller. If one fan motor fails the other will adjust its speed to compensate and the controller will let you know that a fan motor has failed.”
Franco Sotgiu, managing director of Inka Grills, said that prior to installation it asks every client what procedures they have in place to remove heat and smoke from their cooking areas.
“Clients must ensure their ventilation system is capable of extracting the appropriate number of meters of cubic air per second, and replacing it with fresh air,” he said. “We also advise clients to install a CO monitor or alarm, which will alert staff exposed to the affected area that the CO levels are too high. And we recommend that clients run their extraction system for a period of time first thing in the morning before work commences in the kitchen. This eliminates any overnight residue of CO. This can be an automatic process, managed via a time switch.”
Ian Bidmead, commercial director of Space Catering Equipment, which has recently begun distributing the Bertha range of indoor ovens, reiterated the safety steps given by other manufacturers and said it would “fully support” the HSE with any exploratory work it carries out on the issue.
“We would review and respond professionally to any evidence that is presented to us, but we have not seen or experienced anything that gives us cause for concern,” he said. “As with any piece of heavy duty commercial catering equipment, it is important to follow best practice and ensure the equipment is operated and maintained safely and properly.”