Following a fatal electrocution, the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) is issuing a safety alert on the inherent dangers associated with electricity in a restaurant kitchen. In particular, the HSA draws attention to employers and managers of the dangers associated with older electrical installations and installations in harsh environments as may be found in restaurant kitchens.
Hazards associated with electricity may arise because of contact with live parts of the supply or as a result of fire caused by the installation or appliances.
The following are some keys steps that persons managing restaurants and kitchens should take to help ensure that the electrical risks in the kitchen environment are reduced to as low as is reasonably practical.
1. Urgent Action
If anybody in the kitchen has experienced any instances of even mild shock or sees any evidence of electric sparking, the electrical supply should be isolated immediately at the distribution board (unless this causes additional risk). In any event, the area should be evacuated and a competent electrician called in to rectify the situation. A certificate should be obtained from the electrician for any works carried out to make the installation safe.
2. Ensure electrical accessories are suitably protected
Standard domestic sockets are not suitable for areas that are frequently splashed or hosed down.
Fig 1. Domestic Sockets not suitable for areas subject to splashing.
Fig 2 Industrial sockets required to prevent water ingress.
Light fittings might also need to be upgraded to protect against water and steam.
Fig 3 Light fittings protected against moisture ingress.
3. Ensure All Socket Circuits are protected by a working RCD
All circuits supplying portable electrical equipment such as toasters, mixers, meat slicers or kettles should be protected by a residual current device (RCD). These RCD’s, located in the electrical distribution board, should be tested regularly by pressing the test button (usually marked “T”). On pressing the test button, the switch should trip indicating that it is working satisfactorily. If it does not trip when pressing the button, contact a competent electrician immediately. If you have any doubt about the level of protection of your installation you should contact a competent electrician.
Fig 4 Segment of electrical distribution board showing RCD’s. Press “T” to test.
4. Ensure that metalwork is “bonded”
All major items of fixed metalwork such as copper pipes, deep fat fryers and metal counter-tops are generally required to be connected electrically together and earthed. This is called bonding. The bonding connection may not be readily visible. However if you have any doubt that fixed metalwork is not adequately bonded, a test by a competent electrician will reveal whether the metalwork poses a risk.
Fig 5 Typical metalwork that should be bonded.
Fig 6 Bonding connection to copper pipework.
If you have any concerns regarding metalwork bonding, the assistance of a competent electrician should be sought.
5. Ensure Installation is regularly inspected and tested
If an owner is worried about their electrical installation they should get it inspected and tested by a competent electrician and obtain a signed inspection report. Generally, the HSA recommend that electrical installations in environments such as restaurants undergo a formal visual examination every 12 months and that they are fully examined and tested by a competent electrician every 5 years.
The above points are not exhaustive, but indicate some of the areas where electrical safety could be improved in the kitchen-restaurant environment.
If you have any queries relating to electrical safety, please contact the HSA at LoCall: 1890 289 389 (Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 12:30pm) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, The Safe Electric Scheme is sponsored by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and they can be contacted at 01 492 9966 or submit an online query at https://safeelectric.ie/contact-us/.