Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas and is odourless and not easy to detect but rising levels in the atmosphere can affect the human body in different ways.
Just 0.1% in the atmosphere can adversely affect concentration and by 2% breathing reduces to about 50% of the normal rate. Once levels rise to 5-10% people quickly become confused and lapse into unconsciousness.
While it is rare for carbon monoxide to reach dangerous levels in commercial kitchens, the levels of the gas do need to be regularly checked, especially where the cooking uses gas for its energy supply.
Guidance from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive suggests that the factors thought to affect the emission levels that people are exposed to during cooking include the size of the kitchen, the type of the ventilation and extractor system, the age and condition of the appliances and the level of appliance usage.
Catering and cooking can produce significant quantities of fumes and vapours as well as large amounts of heat. Venitlation is needed to remove these and discharge them to a safe external location and the HSE stresses that good systems are essential in a commercial kitchen to protect workers from the effects of potentially harmful fumes generated from directly heating foods during frying, grilling and stir frying.
It is particularly important to provide adequate makeup air for gas fired appliances. The lack of an adequate supply of air can lead to incomplete combustion and the accumulation of combustion products such as carbon monoxide.
Regular inspection and testing of gas fired appliances is advised using a CORGI qualified engineer. These checks will also identify any problems with the efficiency of the ventilation and extraction system.
Ensuring that ventilation equipment is working correctly has many benefits and keeping ductwork, filters and extractors free of dust and debris by regular extraction cleaning is likely to pay off for the catering establishment’s owners.
Kitchen extraction cleaning is best carried out by specialist commercial cleaning companies, whose operatives are supplied with the right equipment and materials to do the job properly and with the training to carry it out effectively.
The company will advise on how frequently cleaning should be done, depending on how heavy the kitchen use is, and will also supply an inspection and cleaning certificate once the job is done, which can be used to keep insurance costs under control.
Keeping the extraction system clean and in working order will also to minimise the risk of fires, which typically begin in these systems, according to the Fire Service.