Catering Facilities and the Law
21 Oct 2009
With an ever increasing number of Golf Clubs now providing cooked food for members and visitors, it is worth Golf Club Secretaries and Administrators reviewing whether they have in place all the necessary Health & Safety measures in the catering facilities to ensure that the considerable demands of the applicable legislation are being met. Satisfying the local Environmental Health Officer that the catering facilities are fully compliant prior to opening is an exercise that will be well known to many. Periodic inspections by the EHO should provide reassurance that the catering side of the business is being run according to the requirements of the Food Hygiene Regulations.
There is, however, one important aspect of running a golf club's catering facility which only relatively recently called for particular management attention. Until 2006, the question of approving fire safety standards and practices in buildings and premises in the UK was in the hands of the local Fire Authority. It was part of its responsibility to issue the fire certificates so essential for obtaining insurance cover. It was they who decided whether owners and managers of premises had in place all the necessary fire fighting apparatus, suppression equipment and means of escape to justify the issuance of a certificate.
In October 2006 considerable changes were brought about with the advent of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – now generally known as the Fire Safety Order. This piece of legislation was essentially intended to consolidate and simplify a whole raft of existing regulations. For those not fully conversant with the legislation, I have summarised here its major requirements. The most fundamental change was to transfer the responsibility for achieving required standards of fire safety away from the Fire Authority and onto the shoulders of those owning or managing premises. No longer do the Fire Authorities issue fire certificates. Instead Fire Officers now act as "policeman" for the Fire Safety Order with the powers to inspect premises for compliance with the law, to demand corrective action to be taken for non compliance and, in serious instances of non compliance, to take legal action against the person responsible for the ownership or management of the premises. It is now incumbent on all those who are in control of premises to appoint a "responsible person" to put into effect the requirements of the legislation. This is usually the person who owns the premises or manages the premises and a Golf Club Secretary or Administrator would readily match this profile. It is the primary responsibility of the "responsible person" to prepare fire risk assessments for all the potential fire risks in the building, to describe them clearly and to state what action has been taken to eliminate or, at the very least, minimise the risks to building occupants from the danger of fire.
One area which should most certainly be included in the fire risk assessments is the catering facility and, in particular, the grease extract system which is invariably linked to the canopy over the cooking equipment. This installation takes grease laden air from the cooking site to exhaust to atmosphere. As the extracted air cools, droplets of grease are deposited on the extract's internal surfaces requiring only a flash flame or spark from the cooking to be ignited. Uncleaned extracts in hotels, Heathrow Airport and many restaurants were the cause of major fires and provide ample evidence of how destructive and dangerous such fires can be.
At a recent seminar, a spokesman for the Fire Authorities stated "where a building has a grease extract system, it is probably that building’s greatest fire risk". There is clearly a legal requirement to have in place a cleaning regime that will ensure the elimination of any potentially fire hazardous grease deposits in the extract. In other words to eliminate the potential hazard to building occupants as required by the legislation.
As a first step to dealing with this particular installation, a Golf Club Secretary or Administrator, as the ‘responsible person’, should arrange for the system to be checked for the presence of fire hazardous grease deposits. The Heating and Ventilating Contractors' Association have a panel of cleaning contractors who have a responsibility to comply with industry approved standards. My company, which is a member, will, for example, carry out a comprehensive survey of the grease extract system and provide an assessment of fire risk quite free of charge. It is then the responsibility of the "responsible person" to have the system cleaned if it retains fire hazardous deposits. Following a thorough deep clean, it is the usual practice for a certificate of cleanliness to be issued which can be shown to the Fire Inspector as evidence that action has been taken to comply with the legislation and similarly to the Club’s Insurers.
Incidentally, even where the catering service has been subcontracted out, the responsibility for meeting the requirements of the Fire Safety Order remain with the Golf Club and cannot be passed to the caterer.
One word of warning. Unfortunately, there are cleaning contractors who will claim to have cleaned the system only for inspection to show they have not. Professional cleaning should be carried out in accordance with the HVCA's "Guide to Good Practice 'Internal Cleanliness of Ventilation Systems' TR19". This gives guidance for the cleaning of these systems to achieve compliance and is accepted as the industry standard to which they should be cleaned. By ensuring that only a contractor is commissioned who undertakes cleaning in accordance with this standard can the Golf Club Administrator be confident that the ventilation system will fully perform its essential function of providing safe and hygienic conditions in golf club premises.
The essential changes introduced by the Fire Safety Order:
- Fire Certificates are abolished
- Companies must appoint a ‘responsible person or persons’ to produce fire risk assessments
Fire Risk Assessments must identify risks, and describe how they will be managed to present the least possible risk to building occupants
- Wherever possible, risks must be eliminated, or at least minimised
- The grease extract system represents a significant fire risk and, therefore, must be included in the Fire Risk Assessment for the catering facility
- Fire Authorities will act as ‘policemen’ with powers under the Order to prosecute if responsibilities are not met
- Failure to have complied with the Order will result in personal and possibly criminal liability action in the event of a fire
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