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Most schools use gas. Whether it’s needed for boiler rooms and heating, or simply for cooking in the kitchens, almost all of them have some form of fuel gas on site.
This frequently makes school bursars and catering managers responsible – and liable – for the safety of the gas systems on their site.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Gas health and safety law is regulated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Both the HSE and the UK’s local authorities have
enforcement responsibilities under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations of 1998
which aims to prevent injury to the public or consumers from fire, explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning.
This came after a council was fined £10,000 following an incident at a school near Gateshead.
Independent schools should be aware they carry the responsibility themselves.
• Colleges and boarding schools are on the list of those who must ensure regular safety checks on any fixed or portable gas supplies and flues.
• The checks must be done by an engineer who is listed on the Gas Safe Register.
It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure that any gas appliance, installation pipework or
flue installed at any place of work under their control is maintained in a safe condition so as to prevent risk of injury to any person.”
• Where gas is fitted as part of commercial food preparation equipment,
the manager of the premises is responsible for ensuring the equipment is regularly inspected and serviced.
• The Gas Safety registered inspection engineer must leave a safety report signed by both themselves and the premises manager, and
is recorded in the Annual Statement of Compliance.
• The responsible person should familiarise themselves with safety regulations
concerning gas appliances, gas cooking appliances and the education (school premises) regulations.
• Failure to comply with the regulations can result in substantial fines and even a custodial sentence for the liable party.
• There are rules laid out in the HSE Sheet 23 that specify the safety features that must be installed at the same
time as any gas burning oven or other gas appliance.
You must ensure that you follow these if you are having new or second hand appliances fitted.
Wherever there are highly flammable materials or fuels, of course safety is a concern.
Leaking gas can build up in enclosed environments posing an explosion risk from a spark when a light switch is activated, for example.
And there is the risk of fire from exposed flames.
Ensuring your staff are safe, protected and fully trained in the correct use of the equipment is vital for both them, and you as their employer.
What is perhaps of greater concern is the risk from carbon monoxide (CO). CO is a poisonous gas with no odour, colour or taste.
It’s caused by badly fitted or poorly functioning gas burners failing to properly burn the gas. CO is extremely
dangerous because it can cause suffocation in a relatively short amount of time by preventing oxygen from being carried
around the body by the blood, and people may not realise what is happening to them.
prolonged exposure to CO can have severe health complications including brain damage and paralysis.
This is why proper monitoring and servicing of all gas equipment is so vital.
You should also always ensure there is proper ventilation in areas where gas is being burned –
for example in boiler rooms or kitchens.
Don’t let anyone cover essential vents.
Ensure any chimneys or flues are regularly swept.
Watch for flames burning yellow or orange rather than blue.
If any of your staff working around gas appliances complain of headaches, nausea,
lethargy or dizziness you should refer them to their GP for CO testing and call in an engineer to test the equipment.
If the school were to face a claim from someone who believed they had been
adversely affected by working – or living – around faulty gas equipment it could have massive
implications regarding future insurance premiums, and failure to keep up with inspections
could result in an engineer issuing an ‘At Risk’ or ‘Immediately Dangerous’ notice which could mean that the kitchen – or
in the worst case, the school – would have to close until a full maintenance programme had been carried out.
Pelican can help schools ensure their gas equipment is safe by advising you on the regulations you should be aware of.
We can also arrange for a Gas Safe engineer to perform a survey at your premises.
A current requirement to meet safety standards is to provide a gas interlock system which is a simple
safety device designed to cut off the gas system when no air flow is detected through the vents.
Keith Palmer, Pelican’s Catering Equipment Manager says, “A Gas Safe survey would test a number of crucial safety aspects.
For example it would determine how big the solenoid gas valve needs to be, its potential position,
siting of stop buttons, extraction canopy compliance and many more issues.
Gas Safe engineers are extremely thorough, and Pelican customers can be assured of the peace of mind their service
provides as well as the insurance benefits that make them very worthwhile.”
One of Pelican’s main service companies is BFES. Service Manager
Pete Lemon talks us through what happens next if a school wants to ensure they are compliant with all the regulations.
“If we get a call from a school we would carry out a comprehensive site survey checking the
kitchen and the surrounding area to ensure all the current gas kitchen regulations are being adhered to.
These give catering managers an insight into the regulations and whether they are meeting them.
We would carry out tests on the canopy and carry out carbon dioxide readings in the kitchen.
All engineers should take these tests every time they visit the kitchen.
“We’d want to see what existing controls they have in place on the gas system, for example if they have good extraction and supply pressure.
The aim is to ensure that they’re up to the current standards that are set – for instance we’d want to see
thermocouples on all the burners.
“All new appliances have to have the gas interlock system that proves the flow of air in the gas system,
which is essential to ensure proper burning of the fuel.
If the appliance is older and an interlock system is not in place, they must display a sign to advise the chef to turn on the ventilation before operating the gas appliance.
“In the case of good kitchen management there will be no problems, but I have been to a kitchen where a woman was operating a gas heated steriliser.
She’d complained about the noise from the ventilation and turned it off. Later she complained of a headache and soon collapsed and was taken to hospital.
That’s quite an extreme case but is not that unusual.
The interlock valve stops people making those kinds of mistakes.
“If we felt after our survey that work needed to be done to bring the kitchen up to spec, then we can do that and it’s usually quite straightforward.
Often we can adapt their existing equipment. It’s not too disruptive, but at some point we will have to turn off the gas for a short time,
and if we’re drilling to install safety equipment then there is a hygiene risk, but we can come in during the holidays so that we minimise the effect on the kitchen.”
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