Americans are working hard this week at home and at restaurants to prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday. According to the National Restaurant Association, almost one in 10 (9 percent) of adults plan to eat their Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant. And, in addition, 4 percent of those planning a holiday meal at home intend to purchase it from a restaurant. On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and notoriously one of the biggest shopping days of the year, research by the National Restaurant Association indicates that 72 percent of the 43 percent of adults that head out shopping that day intend to visit either a full- or quick-service restaurant while they are out. That’s a lot of commercial cooking equipment being put to use just this week alone!
NFPA 1, Chapter 50, addresses the design, installation, operation, inspection, and maintenance of all public and private commercial cooking equipment and, new to 2018, mobile and temporary cooking operations. Compliance with Chapter 50 and NFPA 96, Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, is required for this equipment and operations.
This week, I caught up with the Staff Liaison for NFPA 96 and Fire Protection Engineer at NFPA, Jacqueline Wilmot, to learn more about the latest requirements from the 2017 edition of NFPA 96, referenced by NFPA 1. Here are Jacqueline’s responses:
Can you tell us about the scope and purpose of NFPA 96?
Jacqueline: The requirements in NFPA 96 provide the minimum fire safety requirements, both preventative and operation, related to the design, installation, operation, inspection, and maintenance of all public and private cooking operations. Often people forget that NFPA 96 applies to residential cooking equipment if it is being used for commercial cooking operations. Although NFPA 96 doesn’t define “commercial cooking operations” some examples of residential equipment being used for commercial cooking include nursing homes or college dormitories that have cooking procedures that produce grease-laden vapors.
The overall goal of NFPA 96 is to reduce the potential fire hazard of cooking operations, irrespective of the type of cooking equipment used and whether it is used in public or private facilities. Once users of NFPA 96 can identify the purpose of the document, it becomes more clear that the type of cooking appliance does not dictate if an exhaust system or extinguishment system is required, as both of these decisions depend on whether or not the cooking process itself will produce grease-laden vapors.
Were there any major changes in NFPA 96, 2017 edition?
Jacqueline: The 2017 edition adds Normative Annex B on mobile and temporary cooking operations. The normative annex is written in mandatory language but is not intended to be enforced unless specifically adopted by a jurisdiction or is applied on a voluntary basis. This annex includes requirements not limited to clearance, hoods, ducts, terminations, fire extinguishing systems, carbon monoxide detectors, location, training, generators, LP-gas, as well as procedures for the use, inspection, testing, and maintenance of equipment.
Another big change to the 2017 edition was to require the frequency of how often training is to be provided for new employees and existing employees on the use of portable fire extinguishers and the manual actuation of the fire extinguishing system. The 2017 edition of NFPA 96 requires the management of the commercial cooking operation to provide instruction to new employees on hiring and to all employees annually. Industry experience revealed that many commercial cooking operations employees have not been instructed or have forgotten their training, resulting in inappropriate response to a fire. Providing instructions at regular intervals after initial instruction will reduce the likelihood of inappropriate response.
Are there any major changes planned for the 2021 edition?
Jacqueline: A majority of the discussion during the 2 day First Draft Technical Committee Meeting was on Chapter 10, Fire-Extinguishing Equipment and Normative Annex B, Mobile or Temporary Cooking Operations. When it comes to Chapter 10, the Technical Committee would prefer to use language consistent with NFPA 17A, Standard for Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems. Additional provisions to clarify the shutoff device requirements of manual resetting prior to fuel or power being restored were discussed and also the location of manual actuation devices were reviewed. The conversation about Normative Annex B was around the idea to move the language from the annex to the body of the standard.
What are some of the major issues that restaurant owners should be managing and AHJs enforcing to help make sure facilities stay safe through the holiday season?
Jacqueline: NFPA 96 puts a lot of weight on owners to carry through the provisions of the standard. The owner is responsible for cooking equipment, hoods, ducts, fans, fire-extinguishing equipment and special effluent or energy control equipment installed in their facility be maintained to ensure the entire system works properly and provides the appropriate level of protection. In addition, the owner is responsible for the inspection, testing, maintenance, and cleanliness of the ventilation control and fire protection of the commercial cooking operation, provided that this responsibility has not been transferred in written form to a management company, tenant, or other party.
How does an owner manage all of this? Here are some simple tips for owners and enforcers to share with facilities in their jurisdiction:
Clearance. Section 4.2 of NFPA 96 states where enclosures are not required, hoods, grease removal devices, exhaust fans, and ducts are required to have a minimum clearance of 18 inches to combustible material, 3 inches to limited-combustible material, and 0 inches to noncombustible material. These clearances apply in the ongoing operational life of the system, so move those boxes on top of a hood or directly against the side of it!
Train your employees on how to use the extinguishing equipment. All employees should know the location of these manual pull stations as well as how and when to operate them.
Inspect, Test and Maintain Your Equipment. Fire inspectors are responsible for verifying inspections, testing and maintenance procedures and frequencies have been met. Although conducting inspections for grease buildup and fire extinguishing systems at specified intervals are typically contracted out (and always completed by person(s) acceptable to the AHJ), there are several items that can be inspected on a daily basis by restaurant employees through a training program in which you develop and have your manager enforce. Have employees routinely look out for normal wear and tear of equipment (i.e. broken seals, missing screws, exposed wires). All employees should start their routine with inspecting the equipment to ensure it was properly cleaned from the previous night (or shift), confirm that if the equipment requires a fire extinguishing system, the nozzles are clear and not clogged with grease. Many restaurants utilize heaters to keep the food hot after it’s been cooked; make sure employees know to check that are no flammable materials on top of or near the heaters. Before starting the fryer, employees should check to make sure the oil level isn’t too low because if the heating coil is exposed above or close to the oil surface, residue and oil can catch fire. These are all very simple, yet effective steps in the fire protection program of your facility that do not require hiring and outside contractor to perform the work.
Clean. Since 1 in every 5 of the fires had a failure to clean as a factor contributing to its ignition, cleaning seems like an easy and obvious solution to mitigate fire risks. Since 1 in every 5 of the fires cited in Evart’s report had a failure to clean as a factor contributing to its ignition, cleaning seems like an easy and obvious solution to mitigate fire risks.
Special thanks to Jacqueline for all of this great information that will help owners and enforcers make sure everyone working with commercial cooking equipment to prepare food for others and those enjoying a meal out can stay safe this holiday season!
Have you conducted fire inspections on facilities with commercial cooking equipment? What issues have arose with enforcing NFPA 1 in these spaces?
Thank you for reading, stay safe, and Happy Thanksgiving!
Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition and nfpa.org/doc## to view other standards referenced in this post. Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. Looking for an older #FireCodefridays blog? You can view past posts here.