Simple steps to save your business from big problems

The last thing that a restaurant owner wants is to have an electrical, smoke, or fire damage issue in their restaurant. Anyone who has been through such an experience can tell you that it is a painful and costly setback to the business. Not only will there be high costs to properly clean and repair the restaurant, but the employees of the restaurant may also be at risk when working in these environments. It is critical that restaurant owners and managers ensure that their employees are working in a safe environment.

There are three key areas that management should consider to protect their restaurant from a majority of common electrical hazards:

Routine Maintenance

Electrical fires are often caused by electrical hazards that can easily be prevented through routine maintenance. Common causes of electrical fires in a commercial kitchen are worn electrical cords, faulty wiring, improperly installed electrical components, and overloaded circuits. It’s not uncommon for restaurant managers to cut corners to save money. Routine maintenance can catch these items before damage occurs, preventing costly repairs and possibly even harm or injury to persons working in that area. A maintenance and inspection plan should be in place for the restaurant, and inspections should be performed regularly. It may also be a good idea to designate an employee to perform said inspections and then have the general manager verify that the maintenance has been performed. Where there is heightened accountability, there will be improved performance.

Education and Training

Many restaurant workers don’t know how to identify dangerous hazards in the kitchen properly. Certainly, employees would point out hazardous electrical situations if they knew what to look for. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health makes the following recommendations for safeguards and safe work practices:

1.  Make sure that you have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) installed where electricity and wetness may exist. GFCIs will shut off the electrical circuit before it causes serious injury or death.

2.  Receptacle boxes should be made of nonconductive material so that the box will act as a “ground.”

3.  Receptacles and plugs are designed not to energize until they are fully inserted into an outlet.

4.  Fuses in the fuse boxes should be properly labeled to identify the corresponding outlets accurately.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also stated that accidents can be prevented through training and safe work practices. These methods include powering down equipment before inspection or repair, keeping electrical appliances and tools in good working condition, and always wearing the appropriate protective equipment.

Every restaurant should have a safety training program in place where safe work practices are taught to every employee, such as locating breaker switches, identifying unsafe electrical cords, and to whom they should report such hazards should they exist.

Hire Licensed Contractors, Including Electricians

It’s important for restaurant managers to hire qualified contractors to work on their properties. Only contractors that are properly licensed to perform electrical work should be hired. A significant portion of insurance claims resulting from fire or smoke loss are caused by faulty electrical work either conducted by the property owner or someone hired by management. A simple check on the local governing board’s website will show whether or not a contractor is properly licensed to be performing the repairs. Online reviews from Google, Yelp, and other sites, will also help to indicate whether the contractor is reputable and stands by their work.

The good news for restaurant owners and managers is that most of the electrical hazards in restaurants can be prevented with simple routine maintenance, safety training, and researching whether anyone doing work on the property is qualified to do so. These guidelines, when followed, will allow restaurant managers to leave their restaurant at the end of a long night and trust that it will still be there in the morning. 

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