Natural gas is a clean, affordable fuel used in food service and restaurant kitchens across the nation. It has a long track record for safety, too, and most facility managers understand how to appropriately use gas-fueled equipment. However, you may not be aware of safety standards in place for how equipment should be connected to the gas supply, especially if your kitchen contains older equipment or hasn't been renovated in a while. Below are some guidelines for flexible gas connections that can make your kitchen compliant with codes, and most importantly, safer for everyone including employees and patrons:
Don't be hard on your gas connections
Not too long ago, gas connections used hard steel or copper pipes to supply equipment. While those connections are sturdy in most respects, they possess a serious flaw that makes their use inadequate for commercial food service applications: immobility.
Hard-piped gas connections confine equipment to a fixed location and prevent it from being easily moved to another place. This lack of mobility means you will be unable to adequately clean behind ovens, grills and other equipment; grease can accumulate over time behind the equipment, and this poses a serious fire hazard. In addition, from a food safety standpoint, the accumulation of food particles and other edible materials leads to potential pest problems and other concerns about food-borne illness.
While there are alternatives for cleaning behind immobile fixtures, the reality is that busy staff won't always have the time or inclination to clean in confined locations, especially when those locations are difficult to access and filthy.
As an alternative to hard pipe, flexible hoses are now the established standard for use in making natural gas connections with kitchen equipment. In fact, several standards, including NSF, ANSI and CSA, mandate the use of flexible hoses that permit equipment to be readily moved around for cleaning purposes. Below are a few important considerations to keep in mind when purchasing or installing new flexible hoses:
- Be sure each hose contains a shut-off valve – each hose and appliance should contain a shut-off valve in addition to a main master valve. Valves should be mounted at the wall supply pipe so gas flow can be shut down immediately should an accidental separation occur.
- Hoses must be durable and resistant to heat and motion – any flexible hoses selected should withstand frequent movement and high temperatures. In addition, hoses chosen must be manufactured specifically for commercial use; hoses designed for use in homes are designed for stationary use only and will eventually fail after repeated movement of equipment.
- Obtain gas hoses with anti-bacterial coatings - the growth of harmful microorganisms is a concern within a food service environment, and hoses should be coated with persistent anti-microbial materials.
Maintain a proper amount of restraint
Since flexibly-connected equipment isn't attached to the floor and wall, it is must be properly restrained in some manner to prevent accidents. A poorly-restrained fryer, for example, could be suddenly jolted and splash hot oil. Below are some means of keeping equipment restrained so it complies with codes and provides an adequate amount of protection for users and facility occupants:
- Install restraining cables – these are "leashes", often coiled to prevent tangling, that join equipment to the wall. These cables prevent equipment from being extended beyond a safe limit that might otherwise permit gas hoses to be ripped free from their connections. Restraining cables should be kept attached at all times and only removed during cleaning.
- Use caster stops and brackets – since most movable equipment is wheeled via casters, it should be held in-place by the use of floor-mounted caster stops. These fixtures "trap" the wheels and hold them firmly to prevent accidental movement. Be sure you use correctly-sized caster stops and in the proper quantity as required.
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