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Health and safety: is your church kitchen prepared?

Are you aware of the mandatory regulations surrounding health and safety in your church kitchen? In this blog, we’ll answer some of the biggest questions you might have about this important topic – as well as a few you might not have thought of.

As churches upgrade their kitchens or expand to offer more services, it’s crucial they understand rules and regulations surrounding health and safety. That being said, complying with health and safety rules doesn’t need to be complex. If you have concerns, your local health authority should usually be able to provide assistance, but we’ve broken down some of the questions you may be asking below.

How can I make sure my new kitchen is protected from fires?

There are several things you need to consider when it comes to fire safety. You need to ensure that you aren’t leaving frying pans, chip pans or other hot equipment unattended during cooking (if possible, oven-bake food for a safer option), and cut down on the amount of flammable and combustible materials on the premises.

Have you installed a stainless steel kitchen carcass? Not only is powder-coated metal fire-resistant, but the finish is formulated so that non-toxic fumes are emitted in case of a fire.

You also need to ensure that you are testing fire alarms every week and carry out a fire risk assessment to ensure that your church kitchen complies with fire regulations, namely the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (England and Wales). Do not consider using wood or MDF cabinets, which are highly flammable.

What about gas safety?

If gas appliances (boilers, cookers and heaters for example) aren’t installed properly, you could be putting your congregation at risk from gas leaks, explosions or fires, and this most likely will not be following insurance rules. Some appliances that aren’t correctly installed/maintained can cause a carbon monoxide build-up that can’t be heard, smelt or tasted – that’s why it’s so important to make sure that your gas fittings are safe and secure regularly.

Under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, church owners must ensure that any gas appliance, installation pipework or flue installed at the church is maintained in a safe condition and follows the Gas Safe register via an appointed gas engineer.

How can I ensure I am keeping food hygiene in line with rules and regulations?

Regulations from the Food Standards Agency don’t just apply to food businesses, but churches that are serving food, too. Your volunteers need to ensure they are washing and drying their hands regularly and cleaning and disinfecting food prep areas and equipment between tasks.

Food should be stored in a way that protects it from harmful bacteria and chemicals (e.g. raw food should be stored below ready-to-eat food in fridges at 8°C or below). Hot food needs to be kept at 63°C or above after it has been cooked to 75°C, under UK rules. And any waste needs to be removed quickly and efficiently from areas and placed in closed containers.

If you run a church café or are handling food five or more days in any five consecutive weeks, you are required to register with your local authority – the best way to find out where you stand is by contacting your local Environment Health Officer.

How can I stop insects and other pests from getting into my kitchen?

Pests such as mice, insects and birds can spread bacteria and diseases in your church kitchen – that’s why as well as ensuring surfaces are clean, you need to clean floor drains, replace cracked tiles and seal gaps around fixtures to get rid of entrance points, and store all food in closed containers. You also need to make sure to remove crumbs from hard-to-reach places and make sure you are emptying bins regularly somewhere far from the kitchen.

Keep an eye out for signs of pests such as faeces and chew marks – if in doubt, it’s worth getting a pest inspector in to give your kitchen a survey.

Do I need to train my staff?

While it’s not necessary for staff to attend a formal food hygiene course, staff handling food need to be supervised and trained in food hygiene in a manner appropriate for the work they are doing.

Does the layout of my kitchen matter for health and safety?

In a word, yes! Obviously, church kitchens need to be designed in such a way that volunteers will not trip or constantly bump into each other, but they also discourage cross-contamination (bacteria spreading from raw food onto ready-to-eat food). This means separating certain prep areas and keeping bins or other waste containers away from washing up areas. Kitchens should be designed in a food triangle by an expert, to make sure it is suitable.

To prevent accidents, you should also be cleaning up spillages, fitting kitchens with non-slip flooring and ensuring they are well lit and well ventilated.

Do I need to consider the Disability Discrimination Act?

Since 1995, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) has been in place to protect people with disabilities from discrimination, with ‘disability’ defined as “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”. This applies to service providers, which includes churches.

Churches should be ensuring they make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities to overcome barriers to access. What counts as reasonable adjustments can vary, but it should be noted that as churches are service providers the word ‘service’ more than likely applies to any areas that refreshments are served.

How can I renovate my kitchen while ensuring I am complying with health and safety regulations?

Steelplan Kitchens can help. Our extensive experience fitting church kitchens means we are well attuned with the various rules, regulations and technical points involved with creating a new kitchen – whether that’s ensuring you pick the right system to adequately ventilate your kitchen, giving your volunteers an easy-to-use kitchen layout, or ensuring your kitchen complies with DDA regulations.

Planning a new kitchen for your church? Steelplan Kitchens offers a free consultation and design service, providing you with a durable, easy-to-clean and stylish kitchen to match your requirements. Get in touch today by calling 0844 809 9186 or email [email protected]

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