Safety Guidelines for Restaurants

General safety guidelines for businesses serving meals

pdf icon Safety Guidelines for Businesses Serving Meals

Path of egress

For those occupancies with capacities of 50 or more people, two separate and remote exits are required. Exit doors must open outward with the path of travel and door openings shall have a minimum of 32 inches in clear width.

Emergency lights are required to illuminate the path of egress. These lights should provide for a minimum of 1½ hours of emergency illumination in the event of failure of the normal lighting system. The emergency lights must have a battery backup in the event of a power failure. Emergency lights should be tested on a regular basis.

Lighted exit signs must be installed above each exit door and where necessary inside the building to highlight the path of egress, and must have a battery back-up in the event of a power failure. These signs must remain lit at all times.

Clear access to exit pathways and exit doors must be maintained at all times. Doors can be locked as long as they can be easily opened from the inside without the use of a key or other unlocking device.

Emergency exits are not allowed through the kitchen, furnace room or other high hazard areas.

Any door, passage, or stairway that does not lead to an exit and could be mistaken for an exit must be identified by a sign that reads “NO EXIT.”

Fire protection

An automatic sprinkler system is not required but is highly recommended. Many local and state building codes are requiring newly constructed buildings to have an automatic sprinkler system. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), damage per fire can be lowered up to 77 percent in sprinklered properties. When sprinkler systems operate, typically only one or two sprinkler heads are activated.

Cooking equipment that produces smoke or grease-laden vapors must be equipped with an exhaust system. The most common type of cooking equipment that meets this requirement includes deep-fat fryers, grills, electric and gas stoves, and surface burners. Pizza ovens do not meet this requirement and do not require an exhaust system. For more information, please refer to the Loss Control Bulletin “Hoods, Grease Removal Devices, and Exhaust Duct Systems.”

Cooking equipment that will produce grease-laden vapors must be protected by an automatic fire extinguishing system. For more information, please refer to Loss Control Bulletin “Fire Extinguishing Systems for Commercial Cooking.”

If there is a combustible wall behind or around the cooking equipment, a non-combustible wall assembly should be constructed over the existing wall. This wall assembly should consist of ⅝-inch fire-rated gypsum wallboard over the combustible wall. Stainless steel panels spaced out 1 inch from the wall using non-combustible spacers should be installed over the fire rated drywall to provide for air circulation between the stainless steel panels and the fire rated drywall.

Electrical outlets located behind the cooking equipment that is in the path of grease-laden vapors into the exhaust system must be removed. The opening shall be sealed up to create a clean, smooth surface to clean and which will reduce the chance of grease build-up.

Filters within the hood should be cleaned on a weekly basis, at a minimum, to prevent a build-up of grease that could provide fuel for a fire.

In those states that still permit smoking in public buildings, ashtrays must be emptied at the end of the workday into a metal container with a tight fitting metal lid or a container half full of water. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters should be installed on any electrical outlet within 6 feet of a sink such as in the kitchen or bathroom.

Employee safety

Every business should develop a written safety program to address safety issues and help control losses. Grinnell Mutual has a sample program “Developing a Restaurant Safety Program” that can be used as a guide in developing a written safety program.

Regular safety training must be provided to all employees. New employees should go through a safety orientation process to familiarize them with the company’s safety program. All training should be documented and kept in a file.

A properly stocked first aid kit should be mounted in an accessible area.

Slip-resistant mats should be used in front of all cooking surfaces and other slippery areas to reduce the chances of slips and falls. Consideration should be given to requiring employees to wear shoes with slip-resistant soles. All spills should be cleaned up immediately.

Food preparation equipment such as meat slicers, grinders, mixers, etc. shall have guards kept in place as required when operating. Guards may only be removed to clean or service the equipment and must be replaced after cleaning or servicing is completed. Training must be conducted with all employees to recognize the hazards associated with this type of equipment.

Employees must also be trained on how to recognize and protect themselves against other hazards including but not limited to burns, lacerations, material handling injuries, and chemical handling.

Daily inspections should be done in the work areas in an attempt to identify hazards before they cause an accident and/or injury.

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This bulletin has been prepared as an underwriting reference for members of Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and does not signify approval or disapproval by the Company of any product or device. Please do not copy or reproduce any portion of this bulletin without the written permission of Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company. The information included in this publication and program was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual makes no guarantee of results and assumes no liability in connection with its use. It is the user’s responsibility to comply with any applicable regulations or laws. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual should not be used as the basis for legal advice, but should be confirmed with alternative sources.