When visiting kitchens across the Midlands the Tower engineers find that chefs and kitchen managers are often surprised by how little CO (Carbon Monoxide) is needed in the kitchen to create a major (life threatening) safety hazard. The starting point for the discussion is often air quality in the kitchen. See the full data table below showing the physical effects of the level of CO on you or your staff.

For the few kitchen workers who are still unaware of what CO is and how it is produced please see the summary at the bottom of the page.

The law regarding the monitoring of CO has recently (October 2015) changed for domestic properties owned and managed by landlords – the expectation is that when the necessary alarms can be designed and produced then the law will be changed for commercial kitchens too.

Waiting for the law to change might be the approach of a few unscrupulous restaurant owners but is both short-sighted and potentially negligent. Given that just 400 Parts per million (ppm) is sufficient to represent a threat to life and only 100 ppm will leave staff feeling unwell after a couple of hours of exposure ignoring the threat of CO makes no sense.

Having a qualified and certified commercial catering engineer maintain, inspect and test your kitchen equipment on a regular basis is not only a legal requirement but the action of a sensible caring boss too. If the engineer you use for your kitchen doesn’t whip out a ECGA (Electronic Combustion Gas Analyser) on a regular basis it might be worth asking again to see their certification. These are becoming more and more common as the cases in the news of CO deaths grow more frequent.

Tower Recommend - be aware of the Air Quality

Are you or your kitchen staff often complaining it is too hot in the kitchen or suffering from a dry throat or croaky voice?

CO levels could be a problem!

What is CO & How is it Produced?

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas.

It is produced by the burning of fossil fuels – generally in modern kitchens that means Gas or LPG. Only when the fuel isn’t completely burnt is CO a by-product.

In most kitchens the issues which allow CO to be both produced and remain in the atmosphere include:

  • Poorly installed appliances
  • Appliances which are not working properly – often because the appliance isn’t properly maintained and / or checked on a regular schedule
  • Blocked or unworking extraction systems
  • Make-up Air Systems not functioning properly

Effect on Adults of Carbon Monoxide

Parts per million (ppm)Effect on Adults
Normal Fresh Air
100Slight headache after 1-2 hours
200Mild headache, dizziness, nausea and tiredness after 2 to 4 hours
400Frontal headache and nausea after 1 to 2 hours. Risk to life if over 3 hours exposure.
800Severe headaches, dizziness, convulsions within 45 minutes. Unconciousness and death possible within 2 to 3 hours.
1600Headaches, dizziness and nausea within 20 minutes. Collapse, unconciousness and death possible within 1 to 2 hours.
3200Headaches, dizziness and nausea within 5 – 10 minutes. Death possible after 15 minutes.
6400Severe symptoms within 1 to 2 minutes. Death within 15 minutes.
12800Immediate symptoms. Death within 1 to 3 minutes.