Carbon Monoxide Leaks: Prevention & Crisis Management For Your Restaurant

Carbon Monoxide Leaks

Carbon monoxide leaks (CO) are not uncommon in restaurants. CO is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas, which interferes with the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. CO is non-irritating and can overcome persons without warning.

HUB Insurance Robert Fiorito
Robert Fiorito, HUB Insurance

Unfortunately, carbon monoxide leaks are often fatal, with these incidents leaving businesses in damaging situations they may not ever recover from. It is important that owners and managers look at recent tragic incidents to examine their own restaurants and safety practices in order to prevent future incidents.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provided the following guidelines to prevent CO exposure:

  • Never use a generator indoors or in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces such as garages, crawl spaces, and basements. Opening windows and doors in an enclosed space may prevent CO buildup.
  • Make sure the generator has 3-4 feet of clear space on all sides and above it to ensure adequate ventilation.
  • Do not use a generator outdoors if placed near doors, windows or vents, which could allow CO to enter and build up in occupied spaces.
  • When using space heaters and stoves ensure that they are in good working order to reduce CO buildup, and never use in enclosed spaces or indoors.
  • Consider using tools powered by electricity or compressed air, if available.
  • Key safety measures that all restaurants should consider, that at least meet, but in some cases exceed regulatory codes include CO detectors, alarm systems, security systems, and other life safety processes and equipment. However, installing equipment is not enough; all safety processes should be regularly tested, and employees must be trained, with frequent drills to vary emergency scenarios to ensure that they will understand what to do in a variety of emergency situations.

The first step to emergency management planning is performing a vulnerability analysis. An effective vulnerability analysis looks at all possible threats. Once risks have been assessed, you need to put together a response plan that addresses various types of incidents, what the risks are, what could trigger the plan, and what to do in the event an incident escalates to become a crisis. This step by step process should take you throughout the crisis management process and should include how your team will interact with social media.

Today, we are simultaneously blessed and cursed with the ability to know about things almost as soon as they have happened, and while this is in many ways beneficial, it can easily devastate a business in the event of a crisis, particularly if the crisis could potentially be attributed to the business’s actions. A social media policy should specify who will be active on the business’s social media accounts and what they will share (it is recommended that your public relations team also be involved), and it should be done in a timely manner.

Speak to your insurance broker to learn more about implementing effective emergency and crisis management plans.

Robert Fiorito
Robert Fiorito serves as Vice President with HUB International Northeast, a leading global insurance brokerage, where he specializes in providing insurance services to the restaurant industry. As a 25-year veteran and former restaurateur himself, Bob has worked with a wide array of restaurant and food service businesses, ranging from fast-food chains to upscale, “white tablecloth" dining establishments. Robert can be reached at 212-338-2324 or by email at robert.fiorito@hubinternational.com. For more information on HUB, please visit www.hubinternational.com.