The restaurant was evacuated for several hours to allow firefighters to ventilate the building. Members of staff were treated at the scene but thankfully no-one was seriously affected. The premises were reopened later the same day after being given the all-clear.
The problem was traced to a leaking CO2 cylinder in the basement—part of the soft drinks carbonation and delivery system. Pressurised carbon dioxide is commonly used as a dispense gas in the beverage and hospitality industry for adding ‘fizziness’ to drinks. It is an odourless, colourless gas which is safe at normal atmospheric levels but highly dangerous—even fatal—in larger doses. CO2 is slightly heavier than air therefore any leak from a concentrated source tends to collect at low levels. This creates a high-risk situation not only for the person discovering the leak but also for anyone else who may be attempting to rescue them. The firefighters in Ipswich entered the basement wearing self- contained breathing apparatus, which is the recommended way to respond.
Earlier this year Analox’s new CO2 detector, the Ax60, was approved by the McDonald’s Corporation’s ‘Restaurant Solutions Group’ for installation in its fast-food outlets. The Ax60 was developed in response to similar incidents in America and the UK, including one fatality in Georgia, USA. Recent certification by UL, TUV, FCC and CE means that the Ax60 is now available worldwide.
The Ax60 is expected to be fitted in many McDonald’s restaurants and similar establishments to continuously monitor CO2 in areas vulnerable to potential exposure. The system incorporates visual strobes and audible alarms that are set to immediately trigger if the Ax60 detects a level of CO2 beyond pre-defined limits, thereby alerting management and crew to any leak of CO2 gas.
Author: Paul Smith, Technical Writer