Near miss: potential fire – overheating of oil in deep frying pan

What happened?

One of the engine room crew members came into the galley and noticed smoke coming from the oil which was in the deep-frying pan.  The engineer, working with the cook who was in the galley during that time, checked the temperature of the oil in the deep-frying pan using a digital thermometer from the galley.  The digital thermometer showed at out of range limit.  The maximum for this thermometer was 200°C; therefore, the oil was above 200°C.

The deep-frying pan was switched off and a lock out/tag out was applied for further investigation.  The frying pan was allowed to cool down and the oil drained out.  When the oil from the deep-frying pan was cooled down and drained it was noticed that the temperature sensor elements of both thermostats were not in the original place.

After the temperature sensor elements were put back in the correct place, the deep-frying pan was filled with oil again; both thermostats (temperature control thermostat and safety/maximum temperature thermostat) were tested and found to be in good working order.

Temperature sensors

What went wrong?

  • Temperature sensor elements of both thermostats were not fitted in the original place;
  • The galley crew were not aware of the function of the temperature sensor elements inside the deep-fryer, nor of the potential consequences if those sensor elements were in the wrong place.

What were the causes?

  • Lack of awareness;
  • Lack of familiarity with equipment.

What actions were taken?  What lessons were learned?

  • Clear instructions provided for galley crew about the cleaning of a deep-frying pan, including ensuring that the galley crew are aware of proper positioning of the temperature sensors inside the deep-frying pan during the cleaning process, and know not to move them;
  • Recommend check of positioning of temperature sensors on similar equipment in galleys on other vessels;
  • On this specific vessel, replace thermostat sensors in the original position and check thermostats with a calibrated temperature probe.