Safety Considerations for Commercial Kitchen Construction 

In this guide, we explore key safety considerations for commercial kitchen construction projects. From effective workflow layout to fire safety, learn how to design and build a space that is beautiful, functional, and hazard-free. 

restaurant staff in a commercial kitchen in a winery building
The Prisoner Wine Co. construction project completed by FDC in Sonoma County

Key Safety Considerations for Commercial Kitchen Construction Projects in California 

Building a commercial kitchen in California requires navigating many health and safety regulations. Understanding these regulations is crucial to ensuring a smooth construction process and, most importantly, the health and safety of your future staff and customers.  

Below we outline some key considerations and how to successfully navigate health and safety codes during a commercial kitchen construction project.  

Commercial Kitchen Design Considerations

Chefs cooking in a modern commercial kitchen with blue walls
Russian River Brewing Co. construction project, completed by FDC in Sonoma County

A well-designed commercial kitchen is the foundation of a safe and successful establishment. With a thoughtful layout, you can optimize workflows and significantly reduce the risk of cross-contamination, which is a major concern in any kitchen.  

Below, we highlight the key areas of a commercial kitchen’s layout that contribute to a clean, safe, and productive environment. 

Cleaning and Sanitation Stations

Sanitation areas like handwashing stations are essential to preventing the spread of foodborne illness. These high-traffic areas should be easily accessible without compromising traffic flow through the kitchen.  

Food and Ingredient Storage 

Refrigerators and freezers should be installed with accessibility and cross-contamination prevention in mind, without compromising traffic flow. Dry storage areas should be constructed out of non-absorbent, easy-to-clean building materials. 

Food Prep Spaces

To ensure easy sanitation practices and reduce the potential for cross-contamination, food prep areas should have ample surface space and proper drainage. 

Cooking and Plating Zones 

Install ovens, grills, and other equipment in spaces that ensure both safety and workflow efficiency. Proper ventilation systems and temperature controls should also be strategically placed to provide maximum air quality control, comfort, and safety.  


It’s important to have clearly defined walkways throughout the workspace to prevent congestion, or accidental slips, trips, or falls. 

Commercial Kitchen Building Materials Guidelines

The layout of a bright commercial kitchen
URJ Camp Newman Dining Hall construction project, completed by FDC in Sonoma County

The California Retail Food Code (CRFC) is a document published by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The CRFC outlines a range of requirements including strict guidelines on proper building materials for commercial kitchen construction projects:  

Walls, Ceilings, and Flooring

Walls, ceilings, and flooring need to be made of materials that are smooth, non-absorbent, and easy to wipe down. This allows for efficient sanitation and minimizes the risk of harboring bacteria. 

Food Contact Surfaces 

Utensils, equipment, and storage containers that come into direct contact with food must be made of non-toxic, smooth, and easy-to-clean materials.

Ventilation and Exhaust Systems

A ventilation system in a commercial kitchen

The exhaust system in a commercial kitchen plays a vital role in both safety and efficiency. To properly safeguard air quality, California regulations require commercial kitchens to install powerful exhaust systems that filter out: 

  • Smoke 
  • Heat 
  • Odors 
  • Grease 

Exhaust Fan Automatic Safety Shut Off

Exhaust systems must also be equipped with a carbon dioxide or oxygen monitor. If CO2 levels rise or oxygen levels drop beyond safe limits, the monitor will automatically shut off the exhaust fan.  

Fire Suppression Systems in Commercial Kitchens

Camp Newman dining hall renovation and remodel completed by FDC in Sonoma County
Camp Newman dining hall renovation and remodel completed by FDC in Sonoma County

The California Fire Code requires all commercial kitchens to have fire suppression systems in place. Establishments that handle high fire-risk food materials, like flammable oils, may be required to install an automatic sprinkler system. 

All commercial kitchen construction projects should include the following fire safety features:

Automatic Fire Suppression

Automatic fire suppression systems are designed to extinguish all types of fire in a commercial kitchen including grease fires, oil fires, and more. 

Fire Alarm Systems 

Fire alarms are required by law in all commercial buildings. These systems are designed to detect smoke or rapid temperature increases and trigger an emergency response.

Clearly Marked Exits

Emergency exits are also required by law in all commercial buildings. These exits must be clearly marked and free from obstructions to ensure a safe and efficient evacuation in case of fire. 

Electrical Safety Requirements in Commerical Kitchens

The California Electrical Code enforces strict electrical guidelines for commercial kitchen construction projects. To ensure adherence, safety, and sufficient capacity for equipment demands, kitchens require a minimum of 208 volts and individual 15-amp circuits for each appliance. 

Ground Fault Protection

To combat the risk of accidental electrocution and electrical fires, commercial kitchens in California are also required to install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).  All electrical circuits near sinks and hand-washing stations must be GFCI-protected.

Partner with a Trusted Commerical Kitchen Construction Company 

Constructing a commercial kitchen in California requires careful consideration of health and safety regulations. Understanding and adhering to these guidelines not only provides peace of mind but also fosters a space where your culinary creativity can truly flourish. 

Partnering with a reputable commercial kitchen construction company is the first step to building your dream establishment. At FDC, we have over 40 years of experience and the industry-specific knowledge your project deserves. 

Give us a call at (707) 523-1722 or contact us online today to learn more about all our highly specialized commercial construction services