Clean your way to fire safety

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Clean your way to fire safety



No matter how healthy the menu on offer, all commercial kitchens are prone to the accumulation of fat and grease deposits in their extract ventilation systems.  Yet the fire prevention aspects of why thorough cleaning of ductwork is vital are often only partially understood, even by professionals.  Here’s how to stay safe – from fire and prosecution.

1.  Out of sight, front of mind

Failure to remove fat deposits in the unseen interior of kitchen extract ventilation systems automatically establishes a fire hazard.  Ductwork provides a pathway through the building which will allow the fire to spread to areas which would otherwise have been unaffected by fire.  Don’t neglect it. 

2. Keep it clean

Grease deposits accumulate in difficult to access areas within the ductwork.  You have to gain access to the ductwork itself, which may mean installing access doors so that operatives can enter the system in order to clean.  In some cases it might be necessary to install access platforms or make other alterations to ensure safe access to the ductwork access doors. You must make sure that ductwork is regularly and effectively cleaned and grease deposits are completely removed. 

3. Safeguard your insurance

Statistics from the Association of British Insurers indicate that pay-outs on fires caused by improperly maintained extractor ducts are running at around £65m a year.  This is a sobering enough thought, but failure to properly clean extract systems can compromise insurance policies, so the true cost of fire damage, which will include a proportion of fires where insurance companies have refused to pay out, may be millions of pounds higher.  The only solution is effective regular cleaning.

4. Appoint a responsible person

Under the Oct 2005 Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, which came into effect in April 2006, building operators must appoint a responsible person for fire safety.  Their responsibility is to ensure that kitchen grease extract systems (canopies, filters, ductwork, risers and fans) in kitchens, restaurants, hotels, pubs, canteens, food production areas, hospitals, schools and the like are cleaned as required by Fire Safety Regulations.  They will also need to make sure that cleaning is conducted in accordance with buildings insurance policies and Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) regulations.

5. Comply with regulations

TR/19, recognised as the leading guidance document for controlling fire risk in kitchen extract systems, has a table which tells you how regularly your extract system should be cleaned according to the type of cooking and how many hours it is used. It also gives guidance on how to adjust the cleaning frequencies based on the monitoring of grease accumulation levels (the risk level), which specialist cleaners should be able to do prior to each cleaning operation.  Kitchen extract systems in heavy use will probably need to be cleaned at least quarterly, medium systems will need cleaning half-yearly, while those in light use will need at least annual cleaning.  However, this will vary from building to building and from area to area. 

Failure to remove grease deposits through regular cleaning can leave the responsible person open to prosecution by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) under Fire Regulations or Health & Safety regulations.  Grease build-up in extract systems is also the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and pests such as cockroaches, and the presence of these in ductwork can also lead to prosecutions and fines by the HSE.  Your kitchen may be spotless, but unless your ductwork is also clean, you are vulnerable, and so is everyone who uses the kitchen and the building in which it is based.

6. Establish a process

In order to comply with all the regulations you must identify and assess the sources of risk; prepare a scheme for preventing or controlling the risk; appoint a person to be managerially responsible; implement and manage precautions; and keep records of the precautions implemented. 

7. Use a specialist

Most FM experts will not have extract cleaning services as an in-house capability, so will wish to appoint a subcontractor. Checking that the company that you are considering appointing has a positive relationship with leading industry bodies is a good indication that you will receive a high quality service.  You should be given guarantees that all work is carried out to relevant BESA, BSRIA, Health & Safety guidelines and regulations.  All work should be fully certified, and post clean photographic reports, with schematic drawings of the systems cleaned, compliant with TR/19, should be provided on every clean. 

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Published August 2016

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