Get Your Ducts in a Row

It’s an unfortunate fact that more than half[1] of the fires attended by fire fighters in the UK are related to cooking equipment in restaurants, canteens, hotel kitchens and fast food outlets. One of the most common issues is with extraction systems[2], which can be a significant source of fire risk if they are not kept clear of grease and other residues – combine them with naked flames, heat and a fast-paced environment and it’s easy to see how serious issues could ensue.

To put that in context, London Fire Brigade points out that the ten serious commercial kitchen fires in London every week are often made worse because the blaze is able to spread through dirty ventilation duct work[3]. Make no mistake, the Fire Brigade takes this risk very seriously indeed, and fire officers have the power to close down a building if they feel extraction systems are unsafe[4].

Insurance companies are increasingly taking this issue seriously too, and regular duct work cleaning, carried out by an accredited contractor is almost a universal requirement of commercial catering business insurance. Indeed, failure to comply can see insurance invalidated and claims rejected[5].


Protect your Business

Clearly, if a serious fire were to affect your business the first concern is the danger to life, to your family, staff and customers. But once that immediate fear is allayed, then attention turns to the damage to property, equipment and stock – and to recovering as quickly as possible.

That is why doing everything to prevent the spread of fire through ducting is so important – it’s vital to prevent fires, limit damage, and ensure your insurance cover steps in when you need it.

So, what can you do to address the risk posed by ventilation and extractor ducting?

There are some simple actions you can take yourself, to address issues that heighten the risk of a fire spreading into ducting. They include checking that the safety features on your kitchen equipment are working properly and, of course, that the equipment itself is in good working order. For instance, check that any frying ranges are fitted with working


Extraction Systems Need Specialist Attention

When it comes to extraction systems and ducting, most, if not all, insurers insist the entire system ‒including flues, hoods, canopies, extraction motors, fans, and the entire length of any ducting ‒ is cleaned by specialist contractors. That is because these systems pose such a high risk, either as the source of fire or as a route through which it can spread quickly.

But not all extracting system cleaning contractors are the same, so it’s important to check carefully that the company you use is properly accredited and meets the standards set out by the good practice guide, ‘Internal Cleanliness of Ventilation Systems’ (TR/19), which is overseen by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA)[6].

So, when choosing a cleaning specialist, ask yourself questions like ‘Does its work comply with industry best practice? ‘, ‘Will the system be fully clean?’, and ‘Will I get a proper post-clean report?’

Beyond accreditation, there are two key areas to pay attention to:

  • Access: Remember, it is simply not acceptable for a ventilation cleaning company to say things like “All accessible areas were cleaned”. For one thing, it could be that only a small section of the ducting was accessible, so the majority is then left with dangerous build-ups of grease and oil – the kind that causes fires and invalidates insurance. Rather, the company should make every effort to make all areas accessible, for instance by fitting access panels. If that is not possible, they should clearly explain the access issues, suggest ways to address them and include in their report a diagram showing which areas of the system have, and have not been cleaned – and why.
  • Reporting: Every clean should be accompanied by a detailed report setting out things like the pre-clean state of the entire system and, if necessary recommendations to alter the frequency of cleaning regimes. For instance, if a system was found to be have a particularly heavy build-up of dirt – certainly over the recommended 200 microns[1] ‒ then cleaning might need to be carried out more frequently than before. Similarly, reports should include system diagrams and photographs to clearly show the condition of your system before and after cleaning. Without these reports and photos, you simply cannot know whether the cleaning being carried out is up to the standard required by your insurer.


The Bottom Line

In the end, when it comes to extraction system safety, the health and safety of staff and customers, and the future of your business could be on the line. Ask yourself “Could my business recover if it was affected by a serious, uninsured fire”?

The answer is almost certainly “No”, so leave nothing to chance and make sure your extracting system cleaning regime ticks all the right boxes.

If you’d like any help or guidance related to any of the topics in this article, get in touch on 0330 134 4564.









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