B&ES warns that too many businesses are still ignorant of the fire hazard posed by kitchen extraction ductwork – yet the cost implications are enormous, with more and more insurance companies refusing to pay up if a fire is traced back to grease-laden or incorrectly fitted ductwork.
B&ES (the Building & Engineering Services Association) says it’s a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ but in a commercial kitchen, whether pub, fast food outlet, hotel or restaurant, dust and grease can readily build up in a kitchen’s ventilation ductwork, becoming a serious potential fire risk. And fire is not the only hazard; grease-laden ductwork can become a breeding ground for bacteria and insects, with attendant health and safety implications.
Bob Towse, head of technical and safety at B&ES, comments: “Our member firms are regularly called to testify as expert witnesses in cases where fires have broken out in kitchens and then spread along grease-laden ductwork to other parts of the building.
“In many cases where a fire has been traced back to the kitchen extract system it has never been cleaned since the ductwork was installed. In any such circumstances where insurance companies uncover irregular or a complete absence of ductwork maintenance they are now rejecting fire damage claims and refusing to pay out because they can assert that warranties have been breached due to lack of proper cleaning regimes – having the extraction system cleaned is almost always a condition of their policies.
“It is worth bearing in mind too that changes to fire regulations introduced in 2005 placed a heavy responsibility on owners, landlords and managing agents to ensure risk assessments have been carried out in their buildings, including identification of potential ignition sources; failure to do so can lead to hefty fines and possible prison sentences.
“Adhering to the good practice regarding internal cleanliness of ventilation systems, and carrying out regular inspections and recommissioning is a good way to satisfy insurance companies that the right steps have been taken to properly clean kitchen extraction and ventilation systems, both to minimise fire risk and safeguard the health of employees.
“We recommend that systems are cleaned and recommissioned at least every 12 months; however some systems may need to be cleaned even more frequently than this due to the type of usage.”