Solid fuel: clearing the air

HVAC Ltd feels that organisations who install properly compliant ventilation systems will reap the benefits in the longer term.HVAC Ltd feels that organisations who install properly compliant ventilation systems will reap the benefits in the longer term.

Solid fuel-powered cooking appliances are in demand at the moment, as the popularity of charcoal grills and wood-fired pizza ovens continues to grow. But that has created both a figurative and literal headache for the catering equipment industry, as inadequate ventilation in these cases can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Therefore an imminent update is due for the DW172 specifications for kitchen ventilation systems. A BESA (Building Engineering Services Association) sub-committee has been charged with re-writing DW172, led by the Ventilation Group Technical Committee chair Peter Rogers. The remainder of the committee comprises HVAC Ltd’s head of kitchen ventilation, Ian Levin, Halton’s European technical development director Phil Gibson and Mansfield Pollard’s head of projects and kitchen ventilation, Scott Donoghue.

Levin reported: “There are still many stages of consultation with other bodies and subsequent revision to go through yet, and the document is still some way from being completed. What I can say is that following some research, there is serious concern surrounding the occupational health and safety of operatives working with combustion gases and cooking fumes, the safety of general public (customers and neighbours of establishments) as well as the increased fire risks to buildings and occupants.”

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However, he feels that the benefit of the update, once completed, will be that: “DW172 is focused on protecting foodservice workers, customers and general public alike.”

For appliance makers, he detailed: “There are conflicts between how many of the equipment manufacturers suggest that their products should be ventilated and how kitchens in general are ventilated under DW172. The main cause for concern (though not the only one) is that many manufacturers recommend a natural flue connection to atmosphere.

“In a typical kitchen, the space is under negative pressure in order to retain fumes and odours and remove them through the canopy or vent ceiling. If an appliance is fitted with a naturally vented flue, the kitchen’s negative pressure will pull all of the smoke and fumes back down the flue the wrong way and out into the kitchen space. This endangers the occupants as well as preventing the appliance from operating efficiently.

“Manufacturers should research this in detail before bringing products to market and refer to DW172 accordingly. Manufacturers’ products must be fit for purpose. If in doubt, they can call BESA to investigate the subject further. Manufacturers, builders, distributors and end users should carry out proper risk assessments on designing, installing, running and maintaining solid fuel equipment and associated ventilation systems. Reputable designers, manufacturers and installers of ventilation systems (BESA member companies) will be more than happy to assist in this process.”

In particular, he urged dealers to exercise extreme caution if they are looking to specify solid fuel appliances. “If you go and buy a barbeque from your local DIY store or garden centre, it will usually have a label on it stating ‘do not use indoors’,” he said. “This seems rather obvious and you may even think how ridiculous it is to state such a thing on such a clearly dangerous product. However, this is exactly what the foodservice industry is doing. There are many reasons why solid fuel equipment is an attractive means of enhancing the menu for food outlets, not least the addition of ‘authentic’ flame cooking and of smoke enhanced flavours to food, but these benefits have the counter cost of controlling the significantly increased risk in the kitchen.”

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