IN DEPTH: The value of ventilation in kitchen fire prevention

Swiftclean grease layer removal 5 crop
Swiftclean technicians remove grease layers from kitchen ventilation ductwork.

Commercial kitchen fires can be ignited or exacerbated by poorly cleaned, grease-laden ventilation ductwork that has been sited in areas above ceilings, making it impossible to maintain. So should dealers be working closer with ventilation cleaning companies from the start of a scheme, in order to help prevent kitchen fires on an ongoing basis?

According to Gary Nicholls, MD at ventilation cleaning specialist Swiftclean: “Ideally, we would like to be involved from the start of any kitchen design project. If a dealer is working on a refurbishment project, we strongly recommend taking advice from a ventilation hygiene expert, preferably a member of the BESCA Vent Hygiene Elite (VHE) Scheme.

“Some of the accessibility problems may have evolved historically, and a refurbishment could offer a valuable opportunity to correct some of those issues. In the past we have seen barriers to compliance inadvertently introduced, in the form of fixed walls or ceilings, or the boxing in of ductwork, together with other utilities such as plumbing or electrical systems.”

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He underlined: “It may be possible at redesign stage to reroute some ductwork so that it is more accessible, and to retrofit more access doors. Adding working platforms also helps a great deal, making it safer to work at height when removing grease deposits. The current BESA specification for kitchen ventilation systems, DW172, does not contain the full remit of access points specified in TR19 Grease, so we would advise using TR19 Grease for guidance when designing or redesigning every commercial kitchen.”

Nicholls added: “Even if we have spoken with a dealer before, an ongoing dialogue is helpful for everyone. Just as the dealer’s expertise and knowledge grows and evolves, so does that of the ductwork hygiene expert – and the industry guidance. Many of the problems that we see in older systems could be avoided with greater forethought and, critically, more frequent access points included at the design stage.”

At the National Association of Air Duct Specialists UK (NAADUK), chairman Jonathan Brennan urged: “In the light of the Grenfell disaster and as part of the founding ethos of NAADUK, all aspects of the industry should be working closely to prevent fires. No one organisation or body has the total solution to the issues, no matter how big. Designers, installers, manufacturers, associations, fire brigades, environmental health departments and governments, to name but a few, should all be working together to solve the issues of fire risk, as per the Dame Hacket review.

“Designers under existing guidance should be working with cleaning companies to determine access requirements for cleaning and maintenance. Manufacturers should work with cleaning specialists to ensure catering equipment is maintainable.”

A number of examples of poor system design reviewed by the NAADUK membership included:

  • Duct located behind a solid ceiling with no point of access
  • Duct located in a surrounded riser with no point of access, for example, a riser surrounded by wall fabric or brickwork
  • Low-level plant, conduit, lighting or other fittings obscuring the duct
  • False, tiled or suspended ceilings restricting access to void and duct
  • Silencer, fire-rated duct, insulation or suppression systems, all of which might prevent ready access to ductwork to carry out maintenance.

Brennan concluded: “By designers, installers and cleaning technicians working together many of the above access issues could have been avoided.

“As stated in NAADUK’s new guidance document NAAD-21 to be provided free of charge, for the first time, to every installer, insurer, cleaning company, association and interested party: ‘grease in a ventilation system does not need to be seen to catch fire’.”

Tags : ductworkfire protectionfire safetyNAADUKswiftcleanventilationventilation cleaning
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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