After a serious fire, how long does it take for a commercial kitchen to recover? 1 month? 6 months? No-one can really tell, but what is certain, is that it will have an impact on business long after it is dealt with – higher insurance payments, cost of refurbishment and loss of customer confidence.

In cases where cooking is the core activity of a business, such as in a restaurant, a kitchen fire will have an immediate and severe impact. In businesses such as pubs or clubs, where cooking is an integral, but not central, part of the business, a kitchen fire can easily spread, impacting on the more important areas.

Grease deposits are a Fire Hazard

During many cooking operations, hot oils evaporate. The grease fumes condense on plenums, kitchen extractor fans and inside extractor system ducts. Not only do these pose a health hazard by harbouring bacteria and attracting insects and other pests, they are a fire hazard unless they are cleaned thoroughly.

Cooking oils are designed for use at about 200oC. When thermostat failure or human error occurs, oils can be inadvertently heated above their flashpoint and are easily ignited, creating a kitchen fire. Old and frequently used oils ignite at lower temperatures so kitchen operators trying to save money by using cooking oils for as long as possible are exposing their staff and business to an increased risk.

According to Richard Norman of the Building Engineering Services Association (Ref: Modern Building Services Magazine July 2014 issue), grease build up in extractor systems is a major hazard in commercial kitchens. He says that in ninety percent of instances of a kitchen fire, a subsequent grease fire in ducting has spread the fire more widely through the building. It is therefore imperative to carry out regular kitchen duct cleaning and kitchen extractor fan cleaning. This reduces the fire risk and increases kitchen hygiene too.

Changes to Best Practice

Many insurers demand that duct cleaning is carried out in accordance with the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) recommendations. Some insurers require a greater frequency of cleaning in order to maintain that the fire policy is valid so make sure that you have read your policy very carefully. Heavy use kitchens should have specialist duct cleaning at least once every quarter or even once a month whilst light use kitchen ducts and extraction systems should be cleaned at least once per year.

The BESA recommendations are set out in publication TR/19. This is entitled ‘Guide to Good Practice – Internal Cleanliness of Ventilation Systems’. The second (and most recent) edition of TR/19 includes reference to the British and European Standard BS EN 15780 concerning the cleanliness of ventilation systems. This does not include kitchen extractor systems, nevertheless, BESA made changes to highlight the current best practice to minimise the risk of a grease fire in a kitchen duct.

It is section 7 that concerns commercial kitchens or food processing plants where cooking is required as part of the process. The last round of changes to section 7 concern the frequency of cleaning. A new table has been drawn up showing how often kitchen duct cleaning should take place. Each kitchen has a unique set of circumstances. The new table approaches that issue by publishing figures based on cooking type and hours of cooking.

Certification

When hiring a commercial kitchen cleaning firm, always check beforehand that they will issue a valid certificate the designated hygiene manager also has the responsibility to check and verify the contractors policy stipulates duct cleaning cover otherwise in the event of a claim the client may not be covered under the policy always ensure documentation is verified of duct cleaning as this is also a requirement of many insurance policies.

Responsibility

Commercial kitchen cleaning is a highly-specialised area requiring both expertise and an in-depth knowledge of both hygiene and fire regulations. Employing a non-specialist contractor could lead to a heavy fine for the owner or manager of the kitchen.

How come?

The Fire Safety Order of 2005 stipulates that the ‘responsible person‘ must ensure that both the facilities and equipment are subjected to a suitable system of maintenance. All must be in good working order and repair. If it is shown that the fire was started or caused by negligence such as poor cleaning of a kitchen duct, then there will be at least a heavy fine. If anyone is killed in such a situation, they face prison.

Choosing your Kitchen Cleaning Contractor

Beware of commercial cleaning companies and individuals who undercut specialist businesses … they are cheap for a reason! Make sure that you hire the best – call APT today on 0800 0723 773 for a free quote or advice without obligation. We have been at the forefront of the industry, offering one-off deep cleans and regular maintenance cleaning contracts for over 30 years. Our technicians are fully trained and qualified to carry out duct, plenum and extractor fan cleaning. why not call us now free on 0800 0723 773 and let one of our experts discuss your new project or go to www.apt-icc.co.uk