This really could be a matter of life or death

“Don’t get burned by ignoring the potentially devastating problems that can be caused by kitchen extract systems and ventilation ductwork” says Ian Bartle, Managing Director of Nobel Fire Systems.
There’s no doubting that the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order which came into force almost five years ago is the biggest single change ever made to UK fire safety legislation. The most fundamental change at the time was the focus on fire risk assessment being carried out by a ‘competent person’ who acts on behalf of a responsible building owner or manager.
In theory, the FSO should have had a major impact on the way in which Catering Industry conducts its responsibilities in terms of fire safety issues, and to a large degree it has. However, it’s no longer a case of just thinking in terms of employee safety. With so many commercial kitchens now being located in building that have multiple usage, fire protection procedures must be considered with regard to the whole building.
With a commercial kitchen it’s not just the hot oils and naked flames that cause the high fire risk. Research carried out by the Heating and Ventilation Contractors’ Association (HVCA) shows that almost a quarter of fires in commercial properties can be attributed to ‘cooking appliances’. In many of the cases it was shown that problems exist in the kitchen extract systems and ventilation ductwork. It’s often the situation that grease and other residue will build up within the system and this will lead to the coating igniting with the consequence of a much larger fire breaking out. The result, particularly in a multiple usage building, can lead to the endangering of lives and substantial damage to property.
HVCA has claimed that the majority of kitchen extract ducts in UK commercial kitchens are never cleaned and therefore remain in a state of potentially hazardous condition. HVCA also warns that as poorly maintained kitchen extraction ductwork is an obvious fire risk, your insurance company will very likely refuse claims where a fire is traced back to grease laden ductwork. According to the insurance industry, insurance companies are increasingly rejecting fire damage claims because protection of the extraction system is often a condition of their policies.
While the current economic climate brings its own pressures on all owners and managers, the duty of care in relation to the Fire Safety Order is here to stay and those charged with the responsibility of fire safety and protection must not be tempted into cutting corners to save money. Restaurant owners and managers have seen to their cost time after time that neglecting the potential hazard of unclean extract ducting can result in a loss of business, considerable repair costs, potential prosecution for non-compliance with the law and insurance claims declined.
According to Ian Bartle, both the HVCA and the Health & Safety Executive recommend carrying out regular inspections and re-commissioning at least every 14 months. In between times of course it’s also necessary to have ductwork regularly cleaned by a specialist cleaning company. If these steps are carried out year after year, insurance companies will be satisfied that the correct procedures are being taken to suitably clean kitchen extraction and ventilation systems, both to minimise fire risk and safeguard the wellbeing of employees and members of the public.
That said, the cost of regular cleaning procedures added to the cost of inspection and re-commissioning can be incredibly high and impact massively on a businesses profit potential.
Filters in canopies will of course help trap a proportion of grease particles but it’s unavoidable that grease-laden air will always enter the system ducting. As the temperature of the air drops it deposits grease particles throughout the internal surfaces of the ductwork. The accumulation of these grease deposits then results in a serious potential fire hazard to the building and its occupants. Not only that, over a period of time the build up of grease reduces the efficiency of the extract system resulting in less than perfect working conditions for catering staff, and can be a source of unpleasant odours seeping into the rest of the building.
So is there an alternative, more efficient and more cost-effective system that will meet all the required safety criteria? Well Bartle believes there is. Against a background where many restaurants, fast food outlets and hotels run the real risk of fire breaking out through badly maintained extract ductwork, there’s now a fire suppression system specifically designed for commercial kitchens that protects both the cooking area and the ductwork on a permanent basis. Designed by Nobel Fire Systems, the K-Series is the only system on the market that takes into consideration the risk beyond the entrance to the duct. Only the K-Series provides fire risk cover from the last nozzle at the extract plenum downstream along the entire length of the ductwork to the extract fan and/or point of extract to the external environment.
According to Bartle, where ductwork goes beyond 5m or in multiple occupancy buildings, the Nobel K-Series isn’t just desirable, it’s essential. As already stated, the accumulation of grease-laden deposits in extract ventilation systems usually linked to catering facilities, present a significant fire hazard. It is not unusual for grease extract ductwork to run through an entire building to reach a roof level exhaust, thereby putting the whole building and its occupants at risk in the event of fire.
Fires that get past the canopy fire protection system and enter the ductwork can very often be of a temperature and size where they present significant risk of property damage. Where a site is in a multiple occupancy building such as a shopping centre for instance, ductwork can be shared with common roof sections, meaning a major fire in the duct of one establishment can soon affect surrounding sites and the building as a whole. This can obviously lead to a major fire and significant damage while also putting lives at risk. That’s why major insurers are pushing for owners of sites in multiple occupancy buildings to fit ductwork fire protection systems.
Let’s not also forget that in the past there have been issues with extract systems catching fire and going back upstream into the site itself. This has the potential to cause major risk of harm to personnel and substantial damage to the kitchen area.
While there are no standards that dictate the use of active fire suppression in the ductwork, fire dampers should not be used in kitchen extract ductwork (BS 9999:2008 Clause and As such, without a ductwork fire protection system in place, the ductwork is unprotected leaving a clear path for fire to spread to adjoining areas. Ductwork systems are a very economical addition to the canopy fire protection system and can provide a total protection solution from canopy through to extract and it is in that context that they should be installed.
Nobel’s K-Series fire protection systems are engineered to meet the specific individual requirements of the kitchen being protected. The systems are electronically controlled with no mechanical moving parts. Installations comprise of one or a number of stainless steel cylinders, each containing a highly effective F class wet chemical liquid designed specifically for fast flame knock down and fire suppression. The low, near neutral pH value of the liquids ensures that there is no damage to the commercial kitchen appliances, and as a direct consequence of the efficiency of K-Series in limiting the volume of liquid required to control the situation, there is minimal clean-up requirements following discharge.
Every system is designed following a comprehensive risk assessment taking into account the requirement of successful fire suppression and a client’s interruption potential.
The Nobel K-Series has been installed in many of the leading catering establishments including Jamie Oliver, Nando’s, Punch Pub Company, The Trafford Centre, Rick Stein, Cadbury Cocoa House, Boodle’s and many other premier brands.
It’s designed to British and European standards and is manufactured to ISO 9001:2000, meeting the requirements of BS 5839 EN54; BS 7273; NFPA 17a and is CE marked.
The system has been tested and approved by LPCB to ISO 15371:2000 and is type approved by M.C.A; ABS; DNV.
In summary, the Nobel Fire Systems K-Series provides
§ A tailored protection package
§ The greatest fire protection possible including ventilation ductwork
§ Seamless integration and flexibility
§ Reliability and control
§ Clean and hygienic components
§ Longevity and serviceability
§ Value for money
§ Potential insurance savings