Insurers tighten up on kitchen claims

Kitchen ductwork

It is all well and good having kitchen extraction ductwork installed, but if you fail to maintain it you put the entire operation at risk. Worse still, insurance firms can refuse to pay up if a fire is traced back to grease-laden ductwork. FEJ reports.

There have been a number of cases in recent years where building owners have suffered huge financial setbacks when their insurer has refused to pay out following a kitchen fire traced back to a build-up of grease in the kitchen ductwork.

In most instances, this is grease that should have been removed had there been a proper maintenance regime in place — which is usually now a condition of insurance policies that cover commercial kitchens.

The updating of the ‘TR/19 Guide to Good Practice — Internal Cleanliness of Ventilation Systems’ is therefore a timely reminder that ventilation systems need to be cleaned to a certain set of industry standards.

Bob Towse, head of technical and safety at the Building & Engineering Services Association (B&ES,), comments: “If there is a coating of grease inside the ductwork it will act as a highly efficient transmitter of heat and flames through the rest of the building. All it needs is an ignition source — and kitchens have plenty of those. A fire will often start inside the ductwork simply because the temperature becomes high enough to ignite the accumulated grease, and 90% of catering fires are intensified by ignition of grease deposits in grease extract ducting.”

Towse says that operators need to be aware that many insurers now advise that, unless ventilation systems are cleaned to the standards set in TR/19, claims in the event of commercial kitchen fires may not be successful.

“Many insurance providers will include caveats in their policies that can lead to claims being rejected on the grounds that the building operator has failed to maintain the ventilation system effectively — or cannot prove that they have maintenance strategies in place,” he comments.

The updated TR/19 incorporates reference to the new British and European Standard BSEN 15780 ‘Ventilation for Buildings — Ductwork — Cleanliness of Ventilation Systems’ introduced in 2011 and, for the first time, highlights the current best practice for ensuring that kitchen extract systems are maintained to minimise the risk of fire associated with grease accumulation.

In addition to a regular cleaning regime, TR/19 offers guidance on the fitting of efficient filtration systems such as the new generation of high-capacity filters that are capable of removing up to 94.6% of grease deposits. Towse adds: “The updated TR/19 publication provides clarity about when and to what standard grease extract systems should be cleaned and provides a detailed explanation of the frequency of cleaning required based on the type of cooking and the hours of kitchen use.

“This will also help building owners meet their obligations under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and stay on the right side of fire officers, who have the power to close down a building if they are not satisfied that the extract systems are safe.”

Since its inception in 1998, the TR/19 guide has been widely accepted within the building services sector and by insurers as the standard to which ventilation systems should be cleaned.

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