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Most kitchen ductwork risky, says contractor

Most of the UK’s kitchen extract ductwork is a health and fire risk, according to maintenance contractors.

Insurance companies are also regularly rejecting fire damage claims as a result of poor ventilation hygiene standards.


Martin Hembling of hygiene contractor Swiftclean said that only about five per cent of the systems fitted in the past 10 years were designed to allow proper cleaning and maintenance.

The rest do not have enough access doors to allow contractors to completely clean the system and eliminate the risk of fires spreading.


“Nine out of ten clients assume their systems have been cleaned, but have no proof,” he told H&V News.


“This means in the event of a fire the insurance company may well not pay out because having the system cleaned is usually a condition in their policies.


“They can point to the lack of access doors as evidence that the system has, in all probability, never been cleaned at all.”


He pointed to several high profile cases, including one at Heathrow Airport that is still the subject of legal proceedings, where the ductwork had reportedly been cleaned just before a fire that was traced back to the kitchen extract system.


The industry is supposed to be working to the HVCA’s TR/19 Guide to Good Practice, which states that access doors should be fitted at least every three metres along a run of ductwork.

Several contractors said this requirement was being ignored in many cases to cut installation costs.


The HVCA added that kitchen extract systems in heavy use i.e. 12 to 16 hours a day, as in commercial kitchens, should be thoroughly cleaned every three months; medium use systems – 6 to 12 hours per day – should be cleaned every six months; and lighter use – 2 to 6 hours – once a year.


Alan Gregory of InDepth Hygiene commented that the new fire regulations [Regulatory Reform (fire safety) Order 2005] placed a heavy responsibility on landlords and managing agents to ensure risk assessments had been carried out in their buildings. Failure to do so could lead to hefty fines and possible prison sentences.


“They must identify potential ignition sources and take action to minimise the risk,” he added. “Grease extract ductwork can be a source of fire as well as a route for the fire to spread. Despite the current economic climate, these duties will not go away and people must not be tempted into cutting corners to save money.


“The eventual price could be much higher if there is a fire. Also fitting access doors retrospectively once the system is in operation is far more expensive and disruptive.

“A lot of the problems are being created at design stage, which should be covered by the CDM regulations,” added Mr Gregory. “However, too often these seem not to have been enforced.