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Clear the airways

28 October 2011

Back to the fifties

PFM talked to Clive Brearley of Weatherite Building Services, who explained the importance of keeping kitchen ventilation up to standard to help safeguard both life and livelihood.

Current legislation gives gas engineers responsibility for ensuring a commercial kitchen conforms to latest safety standards. If it doesn’t, the gas engineer may issue a notice and ultimately has the power to close it down. At a moment’s notice! The consequences could be disastrous for any business. But it doesn’t have to be, provided you take some specialist advice and plan in advance. And your commercial kitchen ventilation system must be an integral part of that plan.

In the current economic climate, it’s easy to see why caterers and restaurant owners may be tempted to save money by holding off bringing their kitchen ventilation system into line with current standards. The problem is that short term savings could lead to major business risks in the medium to long term.

For example, should one piece of kitchen equipment need to be replaced and if that equipment was gas fired, then an engineer could quite literally shut down the whole facility until the owner has made the complete kitchen gas compliant and up to the required gas regulation standards. The kitchen could be closed for weeks, by which time the business could be ruined!

Making sure your kitchen ventilation system conforms is now, effectively, a Health & Safety and insurance requirement. With the stakes so high, ignoring the issue isn’t an option anymore. For example, consider the scenario where a fire breaks out and the insurance company refuses to honour the claim because the kitchen wasn’t compliant.

Consequently, it’s vital to ensure that your kitchen meets with current ventilation standards and that any work on it is carried out by experienced engineers who will ensure that the works comply. That way, when the gas engineer comes to check and sign off the installation, it gets a clean bill of health - not a condemned notice.

Clive Brearley of Weatherite, explains: “Kitchen ventilation specialists like Weatherite have a duty of care when it comes to replacing systems. It’s our responsibility to identify a possible non-compliance situation, explain why it’s potentially dangerous and advise the client on what action they need to be take to create a safe, comfortable and compliant working environment.”

Latest Standards

The legislation and guidelines around kitchen ventilation are complex and changing. There seems to be considerable confusion amongst operators of commercial kitchens about just what the latest standards and regulations are.

The HSE takes kitchen ventilation so seriously that it has issued an information sheet, ‘Ventilation of kitchens in catering establishments’ which gives detailed advice on good ventilation practice. It says:

“The Health and Safety in Catering Liaison Committee considers the lack of adequate kitchen ventilation to be a major problem in catering. Based on their widespread experience of kitchens and industry surveys, around 65% of kitchens may have inadequate ventilation. It considers that adequate ventilation is fundamental to achieving control of health and safety risks in kitchen as well as general hygiene control and food safety.

”Until now no suitable guidelines have been available, hence the committee
considers this information sheet to contain some of the most important
guidelines it has ever produced."

The Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association (HVCA) also has several guides including DW/172 which covers Standards for Kitchen Ventilation systems and TR/17 - a Guide to good practice, cleanliness of ventilation systems.

The DW172 guidelines alone encompass 25 sections, covering all aspects of kitchen ventilation. It sets standards for canopy materials, dimensions, construction, extract and supply air flow rates, air changes and grease filtration –and more.

“Caterers could be forgiven for being a little confused. Most don’t have time to go through the regs or know whether their kitchen complies – or what to do if it doesn’t,” commented Brearley. “This is one occasion when it pays to let a kitchen ventilation specialist into your kitchen.”

One thing the DW712 guidelines do make crystal clear is that Gas System Safety considerations are vitally important.

Staying Safe

“Current regulations state that there must be a gas interlock with the kitchen ventilation system so that in the event of the vent system failure, the gas supply is automatically switched off. If there are significant changes to the kitchen layout or the cooking equipment, the gas engineer will check that the whole system is fully compliant – because if any item of equipment isn’t and it fails, he has responsibility,” explained Brearley.

So, what changes might trigger the requirement for a new ventilation system in an existing kitchen facility?

Gas system safety considerations are a prime reason for an upgrade to a ventilation system, as are substantial changes to the kitchen layout or cooking equipment. Other factors include changes to grease filters, canopy overhangs, air changes or odour Issues. Still not convinced?

Aside from the safety issues, upgrading kitchen ventilation equipment can also help you save energy by matching the extract volume to the cooking requirements so you don’t waste fuel.

“Energy Saver control units can also be linked to the building energy management system. The de Kobra Energy Saver Unit , for instance, can reduce energy consumption even further, and has a payback period of as little as 2 ½ years,” said Brearley.

Making sure you’re compliant

As in all aspects of kitchen ventilation, the advice is to consult the specialists.

“There is always a solution to the problem. Every kitchen, building and its operating methods are different – right down to the type of food being prepared. You just need make sure you have the right solution to meet your specific needs – and for that you need a specialist. It is just not worth gambling with the safety of your kitchen users and the future of your business,” advised Brearley.

Clive Brearley is Weatherite Building Services Kitchen Ventilation Specialist.

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