It’s crucial to ensure that your kitchen exhaust system is designed according to best practices to protect your building, staff and customers. Neglecting to do so could result in costly structural repairs, or worse – the destruction of your entire establishment. Unfortunately, many kitchen exhaust systems are not built properly, with issues such as improper access doors, being too close to heat sources or flammable materials, or multiple connections from multiple heat sources. These setups can be dangerous and hazardous in the event of a fire.
1. The Grease Remover was dangerously near the Heat Source
The stovetop can be the source of many unintentional flare-ups in commercial kitchens – and if the ignition source is too close to the grease removal device, a minor flare up could quickly turn into a full-blown fire in the kitchen exhaust hood and ductwork. To help prevent this, there should be at least 18 inches between the grease removal device and the cooking surface – or four feet away, if it’s a charcoal type broiler. Safeguarding grease removal devices from combustion gases and direct flames is essential for keeping your kitchen fire-safe.
2. Inadequate Access Door Configuration and Neglected Upkeep
Properly-maintained kitchen exhaust systems must have adequate access panels in order to facilitate the cleaning of ducts. These panels should be large enough to ensure thorough cleaning and should be grease-tight. They should also be the same material and thickness as the ductwork. For horizontal ducts, access panels should be placed at least every 12 feet, and within three feet of both sides of the fan. If your kitchen exhaust system does not have the necessary number of access panels, it is likely not receiving the proper cleaning and maintenance it requires. By not periodically inspecting, maintaining, or cleaning your system, you’re putting yourself in serious danger of a fire hazard. Oil, grease and other flammable materials can build up in the ducts, filters, gutters and inside the hood – so make sure you ensure access panels are large enough to do a thorough cleaning job.
3. Divided Maintenance Duties
When a commercial kitchen occupies a multi-level building or mixed-use facility, there’s a chance that maintenance and cleaning of the exhaust system and its associated ductwork will be a shared responsibility. In this case, the building owner and tenant (likely the commercial kitchen proprietor) are both liable for taking care of the system. It is essential to communicate and collaborate efficiently with the scheduled maintenance plans, due to the exhaust hood and filter being situated near the tenancy, while the exhaust duct and fan are based in the main building area. Ultimately, the building owner will have ultimate responsibility for the fire safety of the premises.
4. Dangerous Materials in Proximity to Ductwork
Failing to use fire-resistant construction materials or provide adequate separation between exhaust ducts and combustible materials presents a serious fire hazard – thus, fire insulation must be installed between the ducts and any nearby combustible materials, including those penetrating fire-rated floors, walls, or ceilings. In order to ensure the integrity of the building, these components must be correctly installed. Generally, this necessitates a fireproof covering around the ductwork. It is imperative to not use the ducts or hoods as shelves or to store items; additionally, signs should be put up close to such areas to remind personnel of the fire hazard and to keep items away.
5. Multiple Ducts from Multiple Compartments
At times, as a structure develops new sections or its layout is modified over time, kitchen exhaust systems may be extended or added in varying manners. Commercial kitchens with several heat sources are not allowed to share the same duct system; kitchens in isolated compartments must have different systems with separate fire-isolated shafts, ducts, and fans.
The use of wood-fired ovens and charcoal heaters involves an additional ignition risk, making it all the more important to ensure that these types of cooking operations have independent ventilation systems.
It is essential that you are aware of the potential problems your kitchen exhaust system can have – not only to ensure the safety of those in your commercial kitchen, but also to maintain the system itself. It’s important to be familiar with the different components and mechanical systems, and to regularly check for grease buildup. Let Hoods Kitchen Exhaust give you a complimentary inspection of your system and detect any possible deficiencies as well as keeping track of your grease accumulation.