It’s fair to say that some building owners and operators disregard the importance of ductwork maintenance. Something that should be high on any list of must-do’s, irrelevant of environment or application. To maintain peak performance from the installation and get the optimum output from the system, then a maintenance regime has to be implemented.
The accumulation of dust and other particles drawn into the ductwork system increases the risk of not only associated airborne health problems - but also the risk of serious fire. This can be exacerbated by a poorly installed system and then with little or no ongoing maintenance. Commercial kitchens would be a prime example of how quickly this can occur. Compounded dust and grease particles can fuel a kitchen fire if not effectively maintained, accounting for an estimated 70% of commercial kitchen fires throughout the UK.
Often when fire breaks out, the accumulated grease and oil build-up fuels a rapid acceleration away from the ignition source, resulting in the fire racing to inaccessible places making it problematic to be effectively extinguished. Often travelling to other areas of the building, even highly trained fire crews find it difficult to reach in the short time window of a fire taking hold. Given that a ductwork systems primary function is the movement of air often at speed, then any flammable accelerant added to that system is potentially dangerous as the Ductwork could act as a flue.
Maintenance and cleaning by industry specialists should therefore become routine as any ductwork system should never be viewed as ‘fit and forget’. Access inside the duct is key to maintaining any system - and where that access is, can be just as important. With a kitchen related installation, it is a legal requirement enforced by the Food Standards Agency under regulation EC852/2004 Annex II Chapter 1 paragraph 5, that ductwork is ‘readily accessible’. Placement of suitable access points is therefore important for maintenance and cleaning as it has to be fit for purpose.
Within the environment of a kitchen, adequate attention must be applied to filters, which should be routinely cleaned and monitored for particle build up and if necessary, replaced. Specialist kitchen cleaners are a necessity, but not the use of underqualified cleaning teams which could have serious repercussions for any owner or operator. This would be seen as not taking the correct steps to ensure occupant safety. With the 2005 Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) it clearly states that the responsible person, must ensure that there is an adequate maintenance plan in place and the assurance that all working equipment is kept in a good serviceable order. Failure to comply with these points resulting in a fire caused by poorly maintained equipment and procedure could result in large fines. Even a custodial sentence for the owner and or operator can’t be ruled out.
Failure to adequately maintain or implement the correct system initially can also result in the invalidation of insurance policies. Extensive damage to property can definitely occur resulting in risk for the inhabitants of the property. Use of qualified cleaning teams will offer the peace of mind that the ductwork environment is safer for everyone.