Poorly maintained kitchen extraction ductwork in pubs and restaurants is a huge fire risk, and insurance companies are increasingly unwilling to pay up if a fire is traced back to grease-laden or incorrectly-fitted ductwork.
That's the warning from the Heating and Ventilating Contractors' Association (HVCA), which cited the case of a fire at a pub kitchen at an unnamed pub-restaurant in Woking in Surrey. The fire, caused by grease in the ductwork and a poorly-fitted ductwork system, caused substantial damage to the building. The pub's owners were devastated when the insurers refused to pay out.
Having the extraction system cleaned regularly is nearly always a condition of their insurance company policies.
Bob Towse, head of technical and safety at the HVCA, called on catering businesses to have ventilation systems cleaned and recommissioned every 12 months. "Changes to fire regulations introduced in 2005 placed a heavy responsibility on owners, landlords and managing agents to ensure risk assessments have been carried out in their buildings, including identification of potential ignition sources; failure to do so can lead to hefty fines and possible prison sentences.
"In many cases systems are only serviced, maintained and cleaned when they finally break down. This is quite simply unacceptable," he said."
"HVCA member firms are regularly called to testify as expert witnesses in cases where fires have broken out in kitchens and then spread along grease-laden ductwork to other parts of the building.
"Insurance firms are using poor maintenance of ventilation extract systems as grounds for refusing to pay out because they can assert that warranties have been breached owing to lack of proper cleaning regimes."
By Neil Gerrard
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