Avoid burn out in the kitchen warns Norwich Union

Article date: 29 March 2007

The number of kitchen fire claims is on the increase warns Norwich Union.

And businesses can take action to prevent the devastation caused, not only to property, but potentially to the lives of occupants and firefighters.

Paul Redington, property claims manager at Norwich Union, comments: "It's important that as an industry we raise awareness among building owners, caterers, facilities managers and building services engineers of the devastating consequence of kitchen fires.

"Many cooking processes produce fatty deposits or waste which are extracted from the workplace via ducting and flues. One of the most common causes of fire is due to the deposits of grease that build up in extract ducting.

"Lack of attention paid to poor cleaning and maintenance regimes within the catering kitchen workplace is of great concern. A build-up of fatty deposits will easily ignite in a fire and can very rapidly spread throughout a building," says Redington.

"With such potential hazards, businesses must undertake risk management to protect their property by implementing a number of important measures.

"The introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, means there is now an onus for fire safety on an appointed ‘responsible person' who has a legal duty to carry out fire risk assessment and take steps to reduce potential hazards.

"The 'responsible person' should implement a stringent training process to ensure employees understand the risks of grease in the ductwork. For example, knowing how to use commercial cleaning chemicals; knowing how to isolate the extractor fan; familiarity with cleaning methods and frequency for grease filters; switching off appliances; reporting of faulty controls and sensors and understanding fire detection and extinguisher systems. And with the larger and more complex extraction systems it is often advisable to involve a reliable contract cleaning firm."

Redington added: "The cleaning and inspection regime of the surfaces of all cooking equipment hoods, filters, ductwork and fans is critical and should be regular with specific tasks done at recognised time intervals. Remember that the corners of ducts (where a vertical run meets a horizontal section) can often be a grease trap. These may be more difficult to access than other parts but it is essential that the entire length of the system is properly cleaned. 

"Keeping records of training and maintenance is also essential. Should there be a fire or accident, all these records may provide the only defence against possible criminal prosecution.

"Finally, it must be remembered that most policies will include a warranty or condition relating to extraction system cleaning, and usage. These requirements simply seek to ensure a good system of housekeeping is in place.

"Our claims team recently dealt with a large fire claim for a kebab restaurant where the dangers of the immense amount of grease being deposited in the ducting was simply not recognised by the owners. As this was a 24-hour catering operation, cleaners were unable to carry out the work needed. The grease had deposited over several years to the point that this was effectively a fire waiting to happen."

The Insurers‘ Fire Research Strategy Scheme (InFiReS) and the Building Services Research and Industry Association (BSRIA) have published recommendations for Fire Risk Assessment of Catering Extract Ventilation, a document aimed at helping those ‘responsible people' to assess fire hazards and take suitable precautions.


For further information, please contact: Jo Brearley at Staniforth on 0161 919 8014/ 07973 143215 or Sally Leeman at Norwich Union on 01603 684225/ 07800 699670.

Notes to Editors

  • Norwich Union is the UK's largest general insurer with a market share of around 15%, with a focus on insurance for individuals and small businesses.
  • It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest Financial Adviser (FA) providers.  FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.
  • Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at www.aviva.com/media.

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