Grade “A” Clean

by Katie Lee

Take the appropriate steps to ensure your kitchen is up to code and free of hazards year round.

By Chelsea Keeton

According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking equipment is the leading cause of restaurant fires. This leading factor far surpasses other causes such as heating equipment, electrical and lighting equipment, smoking materials or intentional fires. These events often occur when a commercial kitchen operator least expects it. Prevention is crucial in protecting your business, your employees and yourself. Not only can grease fires destroy your building, they can lead to lost revenues and even loss of life. Take the appropriate steps to ensure your kitchen is up to code and free of hazards year round.

When was the last time you had your kitchen exhaust system inspected? The National Fire Protection Association developed NFPA 96, which describes the standards for ventilation control and fire protection of commercial cooking operations. NFPA 96 established an inspection schedule that your commercial kitchen should follow. During the inspection, your entire exhaust system is inspected for grease buildup. The level of buildup, cooking type and volume will determine how frequently your system should be cleaned in order to stay in compliance. Your kitchen exhaust cleaning company should provide advice and work with you to create a plan for having your system inspected on monthly, quarterly, semiannual or annual intervals.

Commercial kitchen cooking equipment is required to follow the minimum fire safety requirements as addressed by NFPA 96. These requirements relate to the prevention and operation associated with the design, installation, inspection and maintenance of your kitchen exhaust system. Exhaust fan hinge installation, kitchen hood cleaning, grease containment, kitchen exhaust cleaning and fan access panel installation should all be done by a trained and certified professional to control and contain grease buildup from kitchen operations. Making sure your kitchen is free from hazards while being in compliance is essential.

hoodz pic 1Kitchen exhaust system cleaning is not only important for the purpose of keeping your business up to code and in compliance; it is also a major factor in fire safety. As the leading cause of restaurant fires, your kitchen equipment should be monitored closely. The more grease buildup on your kitchen equipment, the higher the chances are that it will ignite, causing destruction in its path. To make things more complicated, not all grease is visible to the naked eye. Grease accumulates in the facilities duct work, behind kitchen equipment and on the roof. Each area should be fully inspected to ensure proper removal and cleanliness. Kitchen exhaust cleaning professionals should not only inspect inside the kitchen, but also must inspect the duct work and rooftop.

In addition to keeping your kitchen free of grease, staff must be fully trained on handling fire related situations. In the case of a fire, staff needs to know how to appropriately use a fire extinguisher. As the business owner, you need to ensure all employees know how to properly activate and spray the extinguisher in order to get the maximum effect. Cleaning grease and eliminating buildup before it starts can also be done with the help of staff. Employees should be taught to clean places not as obvious as a stovetop or the kitchen floor, but also should remember to clean places such as walls and vents to prevent faster grease accumulation. In addition to eliminating grease buildup, be sure to remove any other fire hazards from the cooking area. As a business owner, you may want to have a fire safety checklist posted in an easily visible location so employees can follow the fire prevention steps every time they are in the kitchen. Simple strategies can save your employees and your business a lot of despair in the long run. Have a plan in place to keep the spreading of grease throughout the kitchen to a minimum, as well as a plan in case any emergencies do occur.


— Chelsea Keeton is the marketing manager of Ann Arbor, Michigan-based HOODZ International, which provides solutions for commercial kitchen exhaust systems and conveyor oven cleaning while adhering to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard-96. Email the author at [email protected].

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