Every night kitchen exhaust cleaning crews set out across the country with the mission to keep restaurants safe from the risk of fire. It is an honorable mission that often involves the crew placing themselves in an environment full of hazards that include everything from dangerous slip-and-falls to inhalation of noxious chemicals. These professionals have been trained to deal with many of these hazards, but there are several actions that building, and restaurant owners can take to minimize these hazards. Kitchen exhaust cleaning professionals will also note areas of action when presenting their inspection report. These actionable items should be fixed as soon as possible for the health and safety of employees, patrons, and service personnel.

There are many different aspects of safety to consider during a typical kitchen exhaust cleaning. For kitchen exhaust cleaners, many of the safety concerns are required by OSHA. This includes ladder safety, rooftop access, personal protective equipment, lock-out/tag-out, and fall protection requirements. Kitchen exhaust cleaners should train employees in the industry’s best practices to achieve optimal outcomes and safety on every job. The safety concerns that we will focus on are those required by the NFPA 96. These top safety concerns should be addressed by the owner of the building and by kitchen exhaust cleaners, who should include these requirements in their written inspection report. Here are the top three safety concerns in kitchen exhaust cleaning:

  1. Rooftop Kitchen Exhaust Fan Crashes

Kitchen exhaust cleaners will service the rooftop kitchen exhaust fan during the inspection and cleaning processes. Kitchen exhaust fans are required by NFPA 96 to be fitted with hinges that include a service hold open retainer on the device to lock the hinge open so that the fan may be safely cleaned and serviced. If a kitchen exhaust fan is not compliant it creates a safety hazard. Service personnel are at risk and the kitchen exhaust fan is susceptible to damage.

Hinges are necessary for the safety of kitchen exhaust cleaners. Those exhaust fans can weigh anywhere from fifty to a few hundred pounds. If there is no hinge kit, the fan must be manually lifted off the fan curb and placed on the rooftop. Imagine one or two people lifting a large, heavy, unyielding object like that fan under normal conditions; there is a real possibility of losing control of the fan and having it smash down on fingers, feet, or other body parts. Besides the injury the servicer endures, there is the insurance liability to consider. Eliminating that possibility is reason enough to get a high-quality hinge installed.

  1. Slip & Fall Hazards

Kitchen exhaust cleaners also must be on the lookout for slip-and-fall hazards, surprisingly enough, one of the highest risk areas is on a rooftop! The NFPA 96 states the following: (4) The ability to drain grease out of any traps or low point formed in the fan or duct near the termination of the system into a collection container that is noncombustible, closed, rainproof, and structurally sound for the service to which it is applied and that will not sustain combustion.

The NFPA requires a collection container or grease containment system. Most kitchen exhaust fans are equipped with a collection container, but these are often too small to handle the grease output. When a kitchen exhaust fan is not maintained to the NFPA 96 standard, grease begins to collect onto the rooftop. The mixture of grease and rainwater can cause a slick surface on the rooftop. In addition, this grease mixture can also erode the rooftop membrane and enter the storm drain, making the pavement and/or sidewalk dangerous for anyone walking over it.

Therefore, the NFPA 96 also states the following: ( Upblast fans shall have a drain directed to a readily accessible and visible grease receptacle not to exceed 3.8 L (1 gallon).

  1. Accessibility to Kitchen Exhaust Ductwork

One of the biggest issues for kitchen exhaust cleaners is not having good access to the kitchen exhaust ducts. If a duct can’t be accessed easily, the duct will not be cleaned and will be noted as inaccessible in their inspection report. This is due to the safety hazards presented to the kitchen exhaust cleaner.  Kitchen exhaust ducts are situated high up from the ground and are difficult to reach. If a duct can’t be accessed, it not only becomes very difficult to clean, but is also considered an OSHA ladder safety risk for kitchen exhaust cleaners. Because of this issue, the NFPA states the following: “Openings shall be provided at the sides or at the top of the duct, whichever is more accessible, and at a change of direction.” It also states, “Openings large enough to permit thorough cleaning shall be provided at 3.7 m (12 ft) intervals.”- NFPA 96, 2017 Edition, 7.3.1.

When selecting duct access doors, an important component to consider is ease of opening.  Kitchen exhaust cleaners often deal with access doors that require unscrewing wing nuts or other small parts. This could potentially cause small parts to slip out and fall down the ducts, making it inoperable. That is why the Omni line of access doors are entirely toolless. Our patented “Cam Lock” design require no wing nuts to juggle. Our Access Armor™ duct access doors can be easily opened and closed by hand. They also are designed in an octagonal shape to eliminate sharp edges that could possibly injure personnel. They also provide eight-corner contact points instead of four which increases the rigidity of the door.

Even though there are many different aspects of safety to consider during a typical kitchen exhaust cleaning, the small steps of adding a hinge, having a grease containment system in place, and ensuring access doors are installed, can and will make a huge difference! Not only will these aspects keep your facility NFPA compliant, but they will also lessen some of the safety risks kitchen exhaust cleaners experience while performing their work!  If you have any questions regarding Omni Containment System’s products, contact us today.