The unfortunate truth is that not all commercial kitchen exhaust systems are designed per best practices. This can result in difficult-to-maintain and even dangerous commercial kitchens with a high fire risk. The new AIRAH guide, which you can find here, has all of the information you need to avoid common kitchen ventilation problems that can lead to disaster.
Using this best practice guide, you can ensure your kitchen is safe, hygienic, and compliant with regulations. In this article, we will go over what this guide covers and detail how it can help you run your kitchen smoothly and efficiently.
What Does the AIRAH Commercial Kitchen Exhaust Management Best Practice Guide Cover?
The best practice guide can be accessed for free online as a 42-page PDF document on AIRAH’s website. But, before diving into that document yourself, you may wonder what these commercial kitchen best practices are.
Commercial kitchens must be maintained carefully and kept to a high standard of cleanliness to prevent health hazards from unhygienic workplaces and fire risks. This guide highlights the major fire risks associated with commercial kitchens and provides strategies for reducing these risks.
Here, we will explore the five sections of the new AIRAH guide: fire risk, design and installation requirements, inspection compliance, cleaning requirements, and training regulations.
Fire Risk in Commercial Kitchen Exhaust
After the introduction, the first section of the new AIRAH commercial kitchen exhaust management guide covers fire risks in commercial kitchens. This section explores why commercial kitchen exhaust systems can increase the risk of fires or worsen fires in the area.
Put simply, kitchen exhaust systems provide the perfect environment for fires.
All a fire needs are the following three components: ignition, fuel, and air. Commercial kitchens have all three of these components in abundance, which makes them one of the most common places for a fire to occur in a building.
Some examples of ignition sources in a commercial kitchen include:
- Cooking devices with open flames
- Cooking techniques that utilise flames — such as flambéing
- Sparks, embers, or soot from wood or charcoal burners
Examples of fuels in a commercial kitchen include grease and oil, as well as any other combustible materials created during the process of cooking.
Finally, commercial kitchens not only have air in the room but are also equipped with extensive ventilation systems which help move air around the space.
Unfortunately, this can further ventilate the fire after it has started by channelling the smoke out of the area (like a chimney in a fireplace) and channelling more air into the location of the fire.
This can dramatically increase the likelihood of a larger fire and result in a large amount of toxic smoke entering the kitchen area through the kitchen exhaust hoods, which can be extremely dangerous.
The guide also details how kitchen exhaust systems can spread a fire beyond the kitchen through the duct system. A fire in the duct system typically occurs because of flammable build-up within the ducts themselves.
This build-up generally occurs in the grease filters, but grease and oil can also leak out of the ducts into other areas, which can spread fire throughout the entire building.
Commercial Kitchen Design and Installation Requirements
The next section of the best practices guide explores the design and installation requirements for kitchen exhaust systems in commercial kitchens. In this section, AIRAH details the different codes and standards for Australian kitchen exhaust systems, the parts of commercial kitchen exhaust systems, and access and maintenance requirements.
The typical parts of a kitchen exhaust system include the following components. However, remember that not all kitchen exhaust systems have all of the following components:
- Kitchen exhaust hood
- Kitchen exhaust hood grease filters
- Kitchen exhaust ductwork
- Kitchen exhaust effluent treatment equipment
- Kitchen exhaust energy control equipment
- Kitchen exhaust fans
- Kitchen exhaust discharge
- Fire extinguishing systems
- Fire detection systems
The guide details each of these nine components of the kitchen exhaust system in sections 3.4 through 3.11 (beginning page 10).
Another critical component of these requirements is the access requirements. Like any other critical system, kitchen exhaust systems must be regularly inspected and maintained.
To perform maintenance, you must have easy and safe access to the system. This is a legal requirement, and the responsibility for ensuring this safe access lies with the initial designer of the system. It is important to note that access requirements are split into two categories: conventional access to the system and internal access to the system.
Conventional access into the system refers to access into the kitchen exhaust system through components such as access doors and panels. A kitchen exhaust system must have the right number, size, and quality of access panels needed for unrestricted access and maintenance.
Internal access to the system, on the other hand, means access to the system components from within the building. These components may include ceiling access panels, doors, roof access stairs, or ladders.
Commercial Kitchen Inspection Compliance
The next section of the guide covers inspection protocols that should be present in any best-practice approach to managing a commercial kitchen exhaust system.
As mentioned above, kitchen exhaust systems should be regularly inspected to ensure cleanliness, structural integrity, mechanical condition, and safety risk level. The responsibility for facilitating access to these inspections is the responsibility of the client requesting the inspection (typically the kitchen owner).
The guide then moves into the recommended inspection frequency based on the likelihood of grease accumulation. To determine this, you will need to consider the type of cooking operations your commercial kitchen performs and the usage rate of the kitchen in which the exhaust system is running.
In other words, how much you use the exhaust system will directly impact how much grease accumulates within the system.
In a best-practices approach, you will want to schedule inspections based on this information. As you build a record of grease contamination levels over time (measured in grease thickness), you can adjust the frequency of your inspections to best match your needs.
Before any inspection, your kitchen exhaust system and fans should be tested to ensure they work properly. Then, they must be completely turned off by locking out the electrical switches to prevent any accidental activation during the actual inspection.
During the inspection, you will assess the grease thickness measurements of various system components. These components can be found on page 19, section 4.5 of the guide.
An inspection will also include a visual inspection of the following components of your kitchen exhaust system:
- Kitchen exhaust hood
- Exhaust fan
- Grease detection sensors
- Effluent treatment and energy control equipment
- Exterior areas of enclosures associated with the kitchen exhaust system
Once the inspection is completed, you must ensure all access panel covers, equipment housings and door closers are placed back at their initial position, and all electrical systems that were shut down are made operable.
Finally, the inspection results must be fully documented in an inspection report. If a third party completes the inspection, ensure that you and the third party have the inspection records.
Comprehensive Cleaning Requirements for Commercial Kitchens
Section five of the commercial kitchen exhaust management guide details the best practices for cleaning regulations in a commercial kitchen. This section dives into detail on the following points:
- How to create a cleaning frequency guide based on the level of grease production
- Pre-cleaning requirements
- Pre-cleaning inspections
- Protective coverings to remove the possibility of contamination
- Energy source protection
- Cleaning methods for your kitchen exhaust system
- Cleaning frequency guidelines
- Post-cleaning best practices
Suppose you do not currently have historic data for grease deposit levels in your exhaust system. In that case, you can use Tables 5.1 and 5.2 beginning on page 23 of the AIRAH guidelines to estimate an initial cleaning frequency for your system.
Pre-cleaning requirements and inspections must be met before cleaning can begin to ensure the safety of all individuals involved in the cleaning process. When it comes to cleaning frequency, there are two approaches.
You can either opt to base your cleaning frequency on the minimum standard approach or the best practice approach.
The minimum standard approach follows the guidelines listed in AS 1851. The best practice approach, on the other hand, determines the frequency of cleaning based on the tables mentioned above.
This can be a more accurate assessment of when your kitchen exhaust system truly needs to be cleaned to maintain a healthy and hygienic space.
Commercial Kitchen Training Regulations
The final section of the commercial kitchen exhaust system guidelines document revolves around the training regulations of commercial kitchens.
This section states that all personnel involved in the inspections and cleaning of kitchen exhaust systems must be trained and capable of operating and maintaining the components of the system.
They should be able to identify potential risks and be properly certified to conduct the necessary inspections and maintenance needed for the system.
Included in this training are the following concepts:
1. Core training in risk management, including the following topics.
- Working in a confined space, such as ducts and voids
- Lock out/tag out procedures for electrical equipment
- Safely working at heights
- Manual handling
- Any personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for the inspection and cleaning of the system
2. Core training in inspection techniques and best practices. Training in the components of kitchen exhaust systems, including:
- exhaust hood
- exhaust duct
- exhaust effluent treatment equipment
- exhaust fan
How to Keep Your Kitchen Running Smoothly Using the New AIRAH Guide
There is a lot of information in the new AIRAH guide that helps you avoid many commercial kitchen challenges related to your exhaust system. However, keeping up with all of these points and best practices can be challenging to do on your own.
This is why many commercial kitchen owners across the country trust Lotus Commercial to help with the cleaning and maintenance of their commercial kitchen exhaust systems.
Lotus Commercial has been servicing commercial kitchens for over 30 years and always strives to stay up to date with the latest regulations, best practices, and other developments in the cleaning industry.
We ensure compliance with not only the new AIRAH guidelines but also HACCP Australia, IKECA, Standards Australia, and international standards like ANSI, BESA, and NFPA so you can be confident that your kitchen will be properly cleaned and maintained.