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Surge in vent hygiene compliance as fire safety awareness heightens

13 June 2023

THE DEMAND for cleaning and maintenance of kitchen extract ventilation systems has “increased dramatically” in the past year. That’s according to the industry’s newly rebranded certification scheme: the Building Engineering Services Association’s (BESA) Vent Hygiene Register.

There has been a 78% increase in the number of works notified to the Vent Hygiene Register’s digital database since last March, with the annual total passing 21,000 for the first time. The dramatic increase has been attributed to more clients, insurers and fire officers recognising the importance of these systems when it comes to the fire integrity of buildings.

At least one serious fire occurs in a UK commercial kitchen every day. Owners are now becoming increasingly aware that, by improving the maintenance of their grease extraction systems, ventilation and ductwork, they can minimise the risk of a fire spreading.

As a result, and according to the Vent Hygiene Register, “thousands more” systems are now being cleaned in compliance with the industry’s TR19 Grease Specification: Fire Risk Management of Grease Accumulation within Kitchen Extraction Systems.

Formerly known as the BESCA Ventilation Hygiene Elite Scheme, the Vent Hygiene Register has been rebranded to reflect the growing profile of the profession and to help it prepare for formal Government regulation. It’s managed by the BESA, which is promoting ventilation hygiene as a key element of the wider building safety agenda.

The Vent Hygiene Register is intended to become the ventilation hygiene equivalent of the mandatory Gas Safe Register, which itself served to transform the safety of gas installation work in the UK.

It’s recognised by the insurance fire risk body the RISCAuthority and by the London Fire Brigade, which recently updated its guidance for catering premises to include new measures from TR19.

Unregulated sector

“Despite its central role in building safety, this remains an unregulated sector,” said BESA’s head of certification Duncan Sibbald. “The 150-plus members of the Vent Hygiene Register are the professional vanguard pushing the industry towards higher standards and regulatory compliance, which is very much in tune with the culture change being driven by the Building Safety Act 2022.”

Sibbald added: “These companies recognise the importance of being able to provide third party audited evidence to their clients that their kitchen extract systems have been cleaned in compliance with the industry specification.”

Members’ clients receive a Vent Hygiene Register Post-Clean Completion Certificate, which is a crucial piece of evidence for any potential insurance claim or fire report.

The Vent Hygiene Register recently won the Best Use of Technology Award at the prestigious Trade Association Awards 2023 for its success in creating – and then rapidly expanding – its database for notifying compliant cleans.

“Digital technology has helped us to make rapid progress in providing a much-needed way for responsible firms to demonstrate to clients, insurers and the general public alike that they are working hard to keep people safe in buildings,” continued Sibbald. “However, while we’re delighted to have passed the 21,000 compliant cleans milestone, we recognise that we still have a very long way to go because tens of thousands of systems out there are waiting to be brought up to standard. Many of them are putting building occupants at considerable risk.”

Wider community

Sibbald observed that being more recognisably “part of the wider BESA community” will help the Vent Hygiene Register to develop a regulated framework linked to the improved transparency, competence and compliance demanded of the building services sector in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster of June 2017.

“Vent hygiene is about more than just cleaning,” concluded Sibbald. “It’s also about fire prevention. This message is reaching a much wider audience now, as shown by the surge in the use of our database to register compliant cleans, which is then translating into greater reassurance for clients, insurers and fire officers.”

*Further information is available online at www.venthygieneregister.com