Background and research

As the kitchen is one of the parts of a building separated by a firewall, any exhaust system passes through such a fire break and must thus conform to the highest level of fire safety requirements.

As a consequence of some well-known kitchen fires linked to forced-air ventilation systems, kitchen operators have come to recognize the need for improving the safe operation of these systems. Pressure for improved fire safety in catering companies has come largely from insurance companies, who found themselves unprotected against claims stemming from loss of business, as such fires impacted real estate in the neighbourhood.

The fire at terminal 1 of Heathrow Airport on December 1997 is perhaps the most memorable example as the whole terminal was put out of commission in the incident. The fire at the South Mimms motorway filling station in August 1998 is another example where other companies located in the building suffered losses.


As insurance companies started becoming more interested in reducing their own liability for kitchen fires, it was evident that kitchen operators had to take better care of forced-air ventilation systems.

Recently BSRIA, in cooperation with supporting financiers from the Association of British Insurers) compiled a Fire Safety Risk Analysis for forced-air ventilation systems at food and drink establishments, The objective is that it should be easily understandable for most kitchen operators and over time could become the standard for the insurance business when it comes to such office space.

Background studies encompassed discussions with the London Fire Brigade, which treated problems of extinguishing and controlling such fires in real-life situations. Companies that manage ventilation systems were asked for know-how in order to preserve cleanliness of filter and exhaust systems. The insurance companies themselves were very helpful in giving information on their experience with losses from kitchen fires.

A range of thematic developments grew out of these studies, from which suitable problems could be selected for the risk analysis. At the same time, other risk analyses were evaluated in order to create a standard model framework.

The draft document was sent to relevant parties for comment, and before receiving the consent and signature of ABI, the final version was sent to the Hospitality Liaison Committee of the HSE’s Food and Entertainment Sector.