The Business Insurance Bureau

Grease the Fire/Insurance Problem

Bognor Regis Hotel Fire 2016, Source:

Over the last 30 years there has been a huge rise in the numbers and types of food outlet in the United Kingdom.

Where there were banks, churches and shops are Restaurants, Café’s, Pubs, Clubs, wine Bars, Fish & Chip Shops, Fast Food and Take – Away outlets – all selling hot food.

Indeed, the huge number of outlets and choices available to the public across many ethnic and specialist food outlets suggests the tradition of home cooking must almost be a hobby.

The Trouble With Grease

A build up of grease in kitchen extract ventilation systems is a major fire risk – it is easily ignited and is quickly uncontrollable. Both the food outlet and neighbouring property are at risk as the ducting of the extraction system will inevitably lead to other occupier’s property, giving the potential for a major loss.

Types of Grease

Different cooking styles will inevitably create different grease residues.

Deep frying produces grease similar to translucent creosote.

Frozen foods containing large quantities of water create a hard shiny layer of grease.

Oriental style cooking creates a very sticky, syrup-like grease that can become very adhesive to metal surfaces.

Meats cooked on solid fuel ranges or charbroiled produce large quantities of grease. An average burger loses 9g of fat when cooked. A first layer of grease will bond to metal surfaces, and then subsequent layers of black carbon will build-up created by ash and grease from the cooking process.

Spontaneous Combustion

At temperatures above 200 degrees C flammable vapours are given off from cooking oils and spontaneous ignition can occur at temperatures between 310 and 360 degrees. It’s a short time from ‘safe’ to ‘dangerous’ if thermostats are not working correctly.

The flashpoint of cooking oil is lowered by progressive oxidation as a result of repeated use. Deposits of some mixtures, such as chicken fat and vegetable oil are particularly easy to ignite.

Fire Risks in a Kitchen


Any fire will require ignition, fuel and air. There are several primary risks of fire in the kitchen:

Flames, sparks or hot gases can ignite combustible deposits trapped in extract ducts and filters

Superheated oils causing spontaneous ignition

Fan-motor failure or overheating due to hardened grease

Faulty thermostats and or the absence of a second high level safety thermostat

Metal extract ducts are good conductors of heat and can ignite nearby building materials or litter

Catalytic converters decompose grease, but operating at 1000 degrees C are a potential source of ignition

Tandoori ovens without igniters/pilot lights lit by burning pieces of paper/absence of flame failure or safety shut off device

Non tested and non maintained electrical and cooking equipment

Design of the extract ventilation, such as long duct runs, horizontal ducts, type of fan, number of access doors, inaccessible extract ducts etc

Contractors may only clean hoods and easily accessible and visible areas

Poor positioning or failure of fire suppression system

The above are the main fire risks however there are many others associated with kitchens:

Unattended cooking equipment during operation and not switched off at end of day

Gas torches

Incompetent cleaning contractors

Commercial Property

"I just left the blow torch on for a moment whilst I took the phone call..."

Business Interruption

"When the water came up to our knees we realised we might have a problem..."

What the Building and Engineering Services Association Say

Although not a set in a legislative context, the B&ES guide to good practice (TR/19) gives guidance on the frequency of the cleaning regime required: this will obviously depend on the level of usage of the cooking equipment. TR/19 can be viewed on the internet and is the standard insurers expect but among the recommendations are the installation of cleaning hatches on the ducting and these recommended cleaning frequencies.

Frequency of Cleaning:

Heavy use 12 – 16 hours per day 3 monthly

Moderate use 6 – 12 hours per day 6 monthly

Light use 2 – 6 hours per day 12 monthly

All insurers have Kitchen Cleaning conditions. Failure to comply is a serious matter with important consequences.

What The Insurance Companies Say – The Kitchen Cleaning Conditions

All insurers will insist on regular cleaning broadly similar to this condition:

All extraction hoods, canopies, filters and grease traps are cleaned once per week (and a record kept for inspection by the insurers)
The entire length of all flues and extraction ducting, including extraction motors and fans are cleaned at least every six months

What The Law Says


There are various regulations which must be complied with but the main ones are:

Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 & Fire (Scotland) Act 2005

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 ( England & Wales) – The Regulation and Act state that employers, landlords, tenants and or contractors carrying out repair work all have fire safety responsibilities for the premises and will be required to co-operate with each other and coordinate their fire safety measures. A fire safety risk assessment must be conducted, recorded and reviewed regularly and updated as and when required. The purpose of the fire safety risk assessment is to identify and assess fire and mitigate the effects of a fire on the premises and to ensure safety. These assessments can be inspected without notification or warning from the local Fire and Rescue Service. This came into force as from the 1st October 2006 and applies to all non-domestic premises in Scotland.

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and associated legislation – states that all employees have a safe place and systems at work. This covers all cooking equipment within the kitchen and premise. Risk assessments are a legal requirement within the Act.

The Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 – state that there is a duty to maintain plant and equipment within the workplace and that it is safe for employees and all other users.

What The Business Insurance Bureau Say

There are few small fires in commercial kitchens: – usually, a kitchen fire is extremely disruptive to your ability to trade for some time ahead. However, complications over compliance with your insurance policy may turn disruption to disaster. Moreover, the prospect of spreading fire to third party property adjoining or above which is not covered is truly frightening.

Such conditions are often buried in the small print and the policy holder is often unaware of the condition or it’s importance. The simple failure to read the policy can be as big a disaster as the fire.

The Importance of Reading, Understanding and Cleaning

Insurance Kitchen conditions are often buried in the ‘small print’ and their importance is often not understood by the policy holder.

The simple failure to read, understand and clean compliantly can be as big a disaster as the fire. However innocent the failure, even a simple misunderstanding, can see the business ruined by the insurance policy.

The really important point is that once the fire has occurred, it is too late to remedy the insurance policy – that has to be the compliant – Now!

We have a true passion for reducing risk and ensuring the success of every business we work with, we pride our self on it, so please, pick up the phone today.