Dear Swiftclean supporter
I am writing to reassure you that during this time of concern over the spread of COVID-19 through the UK population, we are being especially vigilant in ensuring that we take every precaution to avoid the risk of contamination for you, your colleagues and for our own team.
To date, we are completely free of any suspected cases and we have no current cause for concern.
We are continuing to provide the highest levels of service while following all the relevant guidance and advice issued by HM Government and Public Health England.
Best practice for all
Above all, please be assured that we are operating as normal in delivering our services and that we have zero instances of suspected Coronavirus throughout our business.
We are currently all well, with no serious health concerns. We hope that you too are weathering this crisis successfully and we look forward to serving you diligently despite this new challenge.
With all best wishes
Legionella compliance is cool
The cooler winter and spring months are an ideal time to make sure that your water system is healthy and that you have an up to date legionella risk assessment. Get compliant now and you are less likely to have problems when the warmer weather comes – legionella bacteria loves warm weather and tepid water.
How do you know if your legionella risk assessment is out of date?
If you have made any changes to your water system, such as adding or removing a tap, shower head or other water outlet, you must have a new risk assessment. This is because the major contributing factor for a legionella outbreak is from static water within the pipework system. Adding or removing an outlet can change the flow of water, creating what we call a ‘dead leg’ – an area in which water stops flowing freely. Nobody sets out to generate a dead leg, but you can unwittingly form one through a simple piece of plumbing, so if you make any alterations at all, you must carry out a new risk assessment.
Less well known is that if you have a change of manager for your property, you must also update your risk assessment. It is not enough to assume that your predecessor’s assessment is still valid. If you are the property manager, or the Responsible Person, it is your legal duty to control and prevent legionella. You will also be responsible in law if there is a legionella outbreak – so you must satisfy yourself that your risk assessment is current.
Legionella bacteria causes the potentially fatal ‘flu-like illness known as Legionnaires disease. For a fit, healthy adult, this is a serious and debilitating illness, but for the elderly, the very young and anyone with an underlying health condition, it can be fatal. The legal consequences for failing to prevent a legionella outbreak are appropriately serious – up to and including a custodial sentence for the Responsible Person, and limitless fines for the organisation.
Water systems must be compliant with L8, the Approved Code of Practice and guidance on Legionnaires’ disease, issued by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). If you have any doubts at all that your system is compliant, you should call in experts like our teams. Once you are compliant, ongoing monitoring for legionella is relatively simple, and we can train your team to do this yourself.
These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself:
Does my property have an appointed Responsible Person for legionella compliance?
Has the Responsible Person changed since our last legionella risk assessment?
Have we made any changes to the pipework since our last legionella risk assessment?
Are any of our taps, toilets and showers ever left unused for more than a week?
Are any unused outlets flushed regularly?
Are our water tanks clean, sound and free from ingress by rodents or insects?
Are our water tanks sufficiently shaded from solar gain?
When were our water tanks last cleaned or checked?
We can help you ensure that you are L8 compliant. Call us on 0800 243471, or email email@example.com for a no obligation quote for our legionella prevention services.
Life in a commercial kitchen is always busy, but there are seasons when things are positively hectic. Christmas, Valentine’s day, Mother’s Day, and other times are great for business, but they can be very hard on the cleanliness of your kitchen extract ductwork and can cause a very serious fire risk. Cooking even the healthiest of food leaves grease deposits in kitchen extract ductwork. If a fire were to break out, this grease can fuel it, while the ductwork itself can help the fire to spread. The more you cook the more grease deposits will accumulate.
Commercial kitchens must comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order in terms of adequate control of fire risks. For your kitchen extraction system, TR19® Grease, the industry specification, applies all the year round, no matter how busy they are. It is a legal duty that requires kitchen extract ductwork to be kept clean and compliant with TR19® Grease. This compliance will also help to protect against the possible spread of fire, safeguard adjoining properties and the public, and protect businesses from the disruption and loss that fire damage can cause.
The TR19® Grease specification contains tables which tell you how often kitchen extract ductwork must be cleaned to remain compliant, depending on how heavily and frequently the kitchen extract system is used. It also precisely sets out the limits of compliance. For example, the grease deposits in your ductwork must be kept to within an average of 200 microns, which is about half the thickness of an average business card. If, in the case of a fire, investigators find that you were not TR19® Grease compliant, it can compromise your insurance cover and even lead to prosecution for negligence.
As an expert provider, and a member of the BESCA Ventilation Hygiene Elite (VHE) scheme, we work together with you to make sure your kitchen extract ductwork is TR19® Grease compliant, and our cleans cause you the least possible disruption. We will also provide you with full BESCA certified documentation, and a photographic record, of each clean.
When business is good, the last thing you need is a cleaning team disturbing your workflow. We know that care homes, hospitals and restaurants can be too busy during the day to accommodate the disruption of a clean, so our regional site teams will visit when you need them, even if that is overnight.
Some questions you might need to ask:
When was my kitchen extract ductwork last cleaned?
How often does my kitchen extract ductwork need to be inspected and cleaned according to TR19® Grease?
When is the best time for kitchen extract cleaning to TR19® Grease to take place?
How do I prove I have complied with TR19® Grease? Do I get a certificate?
Is there enough access to clean the whole kitchen extract ductwork system?
Is my expert cleaner a member of the BESCA VHE scheme?
To find out more, talk to one of our experts on 0800 243471 or contact us for a free, no obligation quote.
I am delighted to be able to share with you the news that yesterday evening, at the highly prestigious PFM Awards 2019 in London, we were recognised with the cream of the UK Facilities Management industry. Swiftclean was declared the winner of the Partners in Expert Services category, together with our good friends and clients, Zing Leisure Ltd.
We have worked especially hard together since early 2018 to ensure that Zing is achieving full TR19®Grease compliance in its busy network of Burger King franchises, including the flagship store in London’s Leicester Square. It was a great pleasure, therefore, to be able to share our success on the night with Tony Sanderson of Zing.
I am very proud indeed of our team and of the way in which they have forged an exceptional working relationship with Zing Leisure. The judges praised all of us for forming a genuine bond and for producing measurable positive results in a way that reflects well on our entire industry.
I hope that it will reassure and encourage you to know that ours is an award-winning team. This is our first PFM Award, but is the latest of several awards and commendations, including H&V News and multiple HVR Awards, gained in the past few years.
We aim, always, to give our best on every contract, so please be assured that we are doing our best to ensure your compliance at all times. If there are further services that we provide that you are not yet using, please do make us aware as we would love to discuss how we can help you further.
My warmest regards,
In July 2019, a new specification for the fire safety management of kitchen extract systems was issued by The BESA (Building Engineering Services Association.) This is known as TR19® Grease and has been drawn up to encourage improved standards of compliance by contractors providing kitchen extract fire safety cleaning.
TR19® Grease has been developed from section 7 of the second edition of TR/19, the section which gave guidance on specific considerations for kitchen extract systems. Despite the clear advice which section 7 set out, some contractors had failed to follow TR/19 guidance correctly, or had ignored it completely, resulting in:
- Grease deposits remaining in ductwork that clients believed was compliant
- A number of ductwork fires, some severe
- Significant fire damage to properties
- Kitchen operators finding themselves uninsured, despite having employed a kitchen extract fire safety cleaning contractor
What’s different about TR19® Grease?
- TR19® Grease is now a standalone specification which places more emphasis on controlling fire risk from grease build-up within kitchen extract systems.
- Not just a guide to good practice, TR19® Grease is an industry-wide specification which must be followed by contractors operating in the sector under this specification.
- Contractors must be members of the Building Engineering Services Competence Assessment (BESCA) Ventilation Hygiene Elite (VHE) Scheme if they wish to certify their work as TR19® Grease
- Members of the VHE Scheme must also abide by the BESCA Code of Conduct
- TR19® Grease introduces minimum competency levels for technicians carrying out and signing off on-site kitchen extract cleaning. Technicians must now have the the BESA Grease Hygiene Technician (GHT) qualification.
- Each time a kitchen extract clean is carried out the contractor should register on the BESCA VHE portal where and when the clean was carried out and if the system was fully or partially cleaned.
- Registration on the BESCA VHE portal will generate a BESCA certificate which will provide evidence of the compliant clean or partial clean, which will support the Post Clean Report.
- A small fee will be charged for each certificate issued following registration on the BESCA portal.
- Cleaning frequencies should be regularly reviewed to ensure that grease can be controlled at safe levels.
- Grease levels must be controlled so as to not exceed a mean average of 200 microns between scheduled cleans.
How BESCA and the VHE scheme will ensure that best practice is observed:
- BESCA will monitor and audit the compliance of VHE members, both with its code of conduct and with the TR19® Grease
- BESCA auditors will make periodic checks on VHE members by asking to review a selection of their post-clean reports for compliance auditing purposes.
- BESCA will be able to revoke or reject the membership of contractors who are considered to be in breach of VHE Scheme requirements or code of conduct.
Our role at Swiftclean
At Swiftclean, we have been providing expert risk control cleaning and compliance for more than three decades. We have assisted the BESA over the years with both the initial drafting and the evolution of TR/19 for the Internal Cleanliness of Ventilation System. We have been full members of the VHE scheme since its inception.
For the past 24 months we have been working with The BESA and the RISC Authority to help to develop this new specification, TR19® Grease. At Swiftclean, we have always been diligent in following the requirements of TR/19 closely and, as a result, we have built an impeccable fire safety record on which our clients can rely.
We welcome the new TR19® Grease specification as a major advance in fire safety best practice and will be making a small additional charge of £5 per certification from September 2019 to cover the cost of registration and certification through the scheme.
- Insurers will look favourably on those who insist that their contractors certify through BESCA. This may be reflected in more favourable rates, so it is certainly worth mentioning when renegotiating business insurances.
- Using a VHE member like Swiftclean will give you greater confidence that work is carried out in compliance with TR19® Grease and with the updated TR19® for your ventilation ductwork.
- BESCA certification may be an added protection in law for the appointed Responsible Person.
- £5 per certificate is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
- You do have the right to continue to ask that we self-certify. However, to be fully TR19® Grease compliant we are advising all our clients to take up BESCA certification as it will be an industry-wide certification and a clear indication that you have adopted industry best practice for your kitchen and your premises.
Duct cleaning and legionella risk experts Swiftclean, partnered with Zing Leisure, have been shortlisted for the prestigious Premises & Facilities Management Partnership Awards 2019, the flagship awards of the facilities management industry. Pitted in the final-line up against FM giant OCS, partnered with NEC Group; and safety specialist PTSG, partnered with Standard Life, Swiftclean is ranked among the top three UK specialist service providers in this year’s Partners in Expert Services category.
As an expert in ductwork cleaning, Swiftclean has been helping Zing Leisure to achieve and maintain full compliance with TR/19, the leading guidance document concerning ventilation hygiene, issued by BESA. Zing Leisure is the company behind a network of franchised Burger King outlets, including the flagship restaurant in Leicester Square, London. The management of Zing are scrupulously committed to compliance and turned to Swiftclean for help after being let down by a previous provider who had failed to achieve compliance with TR/19. Zing and Swiftclean have since formed an outstanding partnership which has achieved the shortlisting which puts them among the finest examples of industry best practice.
The partnership will now undergo further scrutiny from the judges, with the winners being announced at a glittering awards dinner in London in November 2019.
Swiftclean, the duct cleaning and legionella risk experts, have welcomed the new fire safety campaign launched by BESA. This was formed in response to the recent Aldgate fire in which yet another a fast food outlet was damaged, threatening the residential flats above it. Swiftclean Managing Director, Gary Nicholls, commented, “It is excellent to see BESA throwing its weight behind publicising the need for TR/19 compliance by highlighting the very real risk of fire which non-compliance poses.
“Our teams regularly tackle the results of non-compliance over a long period and witness first-hand the build-up of fat, oil and grease when regular TR/19 cleaning has not been carried out. We still, all too frequently see the kind of potential fire risk that caused the damage in Aldgate. The fact that this was entirely preventable makes it all the more concerning. BESA helping to raise awareness of the problem with this new initiative is entirely welcome and adds emphasis to our own efforts to raise awareness.”
Swiftclean recently won a coveted H&V News Award for its own campaigning efforts to raise awareness of the need to maintain fire dampers in ductwork and has also campaigned to ‘Make Hidden Grease Visible’, an initiative which has helped the company to win multiple awards over the past five years. Swiftclean is currently emphasising the need to keep all areas of the ventilation system ductwork accessible, so that TR/19 compliance cleaning can be carried out unhindered.
Gary Nicholls is also a member of the BESA steering committee which helps to draft TR/19, the leading guidance document concerning the hygiene of ventilation ductwork and has been instrumental in raising standards of compliance across the industry. Swiftclean is also a BESA training centre and has demonstrated exceptional commitment to training among its own technicians for several decades.
Swiftclean, duct cleaning and legionella risk experts, warned of the risks of neglecting TR/19 compliance, following two serious kitchen extract ductwork fires in London restaurants in early February 2019.
Eight fire engines and 60 firefighters attended a blazing fire in the ducting of a Chinese restaurant in Hounslow on 7 February 2019, while six fire engines and 40 firefighters were called to a restaurant fire in Brixton on 5 February 2019. In both cases fire took hold in the kitchen extract ductwork and began to spread through the building, threatening offices and living accommodation above the two restaurants.
Twenty people were evacuated from offices above the Chinese restaurant in Hounslow and, fortunately, there were no reported injuries. The London Fire Brigade report stated that the fire was believed to have been caused by an unattended saucepan of cooking oil, but the ductwork carried the fire from the ground floor kitchen to a washroom on the first floor. Both were destroyed by the fire.
According to the London Fire Brigade, the cause of the fire in Brixton was a build-up of grease in the extractor hood in the kitchen. One resident was evacuated from the flats above the Brixton restaurant as a precaution, but again, fortunately, there were no recorded injuries.
Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean, commented, “Grease in the ductwork is not always the cause of a fire, but the danger is that accumulated grease will spread fire further through the building and, once it is established within the ductwork, lack of access can make it more difficult for firefighters to tackle. TR/19 compliance is essential, not just for hygiene reasons but as a vital fire safety measure and to protect your business. If you don’t comply with TR/19 you can compromise your buildings insurance as well as putting staff, customers and neighbouring occupants at risk.”
Swiftclean has long been a leading advocate of TR/19 compliance, and provides specialist cleaning to TR/19 guidelines. MD Gary Nicholls is a member of the steering committee and co-author of TR/19, the leading industry guidance document on ventilation hygiene, which is issued by BESA.
Warding off air quality problems
Clean air is probably more important for the facilities users of hospitals and care homes than in any other sector. In the light of recent reports of infection being spread through ventilation ductwork, Gary Nicholls, MD of duct cleaning experts Swiftclean, explains the importance of complying with TR/19 guidelines.
There was a time when clean air was prescribed by doctors as a health cure for patients with respiratory ailments, and it has long been recognised as beneficial for everyone. In the past, much of the concern over indoor air quality centred around preventing condensation by providing a plentiful air flow for the occupants of a building. However, the recent incidence of infection being spread through uncleaned ductwork at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow has highlighted the importance of removing from ventilation ductwork, following inspection on a regular basis, the inevitable accumulated dust, dirt and lint that can harbour bacteria and mould spores.
All ventilation ductwork should be inspected and tested at regular intervals and cleaned where dust levels exceed the benchmark limits in compliance with TR/19, the leading guidance document for ventilation hygiene, issued by BESA. The second edition of TR/19 introduced a requirement for all newly installed ventilation systems to be handed over for use in cleaned, TR/19 compliant condition. This was an important advance because, prior to this, ventilation ductwork was all too often found to contain dirt and debris from the construction process. There still may be some systems which have never been cleaned and which pre-date the second edition of TR/19, so it is vital for good air quality that these are tested and where necessary cleaned to TR/19 guidelines as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, as it is largely hidden, it is too easy for the ventilation system to be out of mind as well as out of sight. Although news reports of infection being spread are alarming, we should take them as an impetus to spur us to inspect, test and where necessary clean ventilation systems regularly. This benefits everyone. Care staff who work in poor air quality will suffer a cumulative long-term effect leading to increased sickness and absence levels, which is not good news for patients or managers. Additional costs will be incurred for replacing staff on sick leave, putting additional pressure on hospital budgets. Patients with compromised health or immune systems will be more immediately vulnerable to the ill effects of poor air quality, particularly hazards such as airborne spores or bacteria. Just as handwashing is now a major emphasis in hospitals, clean air should also be a high priority.
In every commercial building, it is important to classify the ductwork of the ventilation system as low, medium or high in terms of cleaning requirements. In a hospital, there will be different classifications according to the area and function of each sector of the building. The manager responsible for maintenance, perhaps in consultation with infection control, will need to define the classifications of each ventilation system serving the healthcare facility. Operating theatres, not surprisingly, will typically have a high classification. Wards, although not quite as critical, must have a good indoor air quality in order to promote speedy recovery and good health, so these will likely be given a medium classification. All public areas, as well as administrative offices should also be given a classification, typically medium. Less well occupied areas such as boiler rooms can be probably be given a low classification, however, steps must still be taken to ensure that these premises are as clean as possible, to prevent bacteria, such as the pigeon-related infection which affected Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, from entering the ventilation system.
The actual cleaning process in all these classification areas is the same, it requires the effective removal of any dust, dirt, lint or construction debris, leaving the ductwork completely clean and capable of meeting the TR/19 post clean verification test. The practical difference between the different classifications is in the thickness or weight of deposit which indicates cleaning being required. TR/19 sets out helpful tables which indicate how frequently the various areas in a building should be tested according to their cleanliness classification. Some parts of a hospital will require particular treatment; for example, laundry extracts must be regularly cleaned to remove dust and lint particles which can cause fires. Another potential fire hazard is the build up of grease in a kitchen extract system. Again, TR/19 explains how often these should be cleaned according to the rate of grease accumulation.
In order to comply with TR/19, it is essential that we have access to the entire ventilation system, so particular attention should be given in every new system, to providing adequate access to achieve TR/19 compliance throughout. In older systems, we can retrofit additional access doors, but where solid ceilings and false walls are added after installation, this may not be possible without major renovation works. It is far better, therefore, to design and install new ventilation systems with future TR/19 compliance in mind. In settings where we care for the sick or infirm, maintaining good indoor air quality, and therefore the ability to access all the areas of the ventilation system, is always essential for everyone.
Ventilation – access all areas
Despite a growing awareness of the issues surrounding ventilation hygiene and safety, there are still an alarming number of potential barriers to compliance throughout the lifetime of some ventilation systems, as Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean and co-author of TR/19, explains.
Many more building owners and managers are now becoming aware that to run a safe and healthy building, there are a number of ventilation compliance issues to tackle. As well as complying with TR/19, the leading industry guidance document on ventilation hygiene issued by BESA, they also have to tackle the annual testing and ongoing maintenance of fire dampers within the ventilation system, which is covered by BS:9999.
A poorly maintained ventilation system can adversely affect indoor air quality which, in turn, can negatively impact the wellbeing of a building’s end users. In a residential setting, it can exacerbate conditions such as asthma, so it is essential that ventilation ductwork is cleaned thoroughly at regular intervals in accordance with TR/19. In a commercial setting, poor air quality can have a detrimental effect on concentration and productivity and has frequently been linked with raised sickness and absenteeism levels, so TR/19 compliant ductwork also makes good commercial sense.
The ductwork itself is often routed through fire resistant internal walls which are designed to delay or prevent the spread of fire. Potential openings through fire rated walls present an opportunity for fire to travel to other parts of the building, so it is essential that these openings can be sealed in the event of fire by installing fire dampers, a set of steel louvres which will close automatically should a fire occur. Obviously, it is also essential that these are regularly tested, using a method called drop testing. In 2017 BS:9999 drop testing became an annual requirement, to ensure that fire dampers will work properly if needed, and this is an area in which fire officers are, understandably, clamping down.
In the case of kitchen extract ductwork systems, regular TR/19 cleaning also helps prevent fires by removing the flammable grease deposits which are an unavoidable result of cooking. The second edition of TR/19 includes helpful tables which lay out the necessary cleaning frequency, according to each system’s classification (high, medium or low). Heavily used systems such as commercial kitchen extracts will need cleaning the most often and here the rate of deposit accumulation will define the cleaning frequency requirements.
Despite a legal requirement to comply with both TR/19 and BS:9999, which Swiftclean provides, we continue to experience physical barriers to compliance. Clearly, in order to achieve compliance, we must be able to access all areas of the ventilation system, but there are still some fundamental reasons why this is not always possible.
Ventilation systems must be designed and installed in accordance with DW144 for ordinary ductwork or DW172 for kitchen extract ductwork. TR/19 is not a design or installation requirement, but a guideline (and a legal requirement) for ongoing compliance. Ironically, DW144 and DW172 do not include the full remit of access points which are required by TR/19. A new version of TR/19 will be published in 2019 following a review of the issues concerning kitchen extract systems, and this is expected to increase the minimum access door frequency requirement from every 3 meters to every 2 meters. As there are currently no plans to review DW172, the discrepancy between the two is set to grow.
A new, ventilation system can, therefore, be designed, installed and commissioned in full compliance with DW144 and DW172, but in order to achieve ongoing compliance with TR/19, we may well have to retrofit additional access doors at the very first clean. In a busy commercial kitchen, we all too frequently have to install further access points when the system is just a few months old.
In order to effectively clean an ‘elbow’ in the ductwork, we need to be able to approach the angled section from both directions, but we often find that there are insufficient access points close enough to allow a thorough clean. Again, we can usually retrofit an additional door, but it seems nonsensical to have to do this during a new system’s first clean.
This is all very well if the ductwork itself is accessible. This is not always the case. When we are carrying out TR/19 cleaning, we often encounter situations in which a solid ceiling or false wall has been added after the ventilation system was installed. We cannot then tell whether access points exist and have been covered over, or were never included. In many cases, we cannot install additional access points even if we need to, or the client would wish us to. Gaining sufficient access to the ventilation system to achieve TR/19 compliance may involve expensive major remodelling or an unsightly ceiling access hatch. A solid ceiling may look more attractive, but a suspended ceiling is usually better for achieving compliance. There are no building regulations which stipulate that the construction of ceilings or walls should preserve access to essential services for ongoing compliance. Perhaps there should be.
Since TR/19 compliance is required by law, we would argue that it should be designed into the system’s construction from the outset. This would mean updating DW144 and DW172 to include the principles in TR/19. There should also be measures in place to prevent the permanent covering of the ventilation system (and other essential services that will need ongoing maintenance) so that it remains accessible.
System design regulations ought to include sufficient access to conduct fire damper testing to BS:9999. In the event of a fire, smoke and flames can travel through the ductwork to other parts of the building, so it is life critical that fire dampers close as designed to restore the compartment created by the fire-resistant wall. This delay allows vital time to evacuate the building’s users. Fire dampers are often installed in hospitals, care homes, hotels and halls of residence, so the need to be able to evacuate residents and guests is obvious.
If your system is not compliant with TR/19, or does not allow fire damper testing, you will probably find that your buildings insurance cover is compromised. Insurers expect that in managing your building you will comply with the law so, if you don’t, you may not receive a pay-out. In the event of a fire, the legal consequences for any responsible persons can include prosecution and, if found guilty of negligence, can result in a custodial sentence.
Most of these potential problems would be solved if we designed and installed ventilation systems in accordance with TR/19 and with BS:9999 in mind from the outset. Retrofitting additional access points is more expensive than installing them during initial construction, so it makes commercial sense to provide for ongoing compliance at the design stage. If we also ensured, perhaps with a new building regulation, that any further ceiling construction and aesthetic remodelling did not interfere with safe access, we could achieve ongoing system compliance without problems. All of this is surely common sense. Why would we ignore this when good health, and even lives, may depend on it?
TR/19 – the barriers to compliance
There are still an alarming number of ventilation systems which we struggle to make compliant with TR/19, the leading industry document covering ventilation hygiene, issued by BESA, says Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean and co-author of TR/19.
Clean ductwork helps to promote good quality indoor air and, in the case of kitchen extract ductwork systems, to help prevent fires by the removal of flammable grease and dirt. The second edition of TR/19 includes helpful tables which lay out the necessary cleaning frequency, according to each system’s classification (high, medium or low). Heavily used systems such as commercial kitchen extracts will need cleaning the most often and here the rate of deposit accumulation will define the cleaning frequency requirements.
However, in order to comply, we must be able to access the entire system and, in some cases, this is problematic. Ventilation systems must be installed in accordance with DW144 for ordinary ductwork or DW172 for kitchen extract ductwork but, ironically, these do not include the full remit of access points which are required by TR/19 guidelines. A point to note is that the TR/19 guidelines in relation to grease are currently under review and the new version which is due for publication in 2019 is expected to increase the minimum access door frequency requirement from every 3 meters to every 2 meters.
We often encounter problems where there are angles or elbows in the run of ductwork. In order to effectively clean an angle in the ductwork, we need to be able to approach the elbow section from both directions, but we often find that there are insufficient access points close enough to thoroughly clean the angled section. We can usually retrofit an additional door, but it seems nonsensical to have to do this during a new system’s first clean.
After installation has occurred, the importance of maintaining adequate access to the ductwork is not always understood. The interior designer or architect understandably seeks to make a beautiful interior, and does not always bear in mind that TR/19 compliance in ventilation ductwork will be an ongoing issue. In some instances, we find that solid ceilings have been constructed across the ductwork, or false walls installed, obscuring the ductwork.
This can be a major problem. It is hard to tell whether sufficient doors exist, but have been covered up, or if additional doors are needed. Rectifying the situation can be disruptive and costly, requiring service hatches in the beautiful solid ceiling. Although solid ceilings may be more aesthetically pleasing, suspended ceilings are often a better choice for facilitating compliance. When cleaning at height, an access platform may also be required to clean safely and this should be factored in at the design stage. Ideally, future compliance should be on the agenda from the initial design of every building’s ventilation system.
Often, retrofitting additional access doors will solve the problem, but this is not only inconvenient, it also costs the client more than if the full remit of doors needed for TR/19 compliance had been included when the system was installed. In some scenarios, we are quite simply unable to achieve full compliance due to the configuration of the system or a physical barrier which prevents the retrofitting of sufficient access points.
The consequences of non-compliance are considerable. In office settings, a dirty system can contribute to sick building syndrome and increased levels of absence. In residential settings, failure to comply with TR/19 can negatively impact residents’ health and can constitute a breach of a duty of care.
Lack of TR/19 compliance in a kitchen extract system can have far more severe consequences. The airborne grease particles which arise from cooking create deposits which accumulate on the inner surfaces of kitchen extract ductwork. In order to be compliant, this grease layer must be controlled within an average thickness of 200 microns, about half the thickness of an average business card. Allowing the grease layer to accumulate above this will represent an ever increasing and potentially serious fire risk.
Consequently, if your system is non-compliant with TR/19, your buildings insurance may be compromised. Insurance providers may refuse to pay out in the event of a fire if the cause is a non-compliant extract system, because this can fuel a fire and spread it further.
The person responsible for the non-compliant extract system can also face prosecution for negligence, especially if there has been severe damage, injury, or loss of life as a result of a kitchen extract system fire. If found guilty, the responsible person could potentially be given a custodial sentence.
We can solve most of these problems simply by designing ventilation systems in accordance with TR/19 from the outset, ensuring that access points are accessible safely without obstruction and making TR/19 cleaning a priority for the building manager. It makes sound commercial sense, as well as sheer common sense to do this, especially when good health and people’s lives are at stake.
Did you know it’s a legal requirement to provide clean fresh air and water to your residents? Gary Nicholls, MD of Swiftclean Building Services, and co-author of TR/19, the widely recognised industry guide to ventilation hygiene, outlines what you need to do to comply.
When running a care home, you have several legal responsibilities that may not be immediately obvious. Several of these are concerned with your air and water supplies.
Legionnaire’s disease is a ‘flu-like illness, caused by water-borne legionella bacteria, and to which the elderly, frail or infirm are particularly vulnerable. Some people will recover from it, but it can be lethal. In order to ensure a safe, clean water supply you must comply with the requirements of L8, Approved Code of Practice and guidance for the control of legionella, issued by the HSE.
You also have a legal duty under Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 to provide a safe environment for employees as well as residents and visitors. Care homes which have served other purposes in the past are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of legionella, often because the plumbing system has been changed and adapted over the years to accommodate the new purpose. You must be sure that there are no ‘dead’ areas in the system where water does not circulate freely. You must, by law, have an up to date risk assessment for legionella, and it is wise to review this regularly.
Any pipework, taps or showerheads that have not been used for more than a week, perhaps while a room is unoccupied, must be flushed through before use again, without causing undue spray to occur. Water tanks must also be kept clean and adequately screened from the effects of solar gain. Tepid water provides an ideal breeding ground for legionella. Tanks should be cleaned regularly and any rust, debris, birds or rodents removed. If necessary the tank should be disinfected, refurbished or replaced to ensure a clean water supply. Water from your system in some cases should be tested regularly to detect the presence of legionella.
All work must be carried out in accordance with Legionella Control Association (LCA) code of conduct. The penalties for negligence in legionella control are severe; limitless fines for the organisation and, if neglect is proven, a possible custodial sentence for the responsible person.
Another essential area for compliance is the annual testing of fire dampers. These are sets of steel louvres which are installed within ventilation ductwork at the point where the ductwork passes through a fire resistant rated internal wall. The opening in the wall creates a potential opening through which fire can travel, using the ductwork as a channel. The louvres should shut automatically to close off this route, delaying or halting the fire, so there is time to evacuate residents and staff to safety. Because they are a potential life saver, you must have fire dampers tested annually, in accordance with BS:9999.
Your kitchen extract ductwork is also a potentially serious fire hazard. As food is cooked for your residents, airborne fat, oil and grease travels through the extract ductwork. As it cools, it leaves grease deposits on the insides of the ductwork. A surprisingly thin layer of this grease can represent a fire hazard. The grease itself can fuel a fire, while the ductwork provides a chimney through which it can spread to other parts of the building. The grease layer must be controlled within an average of 200 microns across the surface of the ductwork; this is about half the thickness of an average business card. Even an otherwise spotless kitchen can harbour grease deposits within the ductwork, so it must be removed regularly, in accordance with TR/19, the leading guidance document for ventilation hygiene, which is issued by the Building & Engineering Services Association (BESA.)
TR/19 contains handy tables to tell you how frequently your ductwork should be cleaned, depending on the rate of grease build up or initially on how often and for how many hours the kitchen is used for cooking. In a care home, there will obviously be a fairly high demand for meals and consequently, quite heavy use of the kitchen. It is essential that the kitchen ductwork is also accessible for TR/19 compliance cleaning, so if there are insufficient access points, you may need to have additional access doors retrofitted.
Your laundry extract system may also pose a fire risk. During the drying process for bedding, clothes and other items, lint, fibres and dust collect in the ventilation ductwork for the driers. An accumulation of dust, lint and fibres is highly flammable and drier extract fires are all too frequent in the UK. These fibrous deposits must be removed on a regular basis, this time in compliance with Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, in order to minimise this fire risk.
If you have a mechanical ventilation system, that should also be cleaned regularly in accordance with TR/19, simply to ensure fresher air and a healthy indoor environment. This also requires you to classify your ventilation systems according to the function they serve as high, medium or low. If you have a clinically sterile area, this would probably need a high classification, while bedrooms and living areas would be medium. A boiler room might need a low classification.
To provide ventilation, kitchen extract or laundry ductwork cleaning you will need a specialist provider, especially if additional access doors are required to be retrofitted. As compliance in these areas is a legal responsibility, you must have your compliance clearly documented. You may need this evidence in your defence, should the worst ever happen. It is worth bearing in mind that if negligence if proved, your insurance company is unlikely to pay out, so it may be impossible to continue your business.
We provide robust documentation of all our services. This includes before and after photography so you can demonstrate that you have complied with your legal responsibilities. You may need this as a defence against prosecution. You should always choose a member of the LCA for legionella control services and for TR/19 compliance, a competent, expert member of BESA. Swiftclean is also recognised as an expert provider by AXA Insurance.
That way, you, your staff and your residents can all breathe easily.
Your school menu may be the healthiest in the education system, but preparing it will still give rise to airborne fat, oil and grease in the hot air stream produced by cooking. You must combat this grease as it represents a serious fire hazard, as Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean Building Services, explains.
As grease-laden hot air travels through your extract ductwork, it cools, leaving greasy deposits on the inside of the ductwork. This process also forms a serious fire hazard. Should a kitchen fire reach your extract system, it can use the ductwork to spread to other parts of the building, increasing the risk to staff, students and visitors.
Failure to remove these grease deposits can constitute negligence, with all its legal consequences, including prosecution and, potentially, even a custodial sentence. Accumulated grease deposits may also compromise your buildings insurance, so, if you haven’t complied with TR/19, your insurer may refuse to pay you compensation in the event of a fire.
The solution to kitchen extract fire safety is to appoint a specialist to clean your ductwork regularly in compliance with TR/19 the leading guidance document on ventilation hygiene. Once the grease is removed, the risk of fire is greatly reduced and your system is compliant. Swiftclean is one of the UK’s leading specialist Kitchen Extract Fire Safety Cleaning experts, providing full compliance with TR/19. To achieve compliance, you will need specialist expert cleaning of the entire extract system, including the canopy, removing all traces of grease. You will also need documentation of your compliance, in case you need to demonstrate that you have not been negligent. We provide full post-clean reports, including before and after pictures of every asset cleaned, because it is essential to document your compliance thoroughly.
There may be areas of your system that are inaccessible for cleaning, and these should be rectified wherever possible. We often install additional access points so that a system can be made compliant and kept compliant with TR/19 for the future. Other providers will also provide this service, but it is worth remembering that Swiftclean is recommended by AXA Insurance for Kitchen Extract Fire Safety Cleaning.
Within your ventilation system, you may also have fire dampers, sets of steel louvres which close automatically in a fire to compartmentalise your property and delay the spread of fire and smoke. Fire dampers must be tested regularly, in accordance with BS 9999:2017, using a method known as drop testing.
Providing clean air throughout an educational building is a legal requirement, as it promotes good health. In an education setting, clean air also helps with concentration and learning. Your mechanical ventilation system should, therefore, also be cleaned in accordance with TR/19, BS EN 15780 and the BSRIA BG49/2013 Air Commissioning Guide.
During academic breaks, your water system is often not used for weeks at a time. Tepid, static water provides the perfect breeding ground for legionella during shutdown periods. Holidays are therefore also the best time to carry out water tank cleaning and legionella control services. These must comply with L8, the Approved Code of Practice issued by the HSE.
Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems in science laboratories also need regular specialist cleaning, in compliance with COSHH regulations and HSE guidance (HSG 258) to protect students, teachers and technicians from airborne contaminants.
Compliance in these areas may not be an Ofsted requirement, but it should be a top priority for the health and safety of all school users. A standard cleaning company will not have the skills to provide all these services, so you should ensure that you appoint a competent specialist provider.
Enthusiastic staff from Swiftclean Building Services, based in Aviation Way, Southend on Sea, gave their lunch hour to clean up litter at a local beauty spot. Equipped with bags, gloves and grabbers, courtesy of Rochford District Council, they blitzed part of Cherry Orchard Country Park where it is particularly littered because it is used as a shortcut to and from fast food and retail outlets. Locals were delighted by the results, returning a corner of the park to its beautiful best.
The group of more than a dozen Swiftclean employees were led by Jackie Lansley who is an employee and used to live in the local area. She said, “Cherry Orchard Country Park is such a lovely place to walk so it seemed such a pity for it to be ruined by rubbish that had been carelessly dropped. I just thought something should be done about it and my colleagues agreed, so we put together a working party, asked the council for help and did something about it.”
The cleaning team set out during their lunch hour, in heat wave conditions, and set to work in the popular 200 acre park. Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean, said, “It’s our business to make workplaces safer and cleaner, so it’s a delight for us to do the same for the families and locals who use the park. We hope that the newly cleaned landscape will encourage people to collect their rubbish and take it home with them.”
Jackie commented, “It was also really good fun to do something together and we laughed such a lot. It was great to see it before and after and we hope everyone notices how clean it is and helps to keep it that way. Putting litter in the bin isn’t just a good idea from the perspective of hygiene, it also helps protect wonderful facilities like Cherry Orchard Country Park from the risks of fire during drought and protects the local wildlife.”
For a safe and healthy building, maintaining ongoing ductwork compliance with TR/19 is essential, and will be a legal requirement throughout a ventilation system’s lifetime, as Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean Building Services, and co-author of TR/19, explains.
In order to maintain a healthy indoor environment with good air quality, you need a well-designed, clean, TR/19 compliant ventilation system. The leading industry guidance document concerning ventilation hygiene is TR/19 (Second Edition) Internal Cleanliness of Ventilation Systems, which is issued by the Building & Engineering Services Association (BESA). Following this guidance also ensures that you stay compliant with British Standard and European Norm BSEN:15780 and BG49/2013, BSRIA’s guide on Commissioning Air Systems.
All ductwork needs to be cleaned, and the accumulated dirt in it completely removed, at regular intervals. The frequency of those cleaning intervals will vary, according to the purpose and usage of each of the ventilation systems. The system in each part of a property must be classified under TR/19 as high, medium or low. For example, in a hospital, operating theatres and laboratories which require a particularly clean environment will require a high classification and more frequent inspection and cleaning as necessary. Wards, offices and visitor areas will require a medium classification and slightly less frequent inspection and cleaning as necessary than the high classification areas. Less populated areas such as boiler rooms or workshops can be given a low classification and will need attention the least often.
Kitchen extract systems must also be TR/19 compliant. Cooking even the healthiest food causes airborne fat, oil and grease which, as the exhaust air stream cools, solidify, forming deposits on the inside of the kitchen extract ductwork. These pose a serious fire risk. The thickness of these deposits must be controlled to ensure that average thickness does not exceed 200 microns – approximately half the thickness of an average business card. To ensure this control, the grease must be completely removed on a regular basis.
TR/19 contains very helpful tables which indicate how frequently the system must be cleaned, depending initially on how often and for how many hours each kitchen is used and once historical grease accumulation rates are established frequencies should be adjusted to keep within TR/19 defined limits. In a stadium or shopping centre, there may be different catering concessions with widely varying patterns of usage. It is important, therefore, to have a management system in place to control grease levels adequately in each kitchen extract system.
A clean mechanical ventilation system is more efficient and therefore takes less energy to run, so TR/19 compliance can reduce your energy costs. Insurance companies expect that you will comply with industry best practice in managing your property, so it may compromise your buildings insurance if you don’t comply with TR/19 and provide robust evidence of your compliance.
You must have before and after photography to demonstrate that your system has been regularly, competently and effectively cleaned to make it TR/19 compliant. If the worst were to happen, a fire can spread through your kitchen extract system to other parts of the building. If negligence is proved in the event of a fire, and you haven’t maintained TR/19 compliance, the responsible person could face criminal charges and a potential custodial sentence; so evidence of your compliance will be vital.
In order to achieve TR/19 compliance, the system must be fully accessible. A new system must be tested and where necessary fully cleaned and commissioned before being handed over and put into use, but it does not currently have to include the full remit of access hatches or aids to access that TR/19 requires for ongoing compliance. In some instances, we find permanent features such as walls, ceilings and even staircases obstructing the ductwork, preventing access. Where we find inaccessible areas of a system, we can often retrofit additional access hatches to allow TR/19 cleaning to be carried out.
You will need expert help and guidance from a specialist provider to achieve and maintain TR/19 compliance.
Over a year after the British Standards Institution issued new advice on fire damper maintenance, this area of essential compliance is still not receiving the attention that it deserves – and indeed requires by law – warns Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean Building Services.
In carrying out fire damper maintenance we have discovered that a large number of building managers were unaware for some years that they actually had fire dampers installed in the properties for which they are responsible. Some inherited properties with lists of assets which neglected to include fire dampers entirely, others had lists which did include a number of fire dampers, but with no clue as to their type or location. Others have been handed incomplete lists which entirely underestimated the number of assets.
Fire damper maintenance advice under BS:9999 used to include recommendations for testing and maintenance based on the construction type of the fire damper itself; one type of fire damper required annual testing, while the other type could be tested less frequently, every two years. This could make devising a regular testing and maintenance programme more challenging, especially without the full details of the type and location of each fire damper. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that awareness of the issue as a whole has a lot of ground to make up, something that we, as a company, are trying hard to address.
Since the publication of BS:9999 2017, all fire dampers are required to be tested annually, using a method called drop testing, regardless of their type. Hopefully, this should make establishing a regular testing programme simpler and more manageable; however, more than a year on, many property managers are still playing catch up on this issue.
Fire dampers are a vital aspect of some buildings’ fire protection measures. In properties which have both internal fire resistance rated walls and mechanical ventilation systems, there are likely to be fire dampers. Wherever the ventilation ductwork runs through a fire-resistant wall, a potential weak point is created in the wall, leaving an opening through which fire can travel.
A fire damper is essentially a set of steel louvres which remain open for most of the time to allow air to circulate freely through the ventilation system, but which close automatically in the event of fire to create a barrier, delaying or even preventing the spread of fire. The drop testing method is designed to ensure that should a fire occur, the louvres will drop into the closed position, sealing the compartment formed by the fire-resistant wall. Typically, these are found where rooms lead off corridors with a fire-resistant wall, so are prevalent in buildings such as hotels, hospitals, offices, schools and halls of residence.
Our first visit to a new customer often reveals a history without regular testing. In some cases fire dampers have been installed in the wrong place, or not fixed securely, or occasionally, even upside down. These fire dampers will either not close in the even of a fire, or will not achieve compartmentalisation. Before being put into use, a ventilation system is usually tested to ensure that it has adequate air flow. In the past, engineers have clearly propped the fire damper’s louvres open for testing, then forgotten to remove the makeshift props. In the past we have found beer bottles, soft drinks cans, lumps of wood or pieces of string, forgotten after testing but preventing the fire damper from closing. Regular testing would have detected these hazards, but in many cases an accumulation of years of dust suggests that testing has never been carried out.
Fire prevention officers are now clamping down on fire damper testing, and this, while it means greater safety for buildings, also presents a new challenge. Fire damper testing is for many building managers, a new cost for which they must now budget. We are working with property owners and managers to provide phased testing as budget becomes available and to schedule testing for times when ventilation system cleaning is being carried out.
If your fire dampers are not yet being drop tested, cleaned and maintained annually, you need to establish a regular testing and maintenance schedule as soon as possible. This is a compliance necessity and should be a safety priority too. There are no two ways about it, fire damper testing cannot be put off indefinitely; both because it is a legal requirement and because, in the long run, lives may depend on it.
It really is high time to let fire dampers rise to the top of the to do list for every property manager.
Swiftclean Building Services, expert provider of fire damper testing and maintenance, and ventilation cleaning in compliance with BESA TB001 & TR/19, has called for greater concern for safety over aesthetics when it comes to ceiling design in commercial and public buildings and multiple residence properties. “We are well aware that access hatches are not the most attractive items,” says Swiftclean Managing Director Gary Nicholls. “However, they are absolutely vital for safety.”
The company, which has won multiple awards for its expert air and water hygiene services, says that its technicians frequently encounter situations in which cosmetic features such as plasterboard ceilings have been added to improve aesthetics, but which inevitably hinder essential ongoing cleaning and maintenance. Compliance with TR/19, the leading guidance document on ventilation hygiene, issued by BESA, ensures legal compliance requirements are met in schools, hospitals hotels and a wide range of public and domestic buildings across the UK. The annual drop testing and maintenance of fire dampers in accordance with BS:9999 is also a legal requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order for property owners and managers.
Despite this long term legal responsibility, in too many cases, says Swiftclean, additional bulkheads and false ceilings or other services are erected across installed ductwork, making it impossible for some buildings to comply with the law. There is already a potential tension between the ductwork construction standard, DW144 and the ventilation cleanliness guidelines TR/19 in that, in practice, ongoing compliance with TR/19 requires access at more frequent intervals than is stipulated in DW144. If some of the access hatches installed in compliance with DW144 are subsequently covered over or obstructed, this makes it even more difficult or, in some cases, impossible, to comply with TR/19, potentially throughout the lifecycle of the building.
If the ductwork itself is visible, exposed or accessible through false ceilings, it is possible to retrofit additional access doors in order to achieve compliance with TR/19 and BS:9999. However, if, once the ductwork has been installed, it has been hidden behind fixed ceilings and walls, compliance can be highly problematic or prohibitively costly.
In these cases, safety is definitely compromised, warns Swiftclean. “Not only does compliance become difficult, but buildings insurance policies may be compromised and the responsible person for the building may be liable to prosecution for non-compliance,” warns Nicholls. “In the event of a fatality, there may be criminal proceedings against the maintenance company and individuals could face a custodial sentence. It seems to us imperative that safety should take precedence over aesthetics in many more situations.”
Swiftclean has been campaigning for several years for greater awareness for the need to comply with safety guidelines on the cleanliness and safe functioning of mechanical extract and ventilation systems. Gary Nicholls is a member of the steering committee which advised on the drafting of the TR/19 guidelines, the leading industry document on ventilation hygiene, issued by BESA, the Building Engineering Services Association. From time to time he is called on to serve as an expert consultant and witness in legal cases where non-compliance has been identified.
For some facilities managers, the recent focus by fire safety and HSE officers on fire damper safety has represented a new challenge and an extra item on their legal ‘to do’ list, as Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean Building Services, explains.
Fire dampers consists of metal shutters, installed within ventilation ductwork, which stay open for most of the time to allow air to flow, but which close automatically in the event of a fire, to delay the spread of fire and smoke and allow more time for the safe evacuation of the building.
It is a legal requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order to test fire dampers at regular intervals in accordance with BS:9999 2008, using a method known as ‘drop testing’. Spring operated fire dampers must be drop tested, cleaned and maintained at intervals of no greater than 12 months; while all other models should be drop tested, cleaned and maintained at least every two years.
In accommodation applications, fire dampers must be drop tested annually regardless of type. Care settings must also conform with Health Technical Memorandum (HTM) 03-01: Specialised ventilation for healthcare premises Part B: Operational management and performance verification. In care applications a fire damper testing routine will normally be agreed with the local fire prevention officer.
Fire damper testing has been somewhat neglected in the past and, as a result, accurate records have not always been kept for buildings in which fire dampers are required. As a result, far too many facilities managers do not know how many fire dampers their properties have, what type they are, where they are located and more importantly whether they function.
Once you have identified the location and type of fire damper, you can work out a schedule for regular testing. Wherever the ductwork of a mechanical ventilation system intersects a fire-resistance rated wall, there should be a fire damper. If the building that you manage has corridors which are a means of escape with individual offices, bedrooms, classrooms or meeting rooms leading off, you will probably have at least one fire damper for each separate room. In halls of residence or hotels, for example, each bedroom will normally have a fire damper as the ductwork will intersect the fire-resistance rated walls of the corridor.
The second challenge may be accessing the fire damper for testing. In the past, some fire dampers were installed without a nearby access door for drop testing, cleaning and maintenance. In some cases, it may be necessary to retrofit access doors to allow future compliance with BS:9999. If beams, walls or false ceilings have been installed across or around ventilation ductwork, it may be impossible to retrofit an access door; so extensive remodelling may be required, or it may simply be impossible to comply with BS:9999.
In new properties, where FMs have the opportunity to influence construction, they should advocate adequate access doors for all ventilation systems, in order both to maintain fire dampers, and to clean the ductwork regularly, in order to comply with TR/19, the leading guidance document for ventilation ductwork hygiene, issued by the Building & Engineering Services Association (BESA.)
Once you have established a regular drop testing, cleaning and maintenance programme, it is essential to document your compliance. As the responsible person for the property, it is vital to be able to demonstrate that you have done everything required by law so that, in the event of a fire or a visit from a Fire Brigade fire safety compliance officer, you are protected from prosecution. Without this, you could be open to prosecution and in the very most serious of cases could risk a custodial sentence.
You will almost certainly need professional help from an expert in fire damper testing that can locate and identify fire dampers and provide testing, cleaning and full documentation. For many FMs, fire damper testing is a relatively new cost area to present to a client, so it is wise to enlist the help of an expert outsourced provider in devising a best value compliance schedule.
Your fire damper testing must be cost effective, legally compliant and effective. After all, if you get it right, it could save lives, as well as your reputation.
Fully functioning fire dampers are a vital safeguard for life and property, as Martin Hembling, Service Delivery Director for Swiftclean Building Services explains.
One of the routes through which a fire can spread is the communal ventilation system. While a single ductwork system to serve multiple dwellings makes good logistic sense, it does also introduce some potential weaknesses and hazards, so it is vital that it is designed well, installed correctly and incorporates correctly installed fire dampers which are properly and regularly maintained for the lifetime of the property.
In a multiple dwelling, it is vital to preserve the compartmentation of each individual dwelling to delay or prevent the spread of fire. Where ductwork crosses an internal fire-resistant rated wall, it creates an opening in that wall through which fire can spread. It is essential, therefore, that this compartmentation is restored by installing a fire damper – a set of louvres which remain open to allow the flow of air, but which will close automatically in the event of fire. By law, all fire dampers must be tested every 12 months in accordance with BS9999: 2017.
The method used is known as drop testing, because it ensures that the louvres of the fire damper will drop into the closed position to form a seal which restores the compartment formed by the fire wall. Unfortunately, this vital area of fire prevention has been overlooked and neglected for years but now, quite rightly, it is being scrutinised and enforced by fire safety offices and should be high on the agenda of Building Control professionals.
One of the major problems with fire dampers has been incorrect installation and lack of commissioning. We have found fire dampers in the wrong place – i.e. not in line with the fire wall – or even upside down, so the louvres would have to defy gravity to close. We have also seen them propped open by objects like cans, bottles, bricks, cable ties and pieces of string, no doubt so that an air flow test for the ventilation system could be completed, but then forgotten about. Clearly, these fire dampers were not working correctly when the building was handed over for use.
Correct installation and commissioning should be scrutinised and confirmed before the building is handed over; but we would also like to see each building have a plan in place for fire dampers to be tested on an annual basis. Without this, in the event of a fire, these louvres may not function correctly. If they don’t, they simply will not prevent the spread of fire.
Air quality within social housing is an increasingly important issue; fire safety even more so. Adequately cleaning and maintaining the ventilation system in multiple occupancy buildings is essential for legal compliance, and for ensuring the health and safety of the property, as Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean Building Services, explains.
Multiple occupancy poses a potential for fire to spread from home to home, yet although multiple occupancy housing has been with us for well over a century, it is only for just over a decade that we have had fire legislation for this type of housing, thanks to the passing of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which came into force in October 2006.
Within multiple occupancy buildings, much care has been given to ensuring that each dwelling is effectively a separate compartment, so that the risk of fire spreading from one to another is greatly reduced. Sharing ventilation and extract ductwork for kitchens and bathrooms, however, means that a potential route for fire is re-introduced, leading from one apartment to another, or from the apartment to the building’s communal areas. Communal ductwork represents a potential weakness in terms of the spread of fire and also a possible cause of widespread poor air quality.
In order to restore some of this compartmentation when needed, fire dampers can be installed in the ductwork at the point where ductwork passes through a fire resistance-rated wall. These are essentially a set of steel louvres which remain open to allow free air flow under normal conditions, but which are triggered by sensors to close automatically in the event of fire. The closed louvres form a barrier to the spread of flames and hot gases, this barrier helps to delay the spread of fire from its point of origin to other parts of the property.
Where fire dampers are fitted, they must be tested and cleaned on an annual basis in accordance with British Standard BS:9999 2017, using a method called drop testing, which confirms that the louvres close effectively. It used to be the case that the frequency of testing depended on the construction of the fire damper, but the 2017 revision to BS:9999 made it mandatory for annual drop testing, cleaning and any necessary repairs for every type of fire damper.
Kitchen extract fire safety cleaning should also be a priority. It is an inevitable result of everyday cooking, that deposits of fat, oil and grease build up as a thin film of grease throughout the kitchen extract ductwork. These deposits represent a very real fire risk and must be removed on a regular basis. The frequency of cleaning is laid out in tables within TR/19, which is the leading guidance document for ventilation ductwork cleaning, issued by BESA (Building & Engineering Services Association.) This also requires ductwork to be classified as high, medium or low. Multiple occupancy shared kitchen extracts will carry a high classification, requiring regular thorough cleaning in accordance with TR/19.
In some multiple occupancy buildings, the ground floor is given to retail units; often fast food outlets. In these units, kitchen extract fire safety cleaning must be completed regularly in compliance with TR/19, in order to reduce the risk of the spread of fire to the floors above.
In refurbishments, especially kitchen and bathroom replacement programmes, consideration should be given to updating the ventilation systems as well as the units and sanitary ware. It should be remembered that a clogged or greasy extract fan will also consume more electricity to run than a clean one, so this should be included in energy saving plans. Where a common warm air system serves the entire building, it should be replaced, where possible, by individual self-contained heating systems, so that common areas and dwellings do not share the same system. Alternatively we can replace the original grills with fire rated valves which help to contain the spread of fire.
Bathroom ventilation systems often draw in dust, fibres and dirt particles which begin to clog the system. This can make it less effective, allowing less air to circulate and causing unpleasant odours to circulate. Regular cleaning to TR/19 guidance is important to ensure a good indoor air quality.
Planned preventative maintenance is vital in multiple occupancy buildings. Gaining access to dwellings in order to carry out this cleaning may be difficult, but should be a priority; it will be essential to communicate the importance of this regular maintenance to occupants so that access for cleaning is granted. In every communal ventilation system regular cleaning, regular testing and cleaning is not only a legal requirement, but also a vital safeguard for residents and visitors.