One of the most important pieces of equipment in a commercial kitchen is the exhaust hood system and its related automatic fire extinguishing system. Kitchen fires are a primary loss concern for cooking operations, especially when they include frying or other cooking methods that produce large amounts of grease-laden vapor. A properly designed and maintained exhaust hood allows the system to filter and trap these vapors to a controlled area for removal. This minimizes their travel and collection in unwanted areas where they can be fuel for a fire or increase the risk of a slip and fall injury.
A key part of proper exhaust hood maintenance is the routine removal and cleaning of the filters or traps based on the frequency of use. Because of their function, these components can be slick, and because of their location above cooking equipment they can be difficult and hazardous to reach and awkward to handle. Avoiding this task can compromise their effectiveness and increase the risk of a fire, while a poorly executed removal and replacement can lead to a serious injury. No need to feel trapped or baffled (bad puns intended), consider these basic safety precautions to help minimize the risk of injury.
- Perform removal and cleaning when the exhaust hood and nearby cooking equipment is not in use, such as part of the closing or opening processes.
- Allow all cooking surfaces and cooking media, such as oil, to cool to a safe temperature, as well as any grease in the filters/baffles and traps.
- Cover fry vats or similar liquid systems to avoid contamination and to prevent splash or accidental contact.
- Provide and require use of proper personal protective equipment to minimize contact with grease, contaminants in eyes or cuts from sharp edges.
- Turn off the hood exhaust system before removing filters to avoid pulling contaminants into the ductwork.
- Use a filter lifting tool to remove the filters from the hood. These devices minimize contact with the filter, reduce the need for awkward work postures, and allow the employee to stay at ground level instead of using a ladder, chair, crate, or climbing on the equipment to reach the filter.
- Work from the center filter outward as edge filters may require additional clearance for removal.
- Clean the filters with a degreasing agent per the manufacturer’s instructions and allow to dry.
- Remove and clean any drain pans or grease channels as part of the cleaning process.
- Use the filter lifting tool to replace the filter, noting any directional arrows to ensure proper placement, fit and drainage.
With the proper scheduling, tools, work practices and PPE, the task of cleaning and inspecting grease filters can be done safely and comfortably from the floor. This will help ensure that the exhaust hood system functions while keep employees safe. For more information on kitchen safety and kitchen fire prevention, visit the restaurants industry section on our MyLossControlservices.com website.