Any commercial kitchen operator is familiar with the NFPA-96 Standard. Why? It is because they will not be able to operate if they are incompliant with this standard. This law is the governing standard by which all kitchen exhaust systems will operate. It provides the minimum fire safety standards related to the design, installation, operation, inspection, and maintenance of all public and private cooking operations.

This standard has changed drastically throughout the years from the first time it was published in 1961 to today. When this fire code was first written by the National Fire Protection Association in 1961, it was just a simple requirement on how one should go about cleaning a kitchen exhaust system. In our present time, it also outlined the specific guidelines on the design, installation, operation, inspection, and maintenance of the full spectrum of cooking equipment, kitchen hoods, grease removal devices, exhaust duct systems, fans, fire suppression systems and clearance to combustibles.

Important guidelines of the standard

  1. Frequency of cleaning

NFPA-96 Standard section 11.4 states, “The entire exhaust system shall be inspected for grease build up by a properly trained, qualified and certified person(s) acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction and in accordance with Table 11.4”

  • Monthly- These are for systems serving solid fuel cooking operations
  • Quarterly- These are for systems serving high-volume operations, such as 24-hour cooking, charbroiling, wok cooking, etc.
  • Semi-annually- These are for systems serving moderate-volume cooking operations
  • Annually- These are for systems serving low-volume cooking operations, such as churches, day camps, seasonal business or senior centers.
  1. Definition of clean

The industry standard is to clean to “bare metal.” According to NFPA-96 Standard section 11.6.2, “Hoods, grease removal devices, fans, ducts, and other appurtenances shall be cleaned to remove combustible contaminants prior to surfaces becoming heavily contaminated with grease or oily sludge.” The best way to determine if a surface is clean is to inspect it. If it looks like there is an accumulation of grease on a surface, then it probably needs cleaning. You can ask your kitchen hood cleaning contractor for the procedures they can perform to have your whole kitchen exhaust systems cleaned to bare metal.

  1. Reporting of cleaning

NFPA-96 Standard 11.4.13 states, “After cleaning is completed, the vent cleaning contractor shall place or display within the kitchen area a label indicating the date cleaned and the name of the servicing company, as well as areas not cleaned.”

  1. Importance of access doors

NFPA-96 sections 7.4.1 and 7.4.2 recommend the installation of openings large enough to permit thorough cleaning at a minimum of every 12 feet of horizontal ductworks and on every floor of vertical ductwork. It is also necessary to have access doors at every change of direction.

  1. The responsibility of the owner

In accordance to NFPA-96 Standard section 4.1.5, “the responsibility for inspection, testing, maintenance and cleanliness of the ventilation control and fire protection of the commercial cooking operations shall ultimately be that of the owner of the system, provided that this responsibility has not been transferred in written form to the management company or another party.”