A View from the AHJ
The Need for Documentation
It is one thing for a “Standard” to be adopted and enforced. It is a totally different idea to document its compliance. It would be an ideal world to believe that a particular requirement has been satisfied merely because the AHJ requires it.
Unfortunately, we live in a competitive world where greater market share can be experienced by lower prices and lower prices can be achieved with less overhead. The proper cleaning of the exhaust hood, plenum and ducts in a timely manner is one of these overhead expenses. The conscientious operator recognizes the importance of this service and treats it as a necessary expenditure. In contrast, the less conscientious operator may increase the interval between cleanings in order to reduce overhead. Even worse, he may choose a less qualified vendor who will charge less but who may also render substandard service.
This is where the AHJ should play a role in “code compliance.” Unfortunately, the AHJ is also faced with being more productive these days. That is, more duties are being placed on the AHJ without any increase in resources. So what is the answer?
Well, it would seem that an efficient means of confirming that adequate service is being rendered is to require documentation of the service. By so doing, the AHJ can place a level of confidence in the reputable vendors and also confirm that at least a minimum frequency is being adhered to. Of course, the minimum frequency is a judgment call by the AHJ and should take into account the amount of cooking taking place, the amount of grease being produced and the rate and efficiency of the filtering and ventilation systems.
However, too often there is no documentation that the cleaning service is being conducted, sometimes there is no documentation as to who is conducting the service, and even sometimes the date of the service is not indicated. These are the items that make’s the AHJ’s job easier. What also makes the AHJ’s job easier is being able to find the documentation. It is very frustrating to have the operator claim that the equipment is being cleaned yet not able to quickly access a means of proving that the service was rendered.
Although other information can be provided, the document should at least include the name of the servicing contractor and the date of the last cleaning. Additionally, it would be nice that the proof of the cleaning be placed on the side of the hood. Some operators claim that such a requirement may interfere with the aesthetics. That’s a valid claim. As such, the requirement should at least be that the documentation be located where it can be readily viewed by the AHJ.
About the Author: R.T. Leicht is the President of the Fire Marshals Association of Delaware Valley, a chartered chapter of the Fire Marshals Association of North America. He also serves as Deputy Fire Marshal in Springfield, PA and is involved with the NFPA on many levels including a principal on numerous Technical Committees.
This article appeared in the Autumn 1997 edition of “The Scratch Pad”