NFPA 96 is the code that outlines safety standards for restaurants. It was compiled by many experts in the fire prevention and restaurant safety field and is considered to be the authority on the subject. Chapter 188.8.131.52 of the NFPA 96 standard reads: “Approved upblast fans with motors surrounded by the air stream shall be hinged, supplied with flexible, weatherproof electrical cable and service hold-open retainers, and listed for this use.” A restaurant owner might reply “OK, that’s what the code says. But why? Why are hinges necessary?”
First and foremost, hinges are necessary for the safety of service personnel involved with cleaning the exhaust system, the fan, and the rooftop. Those exhaust fans can weigh anywhere from 50 lbs. to a few hundred lbs. If there is no hinge kit, the fan must be lifted off the curb. Imagine two people lifting a large, heavy, unwieldy object like that fan under normal conditions. Now add in the fact that the fan is likely coated with grease. Many hood cleanings are done in the early morning hours, so it is dark. Maybe it’s not a flat roof, but pitched. There could be poor weather conditions. There is a real possibility of losing control of the fan and having it smash down on fingers, feet, or anywhere. Besides the injury the servicer endures, there is insurance liability to consider. Eliminating that possibility is reason enough to get a high-quality hinge installed.
There are other reasons, though. Instead of falling on a person, the fan may land on the roof instead. Fans have sharp corners and other protruding parts that could gouge the roof, maybe badly enough to require expensive repairs. The fan itself could suffer major damage. If any of the above scenarios were to occur, the expense would likely be many times that of purchasing a hinge kit, which, by the way, is in almost all cases a one-time expense because good hinge kits almost never require maintenance.
Another point is that a hinge kit, besides keeping service providers safe, also makes their job much easier to do and in significantly less time. This could lead to lower prices for the restaurant. Many hood cleaning companies have, in fact, adopted a policy that they won’t clean the exhaust system unless a strong, reliable hinge kit is in place. And Fire Marshals and other authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ’s) are more and more insistent that NFPA 96 code is adhered to. It’s that important.