Food and workplace safety in cold facilities
Floors and walkways are part of the problem of workplace injuries that cause employees to lose time from work at cold food processing and storage facilities. For refrigerated and frozen food companies, slips, trips and falls were more prevalent than injuries caused by overexertion, repetitive motion, or equipment. (According to the most current data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Painters USA VP Paul Cook offers advice for facility managers of cold food processing and storage facilities in his article written for Refrigerated & Frozen Foods, the publication dedicated to the chilled and frozen foods channel. Painters USA has been coating, repairing, and installing commercial and industrial flooring systems for a wide range of industries and clients since 1982.
Following is a summary of Paul’s key points in his article, Flooring is Foundational for Cold Chain Profits — Step-by-step strategies to maximize your investment in a new cold facility floor.
Unique flooring conditions of cold facilities
All commercial and industrial floors are subject to the regular wear and tear of equipment, foot traffic, production schedules, and other factors. When you add extreme operating temperatures and temperature swings, whether cold or hot, you add one more destructive force that weakens and wears them out.
Fight these destructive forces with the right mix of flooring specifications, products, timing and temperature. According to Paul,
With the right preparation and installation, flooring surfaces like cementitious urethane can withstand temperature swings from -330 F to 240 F.
Experienced industrial flooring providers have the knowledge and capabilities to select the right coatings and apply them properly for temperature conditions and project timelines.
Worker safety plus food safety
Costs related to flooring stretch beyond worker health. If a floor isn’t maintained safely, it could affect a Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification or even lead to a product recall. Think how cracks and voids in a floor can harbor bacteria that equipment and workers can inadvertently spread throughout a facility. Painters USA has certified coating credentials from NACE to identify and apply coatings specialized for slip resistance for workplace safety, sanitation issues like mold and bacteria for food safety, and epoxy cove bases for easier cleaning and maintenance.
Patching and repairing vs. resurfacing
A total resurfacing or replacement of commercial / industrial floors is costly and time-consuming. Yet Paul stresses the importance of facility managers and flooring contractors working together to plan out any repairing or patching project. He advises facility managers to look for flooring contractors that:
- Place a premium on cleanliness by following the Safe Quality Food (SQF) Program.
- Have familiarity with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and how flooring relates to food process and sanitation controls.
- Explain how they will repair cracks, divots, or expansion joints.
- Use quality ventilation equipment with double HEPA filters for containing dust.
Repair quality is quite important, as stopgap measures can lead to a cycle of cracking and other failures that lead to more repairs.
Develop expert flooring specifications
According to Paul, facility managers often leave the specifications to the commercial flooring contractor. He advises that they go to an unbiased expert instead:
The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), for example, recommends that cold foods manufacturers have floors tested regularly by a walkway auditor, preferably a NFSI WACH graduate
Choosing the right flooring specification might cost more, but it could safely speed up the project and keep production lines running sooner, while enhancing endurance and extending performance.
Look for a cold facility track record
A flooring contractor’s past experience and client satisfaction are important indicators, especially for cold facilities. As Paul says,
If a vendor doesn’t have references in the cold foods industry, then all else, including the vendor’s quote, is merely hoping that their work from other industries translates to yours.
He encourages cold facility managers to ask any contender how many cold food projects they have accomplished and delivered on time.
Understand pricing variables
A number of factors contribute to the pricing of any flooring project. One way facility managers can reduce costs is through advanced planning and preparation. For example, labor costs can be trimmed if facility staff move equipment and products and clean floors, work that must be done no matter how the flooring work gets done.
Paul also recommends that procurement officers understand all the financial considerations, like the costs of lost downtime, falls and injuries due to poor slip resistance, shutdowns or violations if floors don’t pass inspections or audits.
Finally, Paul reminds cold food companies and other commercial / industrial clients that total cost of ownership applies to floorings:
Sometimes, it’s easier and worth the cost to put in a superior-quality floor that could last 10 years, instead of installing what seems to be a less expensive product.
The right answers and solutions require proper design and planning.
Learn more about Painters USA cold facility experience and capabilities or contact us to request an estimate for a current project.
About Refrigerated & Frozen Foods
Read Paul’s article in its entirety at Refrigerated & Frozen Foods.
For over 20 years, Refrigerated & Frozen Foods has been the only publication dedicated to the value-added convenience chilled and frozen foods channel. The e-magazine focuses on the business issues and challenges facing the temperature-controlled food channel, including energy management, packaging solutions, and food safety.