Details make the difference

November 1, 2010
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In the case of a turkey-processing facility, walls, floors and doors are more than just the physical structure of a building. They are a critical component in protecting food safety and ensuring safe working conditions — solid fixtures that are resistant to cracks will create a barrier against bacteria, and floors with grip will help prevent employees from slipping on the production floor. To ensure you are selecting materials that will help preserve both food and worker safety, meticulous research and thought is needed.

Implications for food safety, worker safety

Walls, floors and doors can directly impact food safety. To this end, it is extremely important that they are made of durable material. They must not crack easily or have any nicks or crannies, as this could harbor bacteria. For floors, proper installation is as critical as the floor material itself. If the floor is not correctly attached to the subfloor, it can create niches for bacteria to grow. The application of the floor has to be done properly by a licensed installer.

Additionally, floors in particular have a big impact on worker safety. There are many different types of floors available, and it is essential to choose floors with non-slip characteristics.

This is important for several reasons. First, floors in processing facilities are constantly being washed down and frequently have fat on them from protein. Additionally, all floors are pitched to floor drains, so they are not flat. It is key that employees are able to work without fear of falling, so a floor that provides some grip should be installed.

Selecting materials

In addition to food safety and worker safety, there are other factors to weigh when selecting materials for floors, walls and doors.

There are many different kinds of floor materials, ranging from concrete to epoxy. When selecting materials for floors, there are several things that must be taken into consideration. The floors must be very durable and not subject to cracking, as they will be strenuously used and sanitized frequently.

During the sanitation process, floor temperatures can change from 34 degrees to 140 degrees almost instantly. For this reason, it is important that the floor toppings that cover the concrete have the same coefficient of expansion as that of the concrete floor. The floor must also be chosen from materials that are impervious to chemicals, as they will regularly be subjected to heavy caustics, acids and different types of greases that are inherent in a protein-manufacturing plant.

As previously mentioned, cracks and crevices can harbor bacteria, and the chance for bacteria to grow should be minimized to keep food safe. It is essential that floors are impervious for food safety.

Again, it is important that worker safety is taken into consideration. There are different floor types that are appropriate for different situations, so you must choose the right substrate for the right application. Epoxy floor works great for cafeterias or locker rooms, but it is not appropriate for the production floor. On the other hand, urethane is harder to work with and not as pretty, but its coefficient is almost identical to concrete, so it works really well on the production floor.

For walls, cleanability and durability are of the most importance. Like floors, walls are subject to constant sanitation which utilizes harsh materials such as acids, and the walls must be able to stand up to that without cracking. The material must repel and not absorb water.

Additionally, as discussed earlier, proper insulation of a close-cell type and R-values are key. The walls will frequently be adjacent to areas of different temperatures, and those temperatures must remain separated. You definitely want a close-cell type of insulation and a good R-value. Additionally, the materials chosen must be flame-retardant. Durability is also important as it relates to sanitation.

A good solid break is key for both walls and doors, as workers might be sanitizing one area while still processing product in an adjacent area. In this situation, it would be very important for food safety that there is no temperature or air transfer between the two areas. Both walls and doors serve as thermal barriers. One room might be an ambient temperature, and another might be warmer. Good walls and insulated doors are essential to keeping the atmospheric conditions separate.

There are requirements by insurance companies that doors, floors and walls must meet, particularly for fire-prevention purposes, so it is a good idea to consult with your insurance company when making these material decisions.

Regular inspection is crucial

Finally, it is important to realize the role that proper, regular inspections play in maintaining floors, walls and doors. If there is a crack, or the materials are difficult to clean, how can you guarantee no bacteria are present in the plant? It is simply unacceptable for a turkey-processing facility to run the risk of bacteria due to damaged floors, walls or doors. These materials should be inspected daily to be sure they are in good sanitary and physical shape. While we have a QA group that is specifically devoted to this task, performing regular inspections and ultimately maintaining food safety is everyone’s job.

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