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Floor safety: Due diligence needed

22 May 2017

Putting in place an effective Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety management plan has become a central priority for any facility involved in the production, processing or storage of food and beverage produce. Kevin Potter, Flowcrete UK’s managing director, explains what this means for floors

This preventive risk assessment system ensures that all food safety hazards are assessed and that appropriate controls are put in place to eliminate or reduce contamination. 

National and European food and beverage legislation stresses the importance of implementing due diligence procedures, many of which rely on HACCP’s advisory framework for facility design and construction. For example, the Food Safety & Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 reiterates Article 5 (1) of Regulation 852/2004 of the European Parliament, which states that: 'food business operators put in place, implement and maintain a permanent procedure or procedures based on the HACCP principles'. 

As a globally accepted benchmark of food safety, HACCP is also important for businesses eager to gain access to export markets. Proving that a business can meet the necessary level of due diligence is essential for clients abroad so they know that the food in question has been manufactured to a hygiene standard that they recognise. 

Getting the floor area right is a critical part of implementing a HACCP plan, as otherwise this part of the facility can present a variety of challenging health and safety concerns – especially for large-scale industrial facilities where slip risks, contamination threats and potentially dangerous working practices all need to be carefully accounted for. 

The floor is a particular concern because gravity will cause the majority of contaminants to end up there and unwanted substances can easily be walked in from elsewhere. Therefore, if the floor is difficult to clean and starts to harbour dangerous pathogens then the site could be putting its workers and clients at risk.

The HACCP International certification program highlights the importance of seamless and impervious flooring, as seams, joints, grout lines and gaps can become breeding sites for bacteria, fungi, mould and mildew. Making sure that the floor provides a seamless surface will help the cleaning regime quickly wash unwanted substances out of the area. 

It is important to ensure that the floor is able to maintain these properties for an extended period of time, as otherwise its seamlessness or imperviousness could be compromised and degraded by the site’s workload. 

Should an inadequate floor be installed and it becomes cracked and porous then it will become a prime environment for microbes, dust and mould to thrive – turning the finish into an unsightly, unsanitary and unsafe surface.

General conditions within the food and beverage industry can easily affect an insufficiently robust finish. The floor could be subjected to impact, thermal shock, point loading, heavy foot traffic and exposure to corrosive by-products such as fats, hot oils, blood, sugar solutions and natural food acids. Additionally, these substances can infiltrate the concrete material resulting in microbial growth and the spread of bacteria, which will in turn degrade not only the production environment but may contaminate the products themselves.

The international importance of HACCP is underlined by the number of producers in key markets around the world eager to create production facilities that meet this standard. For example, Chef’s Pantry in Braeside, Australia installed 1200m2 of the polyurethane system Flowfresh SR earlier this year in its vegetable processing facility thanks to the fact that it is HACCP International certified. 

This choice was made so that the fresh food distribution business could rest assured that the floor underfoot would maintain all the regulatory and hygiene properties necessary to safely produce over 90t of fresh products every week. 

Plant owners eager to comply with HACCP can take advantage of the HACCP International certification scheme, which confirms a product’s suitability for use within food processing, production and packaging facilities. Businesses can therefore specify building materials with this certification, safe in the knowledge that it will provide the properties and functionalities necessary for an effective HACCP plan.