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Flooring project considerations

05 October 2020

David Priest offers some key hygienic flooring considerations for food processing environments. 

As the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions begin to ease, business recovery is paramount. ‘Path to recovery’ proposals have recently been published which – endorsed by over 30 UK food and drink organisations – outlines steps Government and industry can take to help futureproof the sector. 

For those manufacturing environments that slowed, or ceased production, as well as those that continued, re-entry is bringing with it a new set of challenges in terms of assessing business operations and ensuring processes are as safe and hygienic as possible. 

Here are my top six flooring project considerations:

Eliminate risks to hygienic integrity: Safeguarding the hygienic integrity of food and beverage facilities – whatever their size - has become an ever more complex task. The risk of infection,  whether it is unwanted bacteria, mould, fungi, dust, grime or coronavirus, can have a huge impact on the operation, profitability and reputation of a food processing company. And it is particularly problematic where there are incorrect flooring connections, damaged skirting boards and cracks and floor defects. 

To minimise these threats, it is essential that the floor is seamless and impervious, otherwise the germs will build up in any hard-to-clean gaps or cracks in the floor’s surface. Once this has started to happen, harmful microbes can spread to other parts of the facility, infiltrating the equipment, spoiling produce, and potentially becoming the start of a foodborne illness.

It is recommended that stainless steel kerbs are installed at the weakest point – where the flooring meets the wall – as this provides impact resistance, as well as a seamless transition. Without it, substances can get trapped in the space between the two surfaces, where it can become a contamination threat over time. 

Pre-fabricated kerb systems made by mixing polyester resins and quartz granules with the surface and finishing with a bacteriostatic ad shock resistant polyester gel coat surface are also effective – Cleanrock by Polysto is a good example. These EHDEG and HACCP approved systems can improve hygienic properties still further due to the enhanced sealing mastic used to install them. 

Think about drainage from the outset: Excess water poses another problem for food processing plants as, if it starts to pool and stagnate, it can quickly become the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. It is recommend that floors are pitched to falls and that high-quality stainless-steel drainage systems are included within the design so that liquids can easily flow out. In these challenging times we are also installing more drainage systems with ‘rounded corners’ from EDHEG-approved suppliers, such as Wiedemann and Blucher, which provide further enhanced cleanability. 

Buy cheap, buy twice. Or more: Hygienic flooring systems must adhere to the very highest standards and the most rigorous demands. Failure to take these factors into consideration can be costly in many ways. Kemtile, for example, has worked on a number of projects to replace flooring systems that have been poorly designed and installed by other companies. 

Kemtile is one of the few companies that is able to install both polyurethane and ceramic tiles, which means customers get the right solution for their process and budget. This often sees us combining Stonhard resin and Kagetec ceramic systems – using 18mm fully vitrified mvtec Argelith tiles, which are both very popular choices in the food processing sector.

Balance the benefits of cleanability with slip-resistance: While it is essential that the floor is easy-to-clean, it must also be slip-resistant. Food processing plants are often wet, so an anti-slip finish is vital to keep staff and visitors safe. However, coarse surface textures can slow down the cleaning regime. We always advise on the best compromise for each customer so that the flooring system meets all of their needs.

We are also seeing an increase in demand for Stonhard’s Stonkleen range of chemically-engineered cleaning products as these are the best cleaning products for use on our flooring and drainage systems. It is safe, easy to use and sustainable and meet general, as well as any exclusive, facility needs.

Consider anti-microbial additives: Incorporating antibacterial additives into the floor is a good way to further minimise the risk from contaminants.  

As a division of Stonhard, we are seeing an increased interest in anti-microbial flooring and wall systems. This is certainly as a result of recent times, but it is important to note that while anti-microbial additives help to protect against the growth of microbes, they do not kill bacteria on contact. If considering using an anti-microbial additive, make sure you properly investigate the claims and the ingredients.

Stonhard’s Stonplus PROTECT is an EPA-registered and proven effective anti-microbial ingredient which can be incorporated into most of our flooring products to provide additional protection.

We have also experienced a real increase in demand for cleaning products as well as advice on how to use them to keep hygienic flooring systems as clean, and safe, as possible.

Follow FSA guidance: The Food Standards Agency has published guidance on the hygiene processes and requirements that processors must follow to continue to safely operate. Along with advice from the Government and other bodies, it provides a practical framework to identify what you need to do to continue, adapt or restart operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Food manufacturers are also required to implement and maintain hygiene procedures based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles. You may need to review your procedures to account for any changes you have implemented as a result of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and consider where additional thorough cleaning is needed.

David Priest is sales manager at Kemtile UK.

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