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Flooring problems ahead? Why not consult the experts?

Flooring Problems Ahead? Why Not Consult the Experts?

The editor has invited me to write about flooring problems which currently face the food manufacturing and processing industry, on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the journal. His timing is apt, for there can have been no period in the past sixty years when the food industry has had more reason to be concerned with the nature and performance of its floors.

The floor has always been the most important part of a food processing plant. You have to walk across it, truck on it, attach plant to it. Your ingredients are stored on it, dropped on it and washed from it. In fact, from the day it is laid, the floor is subjected to attack from abrasion, impact, chemicals, cleaners and forklift truck drivers. Yet too often it is only when it fails by cracking, breaking or leaking, and production threatened, that the importance of the floor is recognised by the factory managers.

However, concern within the industry has been growing in the face of the improved safety and hygiene standards necessary as a result of new technology, more demanding customers, instances of poisoning and infection and new, tougher legislation. Evidence of this concern is the three year project being undertaken by the Campden Food and Drink Research Association - The Renovation and Extension of Food Product Areas, which covers the production of guideline documents on the hygienic requirements for the renovation, extension and layout of food production areas, floors, walls, ceilings and services. To date, the results of this project include a 100+ page Floor Guideline document, exclusive to members until 1993 and a report on The Spread of Lysteria by Cleaning Systems Part 1, available from the same organisation at a cost of 20 [pounds].

The reasons for this concern for safer, more hygienic floors are various but include the growth of convenience, short life food products, more stringent enforcement of existing legislation, such as the Food Hygiene Regulations, by Environmental Health Officers and the onset of new legislation in the form of EC factory requirements. Additionally, there is the Food Safety Act 1990 and the demands of major retailers for ever better conditions under which their own-brand products are produced.

So whilst these current factory flooring problems are recognised by representatives of the major food manufacturers, who themselves are very knowledgeable on floor products and specifications, their ability to solve future problems and make their knowledge available to their lesser brethren may be restricted by a reluctance to use modern materials and share their experience.

This is instanced by the industry's strong belief in long established flooring products and understandable scepticism of more recently introduced flooring systems. Paviors and fully vitrified tiles are the most commonly used floor surfaces in production areas, yet the joints present an ongoing problem, since they cannot have the comprehensive chemical resistance of the tiles and any joint failure can result in the floor surface no longer being impervious, so it becomes a potential haven for bacteria. I found it interesting that a senior manager of engineering services in a plant where paviors are the preferred floor surface, told me that 'a floor is only as good as its joints!'

The alternative to the food industry's favourite is an epoxy or polyurethane resin screed floor which, whilst not having the traditional appearance, does have two important attributes: it is seamless and impermeable (MAFF and EHO's will increasingly encourage the use of seamless floor systems). Again, the industry's reluctance to specify resin floor surfaces more widely is understandable. In the past resin floor screeds were often oversold, wrongly specified and badly installed. Today, there are several major manufacturers of resin floor systems with reputable products and recognised contractors who have the ability to advise on the right floor for a particular process.

The food industry is the most secretive of all, apart from, possibly, defence, and this can result in the floor which is laid not meeting requirements. To ensure the floor is fit for the area, full details of the traffic, the ingredients, the process, cleaning chemicals and method must be given to the flooring materials supplier by food manufacturers.

It is our experience that too often a food manufacturer will only bring his flooring problem to us, when all else has failed. Yet, of all the possible participants in flooring a new food factory or refubishing an existing area, the two that have the most to lose if the floor fails are the food manufacturer and the flooring manufacturer. Uninterrupted production in safe hygienic surroundings is vital to you whilst reputable flooring companies depend on good installations, satisfied customers, repeat orders, recommendations and building a reputation for quality and value.

Consequently, it is a pity that, too often the floor fails because the architect put aesthetics before practicality or the main contractor puts speed before quality, or the Clerk of Works did not protect the flooring contractor or the floor from other trades, or the flooring contractor wins the job with an unrealistic price and, having done so, skimps on preparation and reduces the specification.

Faced with the need to renovate or extend a production or warehousing area, food manufacturers would be well advised to consult two or three of the major manufacturers of industrial flooring materials first, rather than a building contractor or the local flooring contractor. A major manufacturer has extensive experience of your industry, understands your specific needs, can provide a detailed specification, cost estimate and installation schedule, will give you product warranties, advise on recognised contractors and in the unlikely event of your not being completely satisfied at first, stand accountable to ensure you are subsequently. So called 'cowboy contractors' are often blamed - quite rightly - for industrial floors that fail. Avoid this possibility by allowing the flooring manufacturer to advise you on the right materials, to write the specification and advise on three recognised contractors to prepare competitive quotations.

After calling in a flooring manufacturer's technical consultant and showing him the area, whilst explaining the use/intended use, you should expect to be closely questioned on your exact requirements for the floor in order that it will meet your performance specification. For example the flooring supplier will need to know:

Durability/Expected Life - Volume and type of traffic (foot, pallet truck, forklift), Degree of abrasion and impact;

Appearance - Importance to customers and staff;

Hygiene and Safety - Dry or wet process, Level or ramped surface, Vegetable or meat production;

Chemical Resistance - To ingredients of process (often acid), To 'cocktail' of ingredients, To cleaning materials (usually alkaline);

Temperature Resistance - To production process conditions (ovens, freezers), To cleaning regime (hot water, steam);

Drainage - Floors laid to falls (1:100, 1:60), Coved to walls, Adequate drainage for rate of flow, Size and position, Installation detail, Cast iron or stainless steel;

Floor Joints - Plan to minimise dry joints and ensure expansion joints are away from critical areas;

Cleaning Procedure/Effect of Washing - Must withstand cleaning regime dictated by quality assurance and cleaning staff!

Noise Reduction - Resin screeds are better than tiles, Polyurethane is better than epoxy resin;

Floor Substrate - Must be sound, Ensure damp - proof membrane is installed, Measure compressive strenght;

Installation - Test flooring materials against possibility of tainting, Match times available for laying and duration with adequate number of floor laying teams, Installation by either manufacturer's own or recognised contractors to avoid split accountability.

Specification/Estimate/Budget - Provide detailed, written specification, detailed estimate within budget available.

If a floor fails, more often than not the customer blames the floor product. Whilst the flooring contractor, main contractor, architect, Clerk of Works et al may often either be nowhere to be found or deny all liability. Consequently, the flooring manufacturer is usually your best recourse, because, although he is seldom the culprit, the reputation of his product is at risk.

This being the case, please consult the manufacturer first, let him be responsible from the first for what you will in all probability hold hi accountable in the end.

The author, Richard Smith, is marketing manager of Altro Floors, Works Road, Letch worth, Hertfordshire, tel: 0462 480480.

PHOTO : Altro's slip resistant vinyl safety flooring with welded seams

PHOTO : Puma Screed Quartz durable seamless flooring
COPYRIGHT 1991 Food Trade Press Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:60 Years of Food Trade Review: 1931-1991
Author:Savage, Richard
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Previous Article:The life and times of Food Trade Review.
Next Article:CAP/IBAP administration - without tears!

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