The food processing industry, along with other industries such as medical and pharmaceuticals, has the necessity for clean rooms that can monitor particle count, type, and size, and therefore require dust controls systems to remove potentially dangerous particles from the air that can cause an explosion and are also necessary for the breathing safety of employees. In essence, dust control is essential for maintaining workplace safety.
So, how do dust control systems work?
Simply put they work by capturing particles and accumulating them in a collector until safely disposing of them, somewhat like a large and powerful vacuum cleaner.
Fans create a suction that draws the particles suspended in the air to the collector via ductwork. In the collector, the contaminated and clean airs are separated. For example, a system will push the contaminated air into the top of the collector and once inside will force it downward to the bottom. The contaminants hit the sides of the collector and then fall to the bottom while the clean air is pushed out and into another filtration system to collect the finest particles.
Why is dust control so important?
The twin threats in a food processing environment are deflagration (combustion that propagates through a gas) and disease. Both threats are caused by a fine powder of particulates that accumulate in the air within these facilities. The most efficient way to neutralize both risks is to remove these suspended particles from the atmosphere.
Deflagration is an explosion caused by the extremely rapid transfer of heat through the air and factories. Processing plants that allow suspension of particulates to propagate are setting up the environment for such an explosion. In fact, a secondary explosion usually follows, precipitated by the rapid rise in pressure caused by deflagration. As the explosion picks up fuel from the air and spreads, it can become even more destructive than the initial detonation. The entire facility can be levelled, resulting in massive loss of life and material. Dust control removes particles from surfaces and the surrounding atmosphere and significantly minimizes this danger.
In every heat explosion, there are three elements present, known as the “fire triangle”, these are oxygen, heat and fuel. When these elements are present, an explosion occurs. If suspended particulates accumulate in the air, their combined surface-area-to-volume ratio makes them highly combustible and even what may seem to be ordinary, everyday substances can become a risk.
Of course, removing heat sources is very costly and often difficult. The most effective way to minimize the risk of deflagration is to remove the elements of dispersion and fuel from the surrounding environment. This is most easily accomplished through dust control.
So, neglecting dust can have explosive consequences. Substances regularly used in industrial cooking and baking including flour, sugar and various powders, all have the potential to explode.
When substances are finely ground inside baking and cooking appliances they can create a dust cloud. This dust, when suspended and mixed with air, can cause large and even fatal explosions.
Bag tip units and bulk silo venting equipment is sometimes overlooked, but it is vital in the food manufacturing industry. These systems help reduce the amount of dust that is left over, dust that has the potential to cause explosions in the future.
Prevention is better than cure so actions such as: –
- Looking at where equipment is positioned and ensure there are no leakage points around handling systems that produce dust.
- Vacuum clean-up systems can also be used to ensure vessels and equipment are left scrupulously clean.
Let’s also take a look at the health risks for workers in a food processing plant. We know that suspended particles are readily inhaled and so removing powders from surfaces and air will minimize the health risks associated with working in these plants. Although the lungs can expel most powders to some extent, they cannot eliminate them entirely. Over time, these substances collect in the lungs and may result in irreversible health conditions. So once again, dust control is critical for safeguarding employee health.
There is something known as “Farmers lung” which can be caused from particles expelled by grains. Farmer’s lung can cause fibrosis, or scarring, of the lungs. This results in reduced breathing capacity and makes it more likely that cancer and other chronic diseases will develop. While removing a source of heat may help curtail deflagration to a point, it will not eliminate the health risks caused by suspended particles. Only dust control, performed through filters and vacuums, can accomplish this.
Prevention and Maintenance
It goes without saying that neglecting dust can have serious consequences and substances that are commonly found in the food processing industry such as flour, sugar and various powders, all have the potential to explode and so preventative maintenance is vitally important.
What sort of maintenance requirements are needed for dust control systems?
The following maintenance activities need to be carried out:
- The collector and filters must frequently be cleaned to enable the machine to run properly.
- The fan and electrical switches and boxes have to be frequently cleaned.
- The cooling vents of the machinery must be kept clean as well to prevent the machines from overheating.
- There should be an inspection for leaks in the vacuum hoses or ductwork after the cleaning. Leaks make the machine less efficient and can actually spread the contaminated particles rather than collect them.
Employee Health & Wellbeing
Employees are the most valuable asset to any business. As well as a moral obligation to protect a company’s workforce, there is also a legal obligation.
Dust that is produced as a result of food production, can also have serious effects on the health and wellbeing of employees. Exposure to dust can cause serious skin conditions and even occupational asthma, when flour dust is breathed in. In fact, respiratory conditions among bakers are now the highest of any occupation in the country.
The HSE sets a long-term Workplace Exposure Limit of 10 mg/m3 (averaged over 8 hours) and a short-term exposure limit of 30 mg/m3 (averaged over 15 minutes). Breaching of these standards can result in severe penalties, loss of productivity due to employee sickness and even legal action.
Last year, an employee from a baking company in Southampton was awarded a five-figure sum after developing occupational asthma due to over exposure to flour dust. For small or large food manufacturers, looking after employee health by reducing dust exposure is vitally important.
Also, in late 2016, a bakery company in Stevenage was fined over £36,000 for failing to comply with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) standards — a very real threat to smaller businesses.
The HSE is continuing its proactive assessment of food manufacturers for dust control and issuing penalties for the breaching of standards, but it is not just the threat of being penalised that means it is vital for the industry to take dust control more seriously. It should be about the what that companies go about their business. “This is the way we do things around here”.
A final word on the environment
Whilst most food products by their nature are not hazardous to the environment there is still a legal obligation to comply with emissions according to EPA.
For more information and advice on dust control, air filtration and ventilation contact us at HVDS on 01785 256976 or email@example.com.
There is no doubt that preventing cross-contamination in food processing plants is a formidable challenge. Food processors face an enemy they can’t see and one that can cause big problems to production and profitability. However, it is the responsibility of the plant manager to firstly ensure that all staff both understand and comply with the contamination policy of the organisation.
Here we take a look at five factors that are essential to consider when thinking about Cross-Contamination in the Food Industry:
It’s all about training, and elements of that training needs to include disease control, hygiene and ongoing process and regulatory training, but more importantly a culture of excellence and best practice needs to pervade through the whole organisation. We all know that one of the main means of cross-contamination is from the individual who handles the food. For instance, food can become contaminated if a worker who was dealing with raw chicken earlier didn’t wash their hands prior to handling ready-to-eat products or if they forgot to put gloves on.
Food Processing and Storage Operations
Looking beyond the people, all food processing and storage operations must be designed to facilitate maintenance and sanitation operations. For example, focus should be given to exterior grounds, facility construction and, particularly, floors and doorways.
Wet floors are most conducive to pathogen growth, but even dry floors can be a source of cross-contamination. Floors must not only be cleaned thoroughly and often; they also need to be maintained to avoid the formation of “niches,” such as cracks, where pathogens can hide from cleaners and multiply.
Doorways play a critical role in contamination control and where possible it’s good practice to form airlock entries into facilities, to prevent contaminants entering critical hygiene areas. In addition, you should make sure that doors are always kept closed to reduce the chance of cross contamination and to assist the cooling units in maintaining temperature. In addition, ensure that doors are properly maintained and that they fit properly.
Other Plant Maintenance
In terms of other plant maintenance, checking equipment regularly and cleaning properly are important, as are having smart sanitation procedures and controls. If this is done right establishing procedures and controls will increase efficiency, lower costs and, most importantly, protect consumers.
In fact, as the saying goes, “cleanliness is next to godliness”. E. coli and other harmful bacteria live in and on the human body, especially around the face and on hands and clothing. Raw materials, such as poultry, meat, milk and agricultural products that are handled by plant workers, often contain Campylobacter, Salmonella and other pathogens. This potent combination reinforces the vital role good personal hygiene plays in the production of safe food products. It is no surprise that sanitation experts continually voice the importance of good personal hygiene in the workplace, with proper hand washing and clean clothing seen as the key to this strategy.
Another key factor to consider of course is pest control. Pests like rodents, insects, birds and other types of animals must be prevented from entering any area of the food plant and so it is important to create an effective strategy to prevent problems arising from pests from developing. Prevention programs to prevent pest entry might include trapping, elimination of harbourage locations, using pesticides, and monitoring pest control devices.
Cross-Contamination Prevention Plan
It is also worth drawing up a cross-contamination prevention plan to consider how the process moves across the company. For example, from the receipt of the raw material, to the finished product, the process should be evaluated to understand how ingredients come into the facility and how they will be processed. This will help to determine the crossing of product and probable points of cross-contamination.
Finally, monitor everything. Monitoring a sanitation program helps food processors learn from past history and when adverse events, such as a damaged roof or a pathogen outbreak, occur, response will be faster and more effective.
For more information and advice on how HVDS can help you with your food factory hygiene contact us at 01785 256976 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whatever one’s views of Brexit and whether or not you were a “Remainer” or a “Leaver”, it is safe to say that most people – businesses and individuals – outside of the Westminster bubble just want to get on with our withdrawal from the EU. But what are the implications of Brexit on the food industry?
According to the Government, the processed food and drink sector is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK and contributes £28.8 billion to the economy. With other key statistics including:
- Exports were worth £22 billion in 2017 and they continue to grow.
- The sector directly employs 400,000 people throughout the country, a third of whom are EU nationals.
The sector is characterised by just-in-time delivery of products with short shelf lives and is heavily integrated with supply chains spread across the UK and the EU for sourcing raw materials, processing goods and selling them. Many manufacturers have factories in both the UK and the rest of the EU.
Clearly then it is crucial that the sector is able to remain competitive when we leave the European Union and remember, of course, that Brexit is not just a concern for UK food producers but also for any food manufacturer (EU and non-EU) serving the UK market.
Food is not like other sectors. With climate change and population growth threatening food security globally, keeping the UK’s farmers in business matters. Not just for economic reasons but also for more prosaic but equally important reasons like maintaining the landscapes. Therefore it can be argued that what is needed is an imaginative new system of subsidy that gives public money to farmers for public goods, or risk farmers leaving the land.
Let’s take a brief look at three key areas: Supply Chains, Legislation and Freedom of movement.
- The potential impact of a Brexit on supply chains
Supply chains could indeed be affected if tariffs are imposed between the UK and the other EU Member States. Currently, products move freely across the border between the UK and the other EU Member States and no tariffs apply. Following Brexit however, the food and drink sector could face significant EU tariffs and potential supply chain disruptions.
- What about EU food legislation?
Will the UK continue to apply EU food legislation, which has been adopted, harmonized and is directly applicable throughout the EU, or will it now start introducing its own or new rules?
There are something like 4,500 or so EU regulations covering food, farming and environmental standards that fall within the remit of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Whilst it’s true that Brexiters may hate the Brussels bureaucracy that dictates everything down to the size of olive oil cans, it must be recognised that many of these rules are necessary to protect from the sort of food safety scandals and frauds of the past. They are also what make trade deals and borders frictionless. Exports depend on this sort of harmonisation of rules.
- Freedom of Movement
Another critical factor, the ending freedom of movement, will almost certainly require the creation of a new layer of bureaucracy that can deal with the permits and visas for the estimated 500,000 foreign workers that farmers, food processors and food manufacturers say they must have to stay in business.
As the short review above shows this is a very complex, multi layered, multi-national problem and is likely to be so for years to come. However, business usually finds a way through what often look like intractable problems.
Audits are critically important to food companies and should be treated as such. They are the primary tool your customers use to determine if adequate food safety systems are in place at your facility. This article covers some of the strategies and tactics that should be considered to maximise your chances of a successful audit.
We will take a look at the mechanics of an audit – what’s it all about – as well as considering some common sense tips that will help facilitate a smooth audit visit.
In simple terms, an audit is an answer to a series of specific questions and how you meet them. The Plan, Do, Check Act (PDCA) model is an ideal way to begin to approach an audit.
Plan: What are the rules of the game?
Here we need to consider what are the objectives of the audit and what are the parameters. Know your standard inside and out. You need to know it better than the auditor so you can speak with authority when something comes up that you don’t agree with. You need to be an expert.
Do: What is your procedure?
This is the crux of the audit. The auditor has asked about a requirement under the standard, and now you need to show him (evidence) how you do it. This needs to be written down in a controlled policies and procedure document.
Your goal here is to lead the auditor down a straight and clear path. The auditor reviews the document for compliance to the standard and moves on to his next question.
So, the process needs to include:-
- A written document control procedure with clear responsibilities.
- A way that staff can access the documents.
- A listing (register) of all the documents in the system
- A document retention or storage system
Check: What proof do you have that it was done?
We are back to evidence again. For example, you go over a procedure with the auditor and then he will want proof that it was done according to that procedure. So what can you show the auditor to demonstrate that this is how you do things? Remember if a procedure isn’t documented, you have no proof that it was done.
You may at this point bring up other areas where you test your system as well such as internal audits, self assessment etc. Also consider that auditors will judge behaviours against the evidence they see, so “talking a good game” won’t necessarily cut it if your evidence logs are not consistent with what the auditors sees.
Act: What happens if it is not correct?
We all recognise – even auditors – that no system is perfect, and if it is the auditor will be suspicious. Auditors expect to see errors in your system; they expect to see that things didn’t go as planned. The key here is being able to demonstrate what you did about it. This is your corrective action procedure. Just like document control, it operates the same. So, just like document control, you need a procedure that addresses the requirements and proof that it is followed. Your errors are your proof.
Above all any auditor is looking for clarity and easy path to navigate their way through your processes. The PDCA model can help you to do that.
Now we take a look at some tips that can help you in preparing for and executing a successful audit.
As we have discussed earlier, audits are largely based on the ability to provide the auditor with evidence that operations are compliant with a certain standard. The types of thing that will alert the auditor or make him want to dig deeper include a lack of organisation, untrained staff, and misinterpretation of compliance criteria. So in order to minimise this, here are 5 points to consider:
1.Small things matter
Make sure that conditions throughout the plant are tidy and things are labelled and in their rightful place. There should be sufficient space between the wall and stored material for pest control and cleaning activities to take place. Also ideally your internal audit should be conducted at least two months prior.
2. Teamwork is vital to success
At least three weeks before the audit have a staff meeting to prepare. Employees should be familiar with their written job descriptions and the monitoring records they are responsible for. Also staff and management need to have an understanding of:
- The hazards related to the CCP identified in the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP, plan.
- Terms such as “corrective action,” and the difference between verification and validation.
- The difference between recall and traceability.
3. Last minute won’t cut it
Preparation is the key to a successful audit outcome and so actions like filling out documentation in front of the auditor, or correcting deviancies while the audit is being conducted just won’t work. It is also important to use assertive language when speaking with the auditors. Cut out terms like “we try” or “sometimes.”
4. Senior Management involvement
We all have been part of audits where management is not available to attend either the opening or closing meeting. It is in the best interest of the company for someone in a senior role to be briefed prior to the meeting, and meet with the auditor. Adopting an accredited standard is a serious commitment. Senior management should speak with the auditor about the standard/audit and explain some of the steps that have been taken to comply with the standard.
5. Don’t be defensive
Auditors are human beings too, and they will not take kindly to being challenged especially on an area where you clearly don’t comply. Remember they are just doing their job, and the main activity of that job is to collect data. So, if you disagree with the findings, take it up through the appeals process. You can challenge the auditor after the report is issued. Stay positive and the audit will go more smoothly.
If you want to know more about how HVDS can help you to comply with relevant standards relating to clean air in the food industry, please contact us at HVDS on 01785 256976 or email email@example.com.
Employees in food processing industries can face numerous health and safety hazards on the job. Some of these many risks include ergonomic, slip, fall, chemical and amputation hazards. Additionally, stressful, fast-paced work environments lead to accidents of varying degrees of severity. While much of the emphasis is on the safety of food products, the safety of the workers who make those products has seen more attention the past several years.
So what are some of the risks that employees on the food processing plant shop floor face?
Many potential work related illnesses are not unique to the food processing industry. For example, back pain, stress, noise damage, skin diseases can be found in all manufacturing environments. However, there are some risks that are unique to the food industry:
- The risk of combustible dust – A typical combustible dust explosion has two phases: an initial explosion within the processing equipment, followed by a secondary explosion caused by additional dust igniting and dispersing into the air. The food industry is particularly susceptible to these types of explosions. Virtually every ingredient used in food has the potential to become combustible dust, especially sugars, flours, starches, and spices.
- Musculoskeletal disorders – Problems with the muscles, tendons, ligaments or joints affect many people in the food processing industry. Over time, these conditions can not only cause debilitating injuries for workers, but they can also cost companies significantly in medical bills, workers’ compensation insurance premiums, and perhaps most significantly form a productivity viewpoint, low employee morale.
- Improper or non use of personal protective equipment (PPE) – Items such as gloves, goggles, and aprons, can greatly reduce workers’ exposure to harmful substances and environments. But only if workers actually wear them.
- Asthma – As many as 3,000 workers develop occupational asthma each year, while up to 4,000 more who already have the condition, are made worse because of their job. It is thought to be caused by an allergic reaction to airborne particles, such as flour or wood dust.
If these are some of the risks what can be done to mitigate them?
As you would expect the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) provides a huge range of advice on complying with Health and Safety Law and staying safe at work. A lot if this is plain common sense.
To protect workers from harm, employers are required to establish procedures and controls for dangerous equipment, safety and emergency response programs. However, they need to go farther than that to protect against some of the points highlighted above. For example, if we look at the dust risk, organisations should be adopting dust control strategies, including:
- Implement a hazardous dust inspection, testing, housekeeping, and control program;
- Use proper dust collection systems and filters;
- If ignition sources are present, use cleaning methods that do not generate dust clouds.
It is also about creating a “safety culture” within the organisation and this starts with the tone at the top because unless senior managers and directors do not buy in to the safety ethos then you will not create that safety culture. The absence of a top-down approach will doom any improvement programmes. However, with management’s support, employee safety committees will flourish. In a safety culture, companies constantly strive for continuous improvement and employees know that their safety is more important than keeping lines running at all costs.
One of things that underpins a true “safety culture” is training. The food manufacturing environment is only as safe as the people working in it and so providing regular, ongoing training is essential not only for worker safety and well-being but also for improved productivity, quality and ultimately bottom line results.
For more information on how HVDS can help you to create a safe working environment contact us at HVDS on 01785 256976 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rising global populations and the resulting pressure on water, energy and food has created an urgent need for sustainable solutions. The depletion of natural resources has raised several social, economic, and environmental challenges that call for policies that guarantee uninterrupted food supply under any circumstances.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) recently reported that for the third year in a row, there has been a rise in the number of people living in food insecurity whose number may have now reached one-eighth of the world population. Food security occurs when all people are able to access enough safe and nutritious food to meet their requirements for a healthy life, in ways that are sustainable to protect future generations.
However, food security faces a number of challenges across both production and consumption which research will be essential to solve.
So what is the challenge for food producers?
Firstly let us consider the following paradox:
The rates of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, certain cancers and type II diabetes are increasing in every region, in both developed and developing countries. In fact globally there are now more people who are overweight or obese than underweight, with the two combined accounting for more than half of the world population.
However, there are around 795 million people who face hunger on a daily basis and more than two billion people lack vital micronutrients, affecting their health and life expectancy.
Now that is a challenge for all of us, and if we throw into the mix climate change and a globally ever increasing population the challenge is indeed a daunting one.
It is also worth emphasising that this isn’t someone else’s problem such as developing economies. Food security affects everyone in the UK. That’s because food production, trade, the environmental impact of agriculture, the threat of climate change, and the factors that affect food prices are all largely global in nature.
One of the areas that food producers can focus on is waste reduction. Reducing waste in the production, transport, storage, retailing and consumption of food would bring multiple benefits including increased food availability, reduced use of energy, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and financial benefits to producers, retailers and consumers. Innovative ways are needed to reduce the very large extent of waste in the food system, and to ensure that improvements are implemented in practice at all stages of the supply chain. For example, innovation in smart packaging technology can reduce spoilage and extend shelf life.
Another area for manufacturers to consider is getting a better understanding of how markets and consumer demand affect food production’ methods and technologies, with the aim of developing interventions that will embed production and process innovation practices that are more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable in the short and long term. “This includes the relationship between food production and nutrition, with research to enhance the quality of meat, dairy and crops, and explore the potential for biofortification and reformulation in food manufacturing” ( Global Food Security – Strategic Plan)
The challenge of food security is to assure that all people have access to enough food to lead productive lives, but a large part of food security is assuring the food is safe from a chemical, physical or biological aspects and these challenges are important considerations in the food production environment.
For more information on how HVDS can help you to optimize your production capabilities contact us at HVDS on 01785 256976 or email@example.com.
All food processors and producers are facing an unseen threat to their food processing business, and the worrying thought is that in many businesses it is; not even recognised, not budgeted, countered or planned for, and not taken seriously.
99.9% of businesses (if not all) have taken precautions and ring fenced against computer viruses and spyware etc, but this is a threat that is just as dangerous as it acts on its own impulse, strikes at random and could bring a whole business and brand to is knees.
The threat can damage brands, close production and comes with a host of names.
The positive thing about the threat is that in the last 10+ years the threat behaves in the same way, attacks in the same way and can be prevented. But as a warning, just because it may not have attacked your process yet, there is nothing to say that it won’t.
The threat is poor IAQ (indoor air quality).
Having been in the industry for over 25 years, Indoor Air Quality has never been more important. The reason why it is more important now is because the result of social media action from poor IAQ affecting food produce is likely to be seen by 1000’s in a minute and 10,000’s in days. The world is becoming more informed, transparent and has more information at its finger tips, literally.
The various bacteria and mould spores that travel and breed in ventilation equipment that has not been properly maintained or cleaned is staggering, and its impact on food produce must not be underestimated.
The number of brands and blue-chip businesses that are playing Russian Roulette with poor IAQ is alarming. What is more alarming is that business leaders, auditors and supermarket chains are not giving IAQ enough or any attention. Many businesses are putting IAQ as a low budget priority when should it not be higher.
One argument would say, if IAQ is not a high priority for businesses that are global leaders then is it really an issue?But when poor air quality poses a risk of loss of profits, or even brand image when products are faulty, consumers are ill or go to social media about a product – surely it is something that should be assessed more critically.
The positive thing is that the remedy is quite simple for Indoor Air Quality:
- Use the right filters
- Have good frequent maintenance regime of ventilation and duct collection systems
- Have scheduled and frequent full system deep clean regime
- And repeat as necessary
Business Owners and Auditors should be checking these areas, or at least have photographic reports on the ventilation systems including the ductwork. Is it not in all parties interests to process and produce food products in clean environments?
For more help and assistance checking and improving IAQ please contact HVDS at 01785 256976.
How much fresh air should be going into the food production area?
Effective air filtration and a good level of air hygiene are not only important to ensure a safe and comfortable working environment, but effective food production air handling is also essential to reduce or prevent the possibility of airborne contamination in High Care and High Risk Areas.
If we consider that outside air carries between 200 – 1500 bacteria per m3, then a regular food processing plant can be being supplied with millions of bacteria hourly. So it goes without saying that all food manufacturing and processing facilities require efficient air filtration and effective extraction and ventilation in a food factory. It is also necessary to ensure the air flow containment of these critical working areas.
Failure to install and maintain an effective and efficient air filtration system can lead to a loss of production and lost sales at best, and loss of consumer confidence and brand damage, not to mention potential litigation at worst.
So let us focus on High Risk areas in regard to filtration and ventilation in a food factory.
The management of air filtration within High Risk Areas is crucial to ensure that the air introduced does not contain micro-organisms of concern and not be the source of additional contamination.
There are certain aspects that need to be considered to maintain the recommended and required levels of ventilation in a food factory.
This includes extraction and filtration of the air in the High Risk environments:
- To establish the air quality standards that are required, it is important to carry out a hazard analysis (HACCP).
- Air intake (fresh air supply) needs to be located to minimise the intake of contaminated or re-contaminated air. For example, upwind of potential contaminants such as dust and chemical vapours.
- A documented risk assessment must be conducted to determine the requirement for air filtration.
- There is no ‘universal’ standard for air filtration. However, the filter grade required will depend on the source of the air and the period of exposure to high risk products and ingredients.
- Some accreditation schemes and governing bodies may have regulations in place with regards to a required grade of filtration.
- The effectiveness of the filter and system employed should be checked by the use of periodic sampling of the air, close to the outlet of the air ducts for microbiological quality.
- The air filter replacement frequency is just as important as the air filter specification. The buildup of dust, dirt and grease on air filters in the food production air handling system can result in re-circulation of contaminated air.
- Without regular cleaning, air will pass through the polluted duct carrying bacteria onto or around the food process areas. It is important to maintain a routine air duct and air handling cleaning schedule.
- Maintaining positive air pressure compared to adjacent areas, particularly where there is a connection with low risk areas.
Over the last decade, the food industry has seen a rapid evolution of food safety regulations. Many food manufacturers have had to make significant developments to processes, procedures and resources to remain compliant with regulations.
As a result of changing consumer habits and as rise in the demand for specially manufactured dietary foods, there is a continued growth in the ‘types’ of food manufacturing and processing facilities that we are seeing in the food industry. In many cases, each manufacturing process is different and requires a unique layout and organisation of a facility, which is centred around the specific production output.
Although this proves to benefit the consumer and reassures manufacturing quality, it does however mean that it isn’t easy to provide a ‘universal’ solution for individual food production air handling requirements.
On the other hand, it can be simplified, and overall the requirements for air handling in High Care and High Risk Areas can be defined as:
The inbound or fresh air supply into High Care and High Risk Areas needs to undergo sufficient filtration to reduce or prevent the risk of airborne contamination. And the air extraction mapping of the potentially contaminated air that is produced within the High Care and High Risk areas is filtered and distributed in a way that will help prevent cross contamination.
There is no doubt that plant shutdowns are disruptive activities that halt production and are both labour intensive and costly. Added to which, the ability to generate revenue during a shutdown is severely curtailed. However, shutdowns are a necessary part of factory life.
There are two types of shutdown:
Obviously it is best to avoid the latter but planned shutdowns are very useful in that they can facilitate planned maintenance activities and allow for cleaning of process equipment, that will maintain the necessary quality standards to ensure the plant continues to work effectively
However, regardless of the reason for shutdown there is much that can be done to minimize downtime, but what really underpins a successful shutdown strategy is to initiate a robust proactive maintenance schedule.
Of course unplanned shutdowns can’t always be prevented and top organisations will use such stoppages as an opportunity to fit other planned but unscheduled work in. In some organisations this type of work is call IDD – “if down, do” jobs. However, a word of caution, don’t try and cram in more than is intended or else you will extend the stoppage beyond what would have caused it in the first place – not a good place to be.
Your maintenance management system should easily be able to identify outstanding work to be done from a backlog file and a quick check will be able to identify what materials/resources are on hand to complete the necessary IDD jobs.
Preparing for a planned shutdown requires lead time, and industries that plan exceptionally well for shutdowns have long lead times, oil and gas for example. However, irrespective of the industry sector preparation is vital.
In order to try and minimize downtime in the plant it is recommended that you prepare the work areas prior to shutdown, obviously ensuring that doesn’t interfere with normal operations, by erecting scaffolding, removing wall panels for access to equipment, moving lifting equipment into position. Also rehearsing the work steps is good practice – a la F1 pit crews. As a general rule the more you can do in advance the less you risk extending the downtime.
When the shutdown begins your plans are put into action and despite your best efforts of planning and preparation there will be some surprises, especially when machinery is opened for inspection. Again, good practice is try and anticipate some of the possible scenarios and have to hand relevant parts or resources to mitigate some of this risk.
Throughout the shutdown it is wise to have a series of shutdown management meetings to update on problems and agree solutions. When all the work is complete you can turn the plant back over to operations for the start up but it is worth keeping a maintenance crew on hand to handle any issues that may arise during the start up phase.
Another useful practice is to plan production output at reduced but incrementally increasing levels to allow for any hiccups during start up. For example, you might expect 25% of normal rates on the first shift but up to 100% by the fourth shift.
Plant shutdowns, also known as turnarounds, are one of the most critical times in the operation of a plant.
Shutdowns have a profound ability to affect the plant’s financial future in either a positive or negative way. A shutdown that is poorly planned, exceeds its deadline, or goes past its budget can negatively impact the plant’s bottom line. A plant turnaround that is well planned and executed can positively affect the plant and have it running within capacity for years.
So, what are the objectives of a maintenance shutdown?
Primarily there are two main objectives:
- Maintaining & Improving Equipment Capacity
- Maintaining Equipment for Life
But there are also important sub objectives including:-
- Using and encouraging support from all areas of the operations
- Encouraging input and buy in from all employees
- Using teams to develop the principles of “Kaizen” or continuous improvement
As previously referenced the financial implications of a shutdown need to be carefully considered, particularly with reference to costs.
Plant Shutdown Costs
The costs for a plant shutdown are calculated in two areas:
1. The cost to repair and replace equipment
2. The cost of ceasing operations for an extended period of time.
It is estimated that shutting down a plant for a few weeks can cost the plant’s entire maintenance budget for a year. However, the costs for not undergoing a planned shutdown can be even far higher. This includes any or all of the following:
- Cost of repair or replacement of a faulty piece of equipment that fails unexpectedly
- Cost to repair or replace equipment damaged created by a failure elsewhere.
- Cost to clean or replace the plant/equipment should toxic chemicals be spilled for example
- Undergoing a cessation of plant activities for an extended period of time
- Cost of fines or penalties should any operational or environmental regulations be violated
- Cost of an incident or accident in the plant
- Cost of any injury to workers as a result of equipment failure
- Cost in legal fees should any liability issues arise
The Five Phases of a Shutdown
Things to note in the planning phase include: shutdowns are highly susceptible to scope creep, a commonly overlooked step in the planning phase is the review of lessons learned during previous shutdowns and your budget must allow for the unpredictable nature of shutdowns.
The most critical and time-consuming of the phases and the team should determine the order in which things will be done, who is responsible for what, and the detailed workflow logistics. This involves the entire shutdown team: internal staff (maintenance, engineering, facility management, and procurement), external engineers, contractors, and vendors.
In addition to the procurement of equipment and materials, this phase includes the bidding or negotiation of contracts with all necessary consultants, contractors, and vendors.
This is when your plans are put into action and despite your best efforts of planning and preparation there will be some surprises, especially when machinery is opened for inspection. Again , good practice is try and anticipate some of the possible scenarios and have to hand relevant parts or resources to mitigate some of this risk
5. Return to Service
Hand-off is a process that ensures that outstanding matters affecting the startup have been addressed. Startup is essentially an operational function. However, it should be coordinated closely with the shutdown team to ensure proper support resources are available.
After equipment is operational, ramp-up can begin. Ramp-up is the interval between startup and normal operating run rates and capacities.
There is perhaps one other phase, and arguably the most important – evaluation.It is good practice to conduct an evaluation meeting to review the shutdown in its entirety. The agenda should include KPIs/metrics, cost, schedule,contractor management, shutdown to start-up and ramp-up, critical path and major tasks review, and best practices and lessons learned.
The lessons learned element should pave the way for more efficient shutdowns in the future.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines evaporative cooling as:
‘… the reduction in temperature resulting from the evaporation of a liquid, which removes latent heat from the surface from which evaporation takes place.’
Most modern manufacturing facilities require cooling for either the comfort of the occupants, or to protect the processes or equipment they contain. There are three methods which can be employed to cool these buildings:
- mechanical ventilation
- refrigeration-based air conditioning
- evaporative cooling.
Evaporative cooling is fast becoming a popular alternative to air conditioning and mechanical ventilation, as it is able to meet the demands of facility cooling without the associated high capital and running costs.
Evaporative cooling systems feature humidity and temperature controls to optimise the environment being cooled. The maximum level of cooling possible depends on the temperature of the air outside, and its relative humidity – greater levels of cooling are achievable with higher outside temperature and lower relative humidity.
In terms of the Food Processing industry,advantages of evaporative cooling include the deaeration or removal of air from the product, which will improve the quality and increase shelf life by delaying bacterial growth.
Also where a product is heat sensitive, vacuum is used — not to cool, but to maintain a constant temperature to prevent damage, maintain quality and to ensure the proper consistency during heating and/or cooking.
The processing equipment can be controlled by a programmable logic controller to operate at that point or higher. In certain cases where different foods are processed, the system can be programmed for different recipes to accommodate variable temperature and pressure, as well as product quality and quantity
Research results show that vacuum cooling significantly reduced cooling time required for cooked meat, while only caused slight cost to product quality. The results also demonstrate that vacuum cooling is the only cooling method that meets the cook–chill guidelines issued by many European governments.
Another major new application explored for vacuum cooling is its use in ready meals manufacturing, and although this research is still ongoing, it is looking promising. In addition, such research advances will eventually make this new cooling technique more competitive for the food processing industry.
For more information and advice on evaporative coolers contact us at HVDS on 01785 256976 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the factors that affects indoor air quality (IAQ) in food processing plants is odour emissions, and when the emissions have a negative impact this can lead to production problems such as a decrease in productivity and an increase in absenteeism. In short, IAQ has a massive impact on employee health and productivity.
To perform effectively in their roles, the air circulation, extraction and ventilation should be optimised to ensure the health and comfort of employees. The health repercussions from poor IAQ are extensive and links have been made to illness ranging from headaches and respiratory difficulties through to heart and liver damage, and even cancers.
However, poor indoor air quality may also account for food products becoming tainted with an alien smell or taste that has been absorbed at some point during the production process. This, of course can have a dramatic impact on sales, consumer confidence and brand loyalty
It is worth reminding ourselves of Codex Alimentarius (Recommended International Code of Practice General Principles of Food Hygiene) which states, in regard to air quality:
“4.4.6 AIR QUALITY AND VENTILATION
Adequate means of natural or mechanical ventilation should be provided, in particular to:
– minimize air-borne contamination of food
– control ambient temperatures
– control odours
– control humidity
Ventilation systems should be designed and constructed so that air does not flow from contaminated areas to clean areas.”
All food factories require ventilation and air filtration is necessary to ensure the containment of critical working areas. Because air can act as a source of contamination with sources from outside the processing area or acting as a transport medium, moving contamination from other sources within the processing area.
Hygienic Indoor Air Quality is required for the safety and comfort of employees, to maintain a safe working environment, to reduce the possibility of contamination and to help ensure the shelf-life of the product.
In many food processing facilities there is a lot of what can be described as low level IAQ. This is usually caused by contamination from Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). VOC’s are organic chemicals that have a high vapour pressure at room temperature, this pressure causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate into the air, causing contamination of the workplace environment. VOC’s can emanate from a number of unlikely applications; from computers and printers, manufacturing machinery, construction materials, furniture and furnishings, floor coverings and cleaning products.
All of these products and applications omit a range of VOC’s, including formaldehyde, toluene and other chemical solvents. To add to the contamination, heat produced by machinery and technical equipment accelerates the diffusion of emissions into the surrounding air. And since, on average as a nation, we spend 90% of our time indoors and more than a third of this in the workplace, the importance of workplace IAQ becomes apparent.
Understanding where and how air moves around within a production facility doesn’t just improve employee productivity, but it also offers other important benefits:
- Ventilation mapping, air supply and extraction are central to food manufacturing compliance audits; ensuring hygiene and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements
- Clean air handling is essential for maintaining separation between high care and low care areas, and when these are effectively managed they can reduce the amount of financial loss related to down-time from contamination.
Investment and Cost Savings
Initial outlays for a better IAQ can be as little as a few hundred pounds depending on the physical size of a business and the air handling products and services that are required. However, once it is completed the business potential of 20% increased labour productivity, significantly reduced outgoing costs from inefficient air handling and limiting the possibility of a negative brand reputation, far outweighs the investment, and even changes the strategy from business retention to business development.
For more information and advice on the impact air filtration and ventilation contact us at HVDS on 01785 256976 or email@example.com.
The fan unit that drives the fresh air and the exhaust air stream is the key to an HVAC system and typically one of the biggest users of energy. In a food processing environment, fans have to be reliable, quiet and energy efficient.
In this article we are going to take a look at the pros and cons of belt driven vs. direct driven fans.
A HVAC system with a direct drive blower is when the blower motor is connected directly to the fan. As the motor operates and turns the shaft, the fan moves accordingly.
In an HVAC system with a belt drive, the movement of the fan is not directly related to the rotation of the motor shaft. Instead, the motor shaft is connected to a belt, and the belt is connected to the fan. As the motor operates and the shaft rotates, it turns the belt, which in turn rotates the fan.
Both systems have benefits and drawbacks, so let’s take a closer look.
- Offer greater flexibility in terms of RPM speed
- Motor is outside of airstream (high temp. applications)
- Cost generally cheaper- and easier to repair
- Transmission losses
- More maintenance required. Belts require tightening and eventual replacement.
- Belt residue requires regular cleaning.
- Noise – if belt driven fans aren’t perfectly aligned noise is an issue
- More efficient
- Little to no maintenance
- Less vibration than belt drive
- Fewer points of failure
- Reduced weight; more compact
- Lesser flexibility compared to belt driven fans.
- May be more expensive when similar direct drive and belt driven fans are compared side-by-side.
Looking at a couple of the bullet points highlighted above in more detail: maintenance and efficiency.
Direct drive does not rely on a belt to operate the fan and so with a belt drive configuration, maintenance and replacement of parts can become more of a concern, as the belt will wear out with time and overuse, leading to higher expenses in the long run.
In addition, a direct drive configuration is also more efficient than a belt drive system due to the friction involved with the multiple moving parts and a loss of power overall. Research has shown that direct drive configurations have a reported efficiency margin of around 80 percent, compared to the belt drive system of around 60 percent.
Food contamination by microorganisms is a major public health and economic problem in the food processing industry. Airborne bacteria and contamination can occur at various points of the food production process, for example in the slaughter process, cold storage, and in the processing of meat and other foodstuffs.
Organisms can use air as a transport medium to either contaminate product surfaces directly, or to contaminate contact surfaces, and therefore it is clear that the air inside food production plants needs to be controlled.
Simple practices such as keeping doors closed or controlling employee traffic can be essential in controlling air contamination.
However, there is more to it than that and below are the factors we believe are pertinent when considering control of airborne bacteria in the processing environment.
- Doors: Doors should remain closed as much as practical. This will prevent entrance of excess outside air and fluctuation of ambient temperature and humidity. (see below) However, this is easier said than done especially in areas of heavy traffic but in those instances it is essential that door maintenance is up to date.
- Employee Traffic: The area of highest employee traffic is the point at which the most people are moving in and out of the room during the day and as people carry a number of microorganisms on their person it is not surprising that movement of staff and other personnel, outside contractors for example, is associated with higher contamination levels.
- HVAC Fan Operation: HVAC fan operation causes increased air flow and that air flow will affect air contamination and, in the absence of a means of separation, for example a wall, microorganisms may be moved by the air flow into clean areas. The use of correctly selected and installed air filtration installed into the HVAC system will reduce the amount of airborne bacteria.
- Ambient Temperature: Maintaining cool temperatures is very important as most bacteria thrive in temperatures higher than that which you’d use for refrigeration. Likewise, any increase in ambient temperature also heightens the survival of airborne bacteria.
- Ambient Humidity: An increase in humidity increases the likelihood of survival of microorganisms in the air. Humidity can increase in a food production facility from the entrance of outside or warm air into a much cooler environment and vise versa.
Other elements such as the time of the year or time of day, as well as the external temperature and humidity, should also be taken into account although these cannot be controlled.
It is also worth noting that as the working day progresses, the amount of air contamination increases, and likewise as the working week progresses, there is an increase in the overall contamination of air with bacteria.
So what are some of the controls that we can put in place to regulate the air conditions in food processing plants?
- Make sure that doors are kept closed at all times to reduce the chance of cross contamination and to assist the cooling units in maintaining temperature. In addition, ensure that doors are properly maintained and that they fit properly.
- Correctly pressurised rooms with the air cascade working in the right direction from the highest risk area to the lowest risk areas will also reduce the bacteria count based on the correct ventilations system set up.
- Route traffic around the processing area rather than through it to reduce contamination.
- Ensure your HVAC units are in good working order and consistently maintaining temperature. Routine, regular maintenance is essential.
- Install recirculating air filtration units to help reduce the amount of bacteria and molds in the atmosphere.
HVDS provide a range of high quality, energy efficient air filtration, ventilation, air handling and air extraction products, including HVAC air filters.
For more information and advice on the impact air filtration and ventilation contact us at HVDS on 01785 256976 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) can be affected by various factors:
- Gases such as carbon monoxide or radon
- Contaminants such as mold
- Improper or inadequate ventilation
All of these factors can be present in a supermarket, which are complex buildings, especially with regard to heating and ventilation, and they can all affect Indoor Air Quality. On the one hand they require tight humidity controls to prevent frost build up, for example in the refrigerated aisles. However, that leads to cool/cold air being spilled across the aisles thereby creating a cold, unwelcoming environment for the consumer.
So, being able to lower the humidity whilst maintaining a pleasant temperature is a challenge. Especially when supermarkets must strive to create an environment that is comfortable for the shopper and safe for the worker.
Take this scenario for example: while you are controlling humidity in a supermarket, you also have to deal with ventilation air requirements.This is especially important in supermarkets that have an in-house bakery. When you have bakeries, you have more exhaust air, so you need ventilation air to make up for that exhaust.Supermarkets also have open food on the deli, fish and meat counter. In addition, it is also vital to maintain a healthy IAQ in the building, so you want adequate exhaust air. And this is all going on whilst trying to maintain a good aesthetic and environment for the shopper.
A further challenge is that supermarkets are wanting to maintain IAQ but with minimum energy use, especially as spiralling energy costs are creating serious financial challenges in a very competitive sector. It is worth remembering that supermarkets use four to five times more energy per square foot than any other type of commercial building.
Interestingly, most of the narrative – articles in trade press etc. – is about energy savings and cost control rather than discussion around environmental factors and the impact of IAQ, and perhaps that needs to change.
Indeed, whilst it is well reported that outdoor air pollution can be, and is harmful to one’s health, there is little attention given to indoor air quality in the same way. So, why are some supermarkets not giving this issue careful consideration, outside of the energy saving and cost reduction agenda? ? Why is it where filters are used, the unit cost of filters is the most important rather than quality and the right filter?
This leaves many with the question – Is it possible to maximize energy efficiency and cost savings, while providing an indoor air quality that satisfies consumers and staff, as well as ensuring food safety at the right temperature and humidity?