While often unconsidered, the floor’s color can be a useful asset to cut down on contamination and to make a facility safer. Bright signage can be used to create walkways that highlight the safest routes around the site while different zones can be given floors in contrasting colors to avoid cross-contamination. This type of color zoning can be beneficial in locations where, for example, raw and cooked meats are in close proximity to each other and the site operator wants to highlight the crucial difference between the two areas.
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Food and Beverage Flooring Challenges
The floor will need to retain all the above properties for an extended period of time, as if any one of these elements is compromised then so too is the site’s sanitary integrity! And in the food industry there are a multitude of unavoidable factors that can easily degrade an insufficiently robust floor finish.
A wide variety of food products will inevitably spill onto the floor and could include fats, hot oils, blood, sugar, and natural food acids. These can cause substantial damage to surfaces that don’t have a high level of chemical resistance. Uncoated concrete for example will be corroded and quickly become porous in such an environment. These substances can even infiltrate concrete, resulting in microbial growth that is exceptionally difficult to eradicate once it has begun.
In addition, rigorous cleaning and maintenance processes including steam cleaning, pressure washing, hot water washdowns, and the use of aggressive cleaning agents can all place a significant amount of stress on the floor. If the floor is not coated, or the coating is not up to the task at hand, then these factors could eat into the surface, leaving it susceptible to bacterial penetration.
The amount and type of physical stress that goes into the floor will also need to be carefully considered, as heavy equipment and potential impacts from dropped tools can easily chip a weak surface. Areas likely to undergo heavy foot traffic or where wheeled equipment and forklift trucks are going to be moving across the floor need to ensure that the finish won’t crack when put under this level of strain.
Traffic loadings can be especially damaging, for example just a hand pallet truck when fully loaded could weigh over 2,000 pounds. When repeatedly moved, this will put a lot of pressure through the small wheels and into the floor, especially over areas where it is being pulled in a tight turning circle.
The floor’s impact resistance should be tailored to your environment, the higher the likelihood of a severe impact, the thicker the floor coating should be to protect the critical bond layer where the coating meets the concrete. The compressive strength of the floor system can be used to determine the suitability of the floor to the task at hand. Going back to the hand pallet truck scenario, a compressive strength of at least 40 to 50 newtons/square millimeters would be required.
Polymer Flooring Benefits
Many large-scale food industry facilities are utilizing polymer solutions to ensure that the floor finish provides the required properties, and that it will be able to maintain them for an extended period of time.
Polymer flooring systems are available in a wide range of formulations and can be specified to meet the different needs of the various working areas within a food and beverage facility, such as thickness, chemical resistance, slip resistance, color, and thermal shock resistance. Despite the variety of solutions, polymer floors share many common properties that make them highly applicable to the food industry, including being seamless, impervious, and robust.