How a clean floor prevents cross-contamination and boosts worker safety in food plants

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and an increasing number of recalls, have amplified the importance of cleanliness in food processing plants. In most facilities, equipment won’t even be considered unless it’s certified as conforming to the principles of hygienic design. Processors are also placing more emphasis on developing effective cleaning and sanitation programs for that equipment.

But there’s an area of food plants that still doesn’t always get the attention it deserves: the floor.

Floors in the production area may not be direct food contact surfaces, but bacteria can still transfer from them to food relatively easily. Not only that, but clean floors are essential for preventing slip, trip and fall accidents. Like EHS specialist Karen Hamel wrote in EHS Today, “Most people don’t slip and fall on clean, dry and level floors.”

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Let’s look briefly at how clean floors promote both food safety and worker safety in food processing and manufacturing facilities.

 

Preventing cross-contamination

Floors are one of the top areas in food facilities for bacterial harborage. Pathogens like Listeria are frequently found on the floor in dust particles and anywhere water is allowed to pool. These pathogens can easily become airborne (traveling on dust particles) or aerosolized (traveling in water droplets).

Because floors in the production area are directly adjacent to food contact surfaces, it takes very little for bacteria on the floor to transfer to the food. Here are a few ways cross-contamination can happen:

  • Workers walking across the floor can pick up (or kick up) bacteria.
  • Bacteria can be dispersed or transported by carts or other equipment moving around the plant.
  • Anything picked up from the floor (e.g., a hose) can bring bacteria with it.
However it happens, bacterial contamination is a major problem. In Q3 of 2018, bacterial contamination was the top reason for USDA recalls, as well as the leading cause of FDA recalls based on number of units.

No one wants a recall. That’s why so much energy is being poured into equipment cleaning and sanitation programs. And it’s why having a clean floor is so important — by eliminating bacterial harborage from the floor, you’ll avoid having those bacteria find their way onto your equipment and into your food.

Boosting worker safety

Did you know that more than half of slip, trip and fall injuries are due to a problem with the walking surface? Or that as much as 85% of workers’ compensation claims are attributed to employees slipping on slick floors?

In a way, this is good news. It means that you can eliminate a significant number of injuries and workers’ comp claims simply by keeping the floor clean.

Here are some common slip, trip and fall hazards in food plants:

  • Dusts from ingredients (e.g., sugar, flour) that settles on the floor
  • Liquid spills
  • Overspray from equipment cleaning processes

None of these can be completely avoided — after all, it is a food processing environment, and things get messy! But you can prevent these hazards from causing injuries by cleaning them up right away.

 

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If you’d like to learn more about the cleaning equipment you need to prevent cross-contamination and boost worker safety in your plant, download our new eBook: 3 steps to cleaning compliance for your entire food facility.

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