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Facing hazards in the fast-paced food industry

24 September 2020

THE FOOD and drink industries face many potential health and safety risks, the latest of which is COVID-19. To support COVID-19 containment strategies, Hughes offers a portable decontamination misting shower for indoor or outdoor use.

Here, Hughes explains more about safety shower considerations for the food and drink industry:

The food & drink industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, contributing more than £28bn to the economy every year. This industry and its employees face increased demand from a constantly growing population. As pressure to escalate production increases, the industry cannot afford to neglect the safety of its workers.

Food processing and manufacturing facilities must be kept clean and sanitary to protect food safety and prevent foodborne illnesses. Chemical soaps, detergents, sanitisers and disinfectants are routinely used to help keep food free of unwanted microorganisms and other contaminants.

These chemicals are vital to the safety of any food production process, but they can also be hazardous to the workers that come into contact with them. The same is true of the harmful refrigerants used to store products and keep them fresh, the majority of which contain anhydrous ammonia which is capable of burning the skin upon contact. It is essential that employees who are exposed to these substances have access to appropriate safety showers and eye/face wash equipment.

More recently, the industry is facing a new danger in the shape of COVID-19. The meat processing industry has particularly suffered in terms of mass site breakouts amongst employees. Though not a hazardous chemical, certain safety showers can be used to help minimise the spread of COVID-19 amongst workers and improve general hygiene measures.

For a hygienic and sterile environment, it’s important that all safety showers inside a food and drink facility are made of stainless-steel. This ensures the showers are durable, corrosion resistant and easy to clean.

Both the EN 15154 and the internationally recognised American National Standard, ANSI/ISEA Z358.1-2014 provide uniform minimum requirements for the performance, use, installation, testing, maintenance and training of emergency safety shower and eyewash equipment. Here we outline some of the main considerations.

In order to minimise any injury with a swift decontamination in the event of a spill or splash, emergency safety showers must be located within 20 metres, or 10 seconds reach, of a hazard. However, if a chemical is particularly hazardous, the safety shower and/or eye/face wash equipment must be placed immediately adjacent to the hazard. Personnel should be instructed on the safe and proper use of the emergency safety equipment and be advised of its location.

Emergency safety equipment must be visually inspected and activated weekly along with an annual service to guarantee reliable and effective operation and conformance to European and International standards.

According to these standards, the water delivered by emergency safety showers should be tepid, between 15 and 37°C (59-98.6°F). At temperatures above 37°C (98.6°F) there is the added danger of scalding and increased absorption of harmful chemicals into the skin whereas prolonged exposure to water below 15°C (59°F) increases the risk of thermal shock or hypothermia and prevents the casualty using the shower to decontaminate effectively for the full 15 minutes.

View a summary of the standards here.

Some chemicals dictate a particular decontamination procedure. For example, contact with anhydrous ammonia requires flushing of the area with a large amount of water for at least 15 minutes, at a temperature between 25C-30C. For set temperature decontamination, you will need a Temperature Controlled Safety Shower. These units maintain the water within a set range and can also be used to supply heated water to other emergency safety showers in the local vicinity. Always check the safety data sheet of the hazardous material for specific decontamination requirements.

In manufacturing, space is at a premium. Over-door, ceiling and wall-mounted models are an easy solution to ensure as little floor space as possible is used. Where there is a little more space to spare, combination units comprise of a plumbed in safety shower as well as an eye/face wash for full decontamination.

In some instances, the spray and contaminated water will need to be carefully contained to ensure a sterile 

environment, cubicle units are the ideal solution as they are enclosed with an integral drain sump.

COVID-19 containment

To support COVID-19 containment strategies, the PORTAdec™ 500 portable decontamination misting shower can be used indoor or outdoor for use prior to the removal of PPE or simply to decontaminate visitors to site or employees as part of a thorough hygiene solution. A self-sanitising mat sits at the base of the unit offering a top to toe decontamination, while the demarcation zone mat denotes the disinfection zone at the entrance and drying zone upon leaving the shower.

Quick to assemble and with hands-free foot activation for ease of use, this unit is a simple addition to your decontamination process. The unit is provided with a 15-litre cylinder which should be filled with the appropriate non-toxic disinfectant. Hughes advises the use of electrolysed water, also known as Hypochlorous Acid (HOCL), it is at least 99% water, non-toxic and totally safe for human use.

For a more permanent solution for sites where PPE decontamination is likely to be long-term, Hughes is able to provide a walk-through decontamination booth. Designed to cleanse PPE before entering a clean area or when doffing PPE to leave work for the day, this unit is a durable structure for use both indoors and outdoors.

Keeping your workers safe

It is imperative that workers who are exposed to hazardous substances have easy and quick access to safety showers and eye/face wash equipment in the event of a spill or splash.

It's also incredibly important in these current circumstances that you have a robust COVID-19 containment plan and decontamination units should be an integral part of that to ensure your workers’ safety on-site.

For advice on a suitable solution for your application or to request a quote, contact Hughes: https://www.hughes-safety.com/contact-us?referrer=ContactMenu:/mobile-emergency-safety-showers.html