Blake Caldwell has been a consultant for Allied Finishes for the past four years and is well-placed to know the safety and hygiene issues that comes with making sure food and beverage floors are kept in tip-top shape.
One of the key aspects of putting together a flooring plan for such a project is making sure that both the safety and hygiene aspects are covered, which can take some doing due to of the types of surfaces each aspect needs.
“Throughout each manufacturing facility you have got your wash bays, production areas – they’ll vary from site to site,” said Caldwell. “Some areas will have dry production areas where they’ll have less of a non-slip surface, which means it will be easier for them to clean. Whereas, with something like a beverage manufacturing facility, where a bottle might smash or a beverage is spilt, they might want a heavier non-slip surface to prevent workers from slipping.
“One of the challenges is finding that perfect balance where the safety staff are happy with the non-slip floor and the production staff are happy that the floor is easy to clean. Trying to make both teams happy is hard. You have to collaborate with them to try and find the best solution that meets both of their needs.”
Caldwell talks about a recent site in Moorebank, NSW where one of Goodman Fielder’s Australian-based production facilities is located. The company had issues with its brew room, where they had an existing vinyl-type floor, which was quite rubbery, according to Caldwell.
“Being a brew room they had various types of oils, and flour and yeast in the areas,” he said. “When all those kinds of products are left on the floor, it makes for an extremely slippery surface. We were called in to deliver our expert opinion on how to rectify it. From there it was sent to our technical specifications team to find a solution. They proposed a solution by providing samples and then we went in and resolved the issue for them.
“We had to rip up the existing vinyl-like surface and we reinstalled a heavy-duty polyurethane cement surface, and incorporated a heavy non-slip material. These systems have a matte finish, which further adds to the non-slip of the floor. If you have an full gloss epoxy floor, this will be more slippery, as you can imagine a shiny surface is a lot more slippery than a matte surface.”
Caldwell and the team at Allied are not easily intimidated when it comes to finding fixes for flooring issues. As far as he is concerned, everything is solvable and even if the company does not have the solution at the time of the visit, they will find one quickly enough to fulfil a brief. It beats the alternative, according to Caldwell.
“We have found a lot of the time companies, in an effort to save money, try and do a fix themselves,” he said. “Often, this can end badly, so it pays to reach out to us. Get an expert opinion. Get a professional to do it. That way you will get what you pay for. You will get a top quality floor, hygienic and safe both food and beverage wise, and worker-wise. It will be compliant.
“We offer warranties on all of our floors and if there are issues that we have created, we are more than happy to take it on the chin and fix it,” he said “We also understand that downtime can be an issue for some companies. It can be a much bigger cost to some clients than actually doing the floor. If there are issues we will work around what is best for them and do it as soon as we can. We are more than happy to look at any sized facility to see if we can help. There are no limits.”
Allied Finishes’ staff are also aware – especially in the food and beverage industry – of the aforementioned downtime, and how with some companies it can cost not just money, but affect deadlines for the client’s customers. Caldwell knows it is important to get in and help resolve issues speedily. For example, the project that they did for Goodman Fielder was done within a 24-hour period. That included 120 sq m of flooring, along with coving. To give added safety to the area, Allied Finishes also added in pathways to convey the company’s internal management plan, which included highlighting the forklift zones, the shared zones and pedestrian zones to make sure there were maximum areas of safety.
“We’ve also been working at a site in Griffiths recently – a chicken processing plant – and they gave us a weekend to come in and do as much as we could over a weekend. We finished up Sunday about 10pm and then they could drive forklifts on it by 6am the following day,” he said. “We used a polyurethane cement because epoxies take longer to cure. We do epoxy floors but there has been a shift in the past couple of years where most contractors are using polyurethane cement probably more than they are using epoxy, especially in the food and beverage space. This is because it is much quicker to set, and it is also much more impact and abrasion resistant as well as a lot more chemical resistant.”
A product that Allied Finishes specialises in is one that has special hygiene properties that are especially appropriate for food and beverage processing plants.
“Our newly released SteriFloor range is a suite of flooring solutions that we have re-engineered to incorporate select antimicrobial additives,” he said. “It makes us stand out in the market. It is not a solution that as far as I know anybody else is offering. We think it is in the best interest of our clients to have such a product available to them.
“At the end of the day, the major thing people need to know is the safety aspects, which can boil to another few things like non-slip surfaces, traffic management plans and anti-microbial properties.”