Hygiene in processing industries is vital since product contamination, which may occur through the introduction of unwanted materials, substances or microorganisms into a manufactured good or process, can result in substantial financial losses.
Aside from this, contamination also has the potential to damage the relationship between manufacturers and customers, and to harm the health of employees and the public.
Obviously, different industry sectors have different hygiene requirements depending on the nature of the products being processed.
While requirements may differ, the fact remains that good hygiene practices are vital as it reduces the likelihood of the introduction, spread and multiplication of potential pathogens and other organisms in the processing environment.
Potential problem areas
Quality control testing ensures that finished products meet all required specifications and are of suitable quality for release. Quality checks occur at different processing stages, all of which have different hygiene requirements. To meet these requirements, appropriate procedures are established and monitored.
However, two areas where hygiene is difficult to implement effectively, despite having the appropriate procedures and monitoring systems in place, are personal hygiene and building and equipment hygiene. This is because people and equipment can cause cross contamination and foreign particulate contamination.
Cross contamination occurs when particulates of one product or ingredient are inadvertently mixed with another, while foreign particulate contamination takes place via the unintended introduction of a foreign substance, such as dust, dirt, rust, or metal particulates, into the process.
Because harmful contamination can occur at any point during processing, no single step can be taken to eliminate the risk of contamination entirely. However, stringent sanitation procedures should be in place for people and equipment moving from one area of a facility to another, all with the goal of reducing the risk of contamination.
Contamination at floor level
Unwanted bacteria, mould, fungi, dust, and grime can enter a processing facility at a variety of stages and from a plethora of sources, however few areas are as at risk as floors – shoe soles and floors are notorious for aiding and abetting the transfer of contaminants.
Compounding the issue is that gravity will cause most contaminants to end up on the floor at some point, meaning that unwanted materials, substances or microorganisms can be spread under the shoes of employees or on the wheels of equipment.
Rigorous floor cleaning and maintenance processes including steam cleaning, pressure washing, hot water washdowns, and the use of aggressive cleaning agents. All of these, however, can place a significant amount of stress on the floor, which can impede the effectiveness of the cleaning regime.
A simple solution
When thinking of the dirt on processing facility floors, a variety of liquid spills, sand, mud, and solid debris may spring to mind; dust rarely makes the top of the list. But dust is more than an innocuous substance – it is a breeding ground for bacterial growth and may even contain a variety of toxic chemicals such as phthalates, volatile organic compounds, flame retardants and heavy metals, making it dangerous to human health.
Reducing exposure to dust is therefore critical to stop harmful substances from spreading, ensure a safe and healthy work environment, and maintain product quality and integrity.
It may seem like an obvious solution, but sweeping floors with a broom to get rid of dust and other particulates is not recommended because particles become airborne and can be transferred throughout the facility.
Similarly, traditional wet mopping is not ideal as mop water could contain a toxic blend of chemicals and contaminants. In fact, industrial mop water holds a number of hidden dangers. It not only contains air pollutants, but also certain toxic items, all of which eventually end up in our rivers, streams and municipal wastewater systems. In addition, mop water provides the moist warm temperatures bacteria needs to grow.
There are, of course, electronic cleaning tools, but it is often not possible to use these effectively in processing facilities as there is constant activity and foot traffic.
That said, extraordinary attempts to keep facility floors hygienic are unnecessary. In fact, the solution is quite simple – dust mopping.
Dust mopping is a vital part of any floor maintenance programme as it sweeps away miniscule specks of dirt, dust and debris. Regular dust mopping in high traffic areas removes surface dirt before it can be ground into the floor and require a much deeper clean. Where unwanted materials, substances or microorganisms are concerned, the mop head picks up the smallest traces from the floor before it can be tracked into other areas.
Considering the benefits of dust mopping, it is easy to see why this method is increasingly considered a vital step in any environmental hygiene programme. The benefits offered by dust mopping include:
- Reduced health risks: It can reduce allergens and bacteria build-up.
- Reduced cross contamination: As the products used are disposable, there is no risk of cross contamination.
- Lower injury risk: It leaves floors completely dry, avoiding the risk of slips, trips and falls.
- Less disruption: The process is cordless and silent, making it less disruptive.
- Enhanced cleaning power: It is ideal for hygiene critical areas where electronic machine cleaning is not possible.
- Less water and chemical usage: There is no need for cleaning solutions or water. Even when combined with damp floor mopping (instead of wet floor mopping), it results in up to 80% less water being used and reduces chemical consumption.
- Increased productivity: Cleaning effectiveness is enhanced while time spent on cleaning tasks is minimised.
- Versatility: Dry mopping is not only useful for cleaning floors, but can be used for all environmental surfaces to maintain and improve hygiene. In addition, it can be used with adjustable handles and extensions, allowing for efficient cleaning in difficult to reach spaces and corners.
The right tool for the job
Maintaining hygiene in a processing environment doesn’t have to be overly complex, especially when it comes to floors. There are several tools available to assist in executing an effective cleaning regime that will integrate with the specific hygiene requirements of a specific industry.
Implementing dust mopping as part of your processing facility’s environmental hygiene programme will not only improve hygiene standards and reduce the risk of cross or foreign particulate contamination, but will also ensure that your facility’s integrity, your reputation and your profit margins remain intact.