The old adage that no two people are alike, also relates to businesses and most certainly to industries. Many of the customers we have at Trusted Mats have their own unique set of requirements when it comes to matting. In this blog we cover specifically mats for the Food Processing Industry.
On the surface the matting needs of this industry may be similar to others, such as Health & Safety, Aesthetics or Dirt Control. Dig a bit deeper and you soon realise there are additional needs due to factors that are unique to the industry, through legislation, work practices, materials used, contamination concerns and the cleaning regimes they use and follow.
Customers typically find it very challenging when choosing their mats. Mat suppliers don’t really focus on niche requirements, instead preferring a ‘one mat fits all’ approach. This isn’t true of course and this is when it’s sensible to speak with a mat supplier with experience. Incidentally, Trusted Mats has 20 years’ experience of selling mats into industry, including mats for the food processing industry. We advise based on our experiences here, but if you’re more of a talker than reader, simply Contact Us.
In the following paragraphs we discuss mats recommended for the requirements we generally encounter in the food and drink manufacturing industry. These are industries including the following:
- Meat, poultry and fish processing
- Fruit & Vegetables
- Milling, Animal feeds
- Alcoholic and Soft Drinks
- Chilled and Frozen produce
- Baby Foods
(source: HSE: Food and drink manufacturing industries)
The control of bacteria is of critical importance to the food processing industry. An outbreak can see the whole facility shut down until the issue is brought back under control. Anything that can prevent the spread of bacteria in this environment should be encouraged.
Anti-Microbial Mats for the food processing industry can also play their part. These mats usually have an additive in the mat material which lasts for the lifetime of the mat and prevents bacterial growth on the mats.
When buying mats claiming to be anti-microbial, check for test certification which typically shows the mats prevent growth of bacteria such as:
- Staphylococcus aureus
- E. Coli
- Klebsiella pneumoniae
- Candida albicans
Any type of mat can have anti-microbial additives, including Entrance Mats, Anti-Fatigue Mats, Anti-Slip Mats and Sticky Tack Mats. We cover these in more depth below.
Disinfectant mats can be used as foot baths, whereby disinfectant is poured into and contained in the mat. People, or animals, walk through the foot bath which immerses and disinfects footwear or animal feet as they come into contact with the disinfectant.
Placed at entrances or between areas, disinfectant mats are highly effective at preventing bacteria ingress and cross contamination.
Disinfectant mats have been used to help control the spread of diseases including Foot & Mouth and, in more recent years, Covid-19. They can be used in conjunction with a moisture control mat, so that slips don’t occur after stepping out of the disinfectant onto hard floors after the mat.
Mats for Workstations
Food processing facilities have hard floors rather than carpets. Carpets can harbour bacteria and are more difficult to clean. This also means that workers in the industry tend to stand on cold, hard floors throughout their working day, which can lead to increased fatigue.
Fatigue affects the body through aches and pains, but also affects the mind, leading to loss of concentration. As a consequence, absenteeism, accidents and productivity are negatively affected.
Anti-Fatigue mats provide cushioning underfoot and encourage subtle movement of the joints which increase comfort and reduces fatigue.
Hard floors are also more prone to becoming slippery, through spillages and moisture for example. Using mats with an anti-slip surface will give the user good traction underfoot.
Workstation mats are typically supplied in fixed sizes of 2×3, 3×5 and 4×6 foot. We recommend choosing mats large enough to cover the area that the worker stands in or moves around for the most part of the day, so that they spend most of their time in contact with the mat.
Mats for Food Industry Production & Packing Lines
Food processing facilities tend to have lines where production, inspection, picking or packing occurs. This may be along conveyor belts or a line of work stations. In these circumstances roll mats are ideal to use to cover the entire length of the line, rather than placing individual workstation mats along the line which can move around or cause trip hazards.
Roll mats can be used for reducing worker fatigue as discussed above, or to stop slips from spillages, grease or oils.
Cleaning of Mats for the Food Processing Industry
Cleaning is a crucial part of the food processing industry regime to prevent bacteria and contamination. Mats for the food processing industry need to be easy to clean and must not harbour or be a source of bacteria themselves.
Choose mats which are easy to clean as part of your current floor cleaning process. Mats that can be hosed down will usually have good drainage holes in the mat, so the water does not sit on top of the mat.
Cleaning anti-fatigue mats:
Anti-Fatigue mats sometimes use cushioning that can soak up and hold onto liquids. This can lead to bacterial growth and foul odours in the mat. Care must be taken to choose mats that are either solid or have fully encapsulated or closed cell cushioning.
Cleaning mats with chemicals:
If your cleaning regime involves using chemicals or detergent, you need to check that the mat is resistant to the chemical being used. Mat suppliers will often have chemical compatibility guides or specification sheets detailing what can be used to clean the mats.
Cleaning mats at high temperatures:
Certain mats can be cleaned at high temperatures which helps eliminate bacteria. Some can be cleaned in the pot / dishwasher so can be cleaned as part of other cleaning processes to make cleaning them simple and efficient. For more specialist requirements there are mats that can be autoclaved (cleaned at very high temperatures).
Mats Suitable for Oils & Fats
Food processing often sees the requirement for using oils and animal fats, whether during production or as the final product itself. Such substances can play havoc with the materials used to construct certain mats, causing deterioration or damage to the mats.
If oils and fats are on floors on which the mats are placed or come into contact with the mats through other means, such as spillages, then you need to check that the mat is resistant to these. If oils and fats are prevalent then you may need to choose a grease and oil proof mat. These mats are often made from 100% nitrile rubber.
If they are not resistant, then we frequently see mats curling and cracking at the corners and edges of the mat, which can turn the mats into a trip hazard. Grease and oils can also deteriorate a mat, leading to parts of the mat breaking off, with the potential for them to contaminate the food being handled and produced.
Oils, fats and grease are also inherently slippery. Anti-slip floor mats provide good traction underfoot and the correct choice of mat will combat the risk of slips and falls in such areas.
Mats for Spillages
Food and moisture spillages are a common occurrence in the food processing industry. If not controlled correctly, these spillages can lead to slip accidents. Slips and trips are the most common workplace accident accounting for 40% of all reported serious workplace accidents (source: HSE Preventing slips and trips at work – A brief guide).
Anti-slip mats can be used to protect against the risk by providing a safe surface for the user to stand and walk on. Mats can be used to either to contain spillages for later cleaning, or they can allow spillages to flow through holes in the mat and away from the mat surface.
Mats that contain spillages often have a well / dam system all around the edges of the mat with a solid base. Flow through mats will have holes in the base and have grooved backings which channel liquids from beneath the mat into nearby drainage.
In food processing industries such as milling, dust spillage and accumulation on the floor can also lead to slips and falls. Anti-slip mats with high traction surfaces can be used to circumvent this issue.
Freezer and chilled environments
Walk in freezers and chilled areas present their own set of challenges. Moisture and ice can lead to slip issues on hard floors. Ice formation can also accumulate on a mat surface reducing the anti-slip properties of the mat surface.
Additionally, the low temperatures can lead to certain mat materials becoming brittle, leading to cracking and causing a trip hazard. Mat cushioning can become firmer which reduces the anti-fatigue benefit the mat was intended to provide.
Specialist anti-slip mats resistant to low temperatures exist to overcome these issues.
Types of Mats for the Food Processing Industry
Dirt, dust and moisture control should start at the entrance of a building. More than 70% of dirt in a building comes in from the outside (source: Coba Europe). Dirt contains harmful bacteria which can be carried into the building via footwear.
Effective entrance matting significantly reduces the dirt and bacteria ingress into a building. Effective entrance mats will also reduce the associated costs of cleaning as well as slips, trips and falls.
Specialist anti-microbial entrance mats exist which are ideal for the food industry in helping to prevent dirt and bacteria entering the facility.
Goods need to be transported in and out of the food production facility and often forklifts, pallet trucks and sack trucks are used for this purpose.
These vehicles are required to travel in and out of the building which can lead to contaminants, including dirt and bacteria, being brought inside on the wheels. This dirt may then be walked through and trafficked further around the building.
Modular Forklift Mats can be used at the goods inwards and outwards points of the building to effectively reduce dirt and moisture ingress into the facility. They work in the same way as entrance mats, but instead they wipe and scrape the tyres of the vehicles, holding onto the dirt until it can be safely cleaned away at the end of the day.
Sticky Tack Mats
Sticky tack mats are specialist mats which, as their name suggests, have an adhesive surface that removes and holds onto fine dirt and dust particles when walked or wheeled over. The mats typically have layers which are peeled off and disposed of when they become saturated, to leave a fresh adhesive layer beneath.
Sticky tack mats can be used at entrances or in doorways to prevent cross contamination between areas.
Anti-microbial sticky tack mats are ideally suited to the food processing industry because they have the added benefit of controlling bacteria.
Although black is the most popular mat colour available in most types of industrial mats, mats for the food processing industry are sometimes made in other colours. In particular blue and red mats are used.
This variation in colour is for many reasons, but of particular note colours are used that are different to the foods being produced in the facility. This helps the identification of any materials which could possibly contaminate production. They can then be more easily removed and sufficient steps taken as a result of the contamination.
Coloured mats can also be used to mark zones and help stop cross contamination between zones. For example, materials used in raw meat zones can be kept separate from cooked meat zones. Environments where nuts are used can ensure that anything used there, including mats, do not cross over into nut-free environments. Walkways can be designated using matting, keeping people on a path and away from areas of risk.
We have covered many of the areas that we have encountered whilst helping clients with their mat requirements in the food processing industry.
Of course, it is not practical to cover everything we encounter in full detail here. If you still have a question that needs answering concerning your unique requirements, then please feel free to Contact Us.
We would be delighted to help you get your food processing business the correct mats you require, so that you can get on with running your business.