Hygienic Design, Part Two: Combating Contamination and COVID-19
Hygienic design of food & beverage facilities incorporates hygiene control in the design, construction, and renovation of such facilities. The hygienic design of food processing facilities is imperative for the manufacture of safe products. This is part two of our series continuing with the engineers, designers, and other thought leaders at Gray discussing how important hygienic design can be to the integrity of the entire operation. In part one of this series, we heard from the experts about the benefits of redesigning and renovation, refrigeration needs, airflow and infrastructure requirements, and more.
Read on to learn more about what Gray’s designers and scientists have to say about product contamination, designing with protection in mind, and how COVID-19 will affect the future of hygienic design.
Combating product contamination may occur not only at the equipment level (micro) but also at the factory level (macro). Therefore, how does a hygienic design expert determine whether to suggest a micro or macro solution?
“Hygienic design not only addresses equipment standards for cleanability but considers the process flow and movement of people, equipment, and air to assess risk,” said Amanda Flowers, manager, operations integration at Gray Solutions, a Gray company. Solutions to address risk are heavily influenced by the process and risks to product contamination through the production lifecycle. “In high-risk areas,” Flowers warned, “such as when ready-to-eat food is being introduced to primary packaging, there are elements of both micro- and macro-level influences that need to be considered. The two are not necessarily separable.”
Microbial “niches” or pest contamination are also areas in which hygienic design can help. Equipment should be constructed to facilitate mechanical cleaning and treatment to prevent biofilm accumulation; where product zones have inaccessible surfaces (niches), equipment should be disassembled or clean-in-place (CIP) methods be implemented.
Examples of items addressed in hygienic design include:
- Sloped floors
- Surfaces designed to eliminate pooling or standing of water (self-draining)
- Sloped girders to reduce accumulation and ease cleaning
- Type and location of drains in wet environments
- Sealing of joints in washdown areas such as curb and wall junctions and wall panel joints
“A robust sanitation program, in combination with an effective hygienic design, significantly reduces concerns with pest development,” Flowers stated. Additionally, sites should consider external influences, such as lighting type and placement; landscaping that does not encourage harborage opportunities; and good, basic manufacturing practices. These include ensuring external doors effectively seal and remain closed when not in use, to prevent pest infestation.
Designing for Protection
Fortunately, protection from contamination is inherent in the scope of hygienic design. Specific designs can even prevent product from being contaminated with chemicals, such as lubricants or cleaning agents. Greg Janzow, director of food safety at Gray, stressed how a risk-identification and -categorization matrix should be developed that addresses foreign material, cross-contamination, and chemical residue concerns as key considerations. These are often addressed in a facility’s Food Safety Plan.
“Additionally,” said Janzow, “facilities should employ training and verification programs to ensure personnel is qualified to perform sanitation and preventive maintenance activities to avoid cross-contamination events that will result in wasted goods.” Employment of common design elements might include shielding, cleanability of surfaces, and requirements for sealed bearings.
COVID-19 and Hygienic Design
We also asked how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced food & beverage manufacturers when it comes to thinking about hygienic design—especially regarding an uptick in interest from manufacturers and customers. Troy Sandlin, director, A&E integration food & beverage services, applauded the creative ways many customers are implementing social distancing/separation initiatives. They include operational changes, such as staggered breaks, assigned lockers, and even utilizing doors in ways to promote one-way employee traffic.
“Many of our customers’ requests require engineered solutions for their increased measures in employee hygiene,” Sandlin noted. “These range from installing air filtration technology or providing a touchless environment for the employees in restrooms, handwashing stations, and installing automated door hardware at high-traffic areas.”
Amanda Arnold, assistant design manager at Gray, noted the importance of being proactive and as knowledgeable as possible. This includes closely monitoring the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Institute of Architects’ COVID-19 mitigation design strategies. She stressed the importance of being prepared. “We have already had multiple customers interested in how to make their facilities safer, whether that be through incorporating design elements into a future facility or retrofitting an existing facility.” Arnold said. “It is important for us as designers to have these conversations with our customers to make them aware of the design options they have to help mitigate COVID-19 or future pandemics.”
The ability to adopt and successfully carry out an effective sanitation program is largely determined by facilities and equipment that are constructed in alignment with hygienic design standards. There are many tangible benefits of incorporating hygienic design into food manufacturing operations. The experts at Gray helped shed even more light on why now—more than ever—hygienic design is an important step in safeguarding both product and personnel.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.