Most employees working in meat and poultry plants may take the modern, man-made miracle that’s directly beneath their feet for granted. Flooring is one of those components that usually doesn’t come to mind until a problem arises – and the potential for problems is great. Plant flooring must hold up to harsh environments and heavy equipment plus it must not compromise worker and product safety.

Flooring options and pricing are as varied as processors’ needs. For example, Hayward, Calif.-based Columbus Foods Inc., a processor of premium salame and deli meats, opened its new $31 million slicing and packaging facility last July. Executives specified a monolithic, high-performance polyurethane flooring system, which they discovered while visiting meat-slicing plants in Italy, says Ken Neishi, vice president of operations.

“We have broken our facility down into zones in order of food-safety needs,” he adds. The blue zone, the highest critical area for food safety, is where exposed meat logs are sliced on Weber slicers and sliced drafts are placed into the packages with Multivac machines.

The second-highest critical area for food safety, the gray zone, is where work-in-process (WIP) salame and deli meat slicing logs are received and stored. In the uncolored zone, all packages are already sealed. This is where product is case-packed and packaging materials are stored.

Columbus execs wanted flooring that ensured chemical and heat resistance, mechanical stress tolerance/durability, addressed cleanability/hygienic concerns and was anti-slip.

Hormel Foods began operating Progressive Processing LLC, Dubuque, Iowa, on Jan. 25, 2010. Spanning 348,000 sq. ft., this plant is the first new production facility Hormel has built in more than 25 years.

James Mino, Hormel’s director of corporate engineering, says the flooring of choice for the plant was concrete with sealer cementitious urethane due to its durability and ability to stand up to chemicals and hot and cold cycling, as well as concrete with lithium silicate sealer to prevent dusting. “We used seamless epoxy in the office and welfare area because of its ability to be cleaned and stand up to hard use,” he adds.

“We chose to do the urethane coatings before the concrete is put into use since we will get better adhesion before it is exposed to potential contaminants during normal use,” he continues.

Dakota Provisions’ 150,000-sq.-ft. turkey harvesting and processing facility in Huron, SD, opened in 2006. Sanicrete stainless-steel reinforced flooring was chosen for its strength and durability, says Ken Rutledge, president and CEO. “It holds up to water and heavy truck traffic,” he adds. “The benefits are the non-slip surface for durability and safety on wet surfaces.”

Solutions abound

Flooring-system suppliers offer solutions for any demand industry faces. Siloam Springs, Ark.-based Tufco International, an industrial flooring company specializing in custom floors and drains, offers industrial flooring in urethane, epoxy and poly-vinyl formats plus high-performance coatings. Its chemical-resistant coatings offer protection against most acids, bases and solvents and work well for a variety of environments, including warehouses, secondary containment areas, aisles and engine and boiler rooms. Tufco coatings seal concrete and reflect light, thereby enhancing safety and appearance.

Tufco repair kits allow customers to make quick, long-lasting repairs under a wide variety of operating conditions. Being odorless, repairs can be made while a facility is operating.

Officials at Villa Rica, Ga.-based Advanced Surfaces Corp. say their company’s recommended materials include highly durable Aro-Surf polymer resins, quick-curing methyl methacrylate, thermal shock-resistant polyurethane concrete plus convenient patch kits. It offers a range of performance flooring products, each designed with specific characteristics to address customer needs cost effectively.

Engineered as an alternative to acid brick, quarry tile and other seamless toppings, Ucrete offers unequalled resistance to physical abuse, thermal shock, aggressive chemicals and bacteria growth, the company says.

Meat and poultry industry customers of ErgonArmor Corrosion Engineering, Lester, Pa., list hygiene and worker safety as top priorities for new plant floors or improving existing plant floors or coverings, says Christine Osborne, technical marketing manager. In December 2011, Henkel’s Corrosion Engineering division was sold to Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions Inc.

“Floors have to provide adequate slip resistance while being reasonably easy to clean,” she adds.

Alex Dittenhoffer, strategic accounts manager for Dur-A-Flex Inc., East Hartford, Conn., says his company’s meat and poultry plant customers require flooring systems that provide a safe, non-slip work surface, maintain their physical integrity and are well bonded to the concrete subfloor below the flooring system plus tolerate a high-traffic facility with fork-lift drivers.

Using corrosive sanitizers, hot washdowns or equipment clean-outs plus wheeled traffic require flooring systems that exhibit different resistance to chemicals, thermal shock and mechanical wear and tear, Osborne says.

Areas where strongly oxidizing sanitizers are stored or used at full strength require extra corrosion protection, she adds. Areas that cannot be taken out of service for maintenance should use flooring systems offering maximum longevity and reliability with little maintenance.

From a durability and worker-safety standpoint, Osborne recommends strong, three-quarter-inch thick, fully vitrified Tufchem Tiling Systems, directly bonded to the concrete subfloor with epoxy adhesive. These tile flooring systems feature molded non-slip surface textures.

The floor system that is the industry standard for many Dur-A-Flex customers is Poly-Crete MDB with an open broadcast of colored Q-28 quartz, Dittenhoffer says. This system has a tenacious bond to a wide range of concrete. It also holds up extremely well to aggressive fork-lift traffic and provides a safe, slip-free floor that is relatively easy to sanitize. This system also meets facilities’ needs to have the floor up and running quickly plus provides fast floor repairs with minimal downtime.

Impervious, fully-vitrified Tufchem Tiling Systems are recommended from a food-safety standpoint. These tiles are made using proprietary technology that minimize surface micropores to enhance stain resistance and ease of cleaning, Osborne says. When set and grouted with chemical-resistant materials, these tile flooring systems exclude microbial harborage sites. Unsanitary conditions are also easier to detect and address in rooms with light colored flooring, and these tiles come in a wide range of colors.

All of Dur-A-Flex’s Poly-Crete and Hybriflex Flooring Systems have found tremendous food-safety popularity in meat and poultry processing facilities, Dittenhoffer says. The Poly-Crete products have zero VOCs, can be installed successfully at lower temperatures and are also considered “non tainting” when exposed to in-process food products.

Meeting the needs

Certain plant areas may be exposed to higher thermal shock from hot/cold water washdowns or from higher levels of chemical exposure, Dittenhoffer says. These areas may require heavier base flooring materials to dissipate the heat from hot/cold water washdowns and may also require a different top-coat material to withstand high concentrations of harsh chemicals.

Although Osborne’s company’s Tufchem Tiling Systems have been commercially available in the US for the last 10 years, she says new surface textures geared to the meat and poultry industry were recently launched. These tiles offer wet COF values over 0.95 for areas with high slip and fall risk.

Processors have used Tufchem Tiling System under ovens, in smokers and in raw and ready-to-eat process areas, plus they even used a variety of tile colors to color-code spaces with different gowning requirements, she says. Companies interested in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification may earn credits in regional materials, indoor air quality, and recycled materials categories when they choose Tufchem Tiling System as an added bonus, she adds.

Most flooring products used in modern food-processing facilities fall into the family of cementitious urethanes, also known as urethane cement, Dittenhoffer says. They are well suited to cold, wet environments using harsh cleaning chemicals. But these products can “amber” when exposed over time to ultra violet rays from overhead lights. Dur-A-Flex claims to be the first company to have launched a light-stable, aliphatic urethane cement “top coat” that prevents ambering.

One Dur-A-Flex floor system has been certified by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) for slip resistance. Once the Dur-A-Quartz with Armor Top epoxy flooring system passed the agency’s evaluations, it was placed on the NFSI’s Certified Products.

Both Osborne and Dittenhoffer say there is a need for flooring technology that offers quick installation turnaround time plus it must be able to stand up to increasingly corrosive sanitizers and wider temperature swings.

“Right now, meat and poultry processors seem to spend a lot of time replacing the same floors over and over because once they are up and running, they can’t afford the time it takes to install more reliable flooring systems,” Osborne adds. “We aim to serve the segment of processors interested in investing in more reliable flooring during construction."