In terms of prolonging the shelf-life of perishable goods, cold rooms are the best choice. However, industries such as data communications, electronics and aerospace, among many others, require industrial chillers that are far more sophisticated than their domestic counterparts.
Businesses that require industrial chillers should be duly concerned with the operation of their cold storage facilities to ensure safety and proper handling.
Building structures and design
Cold storage facilities should be designed or modified from their existing design to reduce operational hazards, while improving productivity at the same time. Usually, this area of safe operation involves:
- Suspended ceilings – should be well designed by providing a cavity that is safe to access and easy to work in.
- Structural supports – should be properly positioned within the building structures to avoid hindering activities during operation.
- Air flow systems – should provide adequate airflow for people to work and also maintain products inside their cold environment.
- Flooring systems – should be of solid construction; free from cracks or any other kind of damage. The floors should also be sufficiently insulated and sealed to prevent or at least minimise the accumulation of dust and dirt.
Facilities and layout
Workplace hazards should be reduced by making use of proper facilities to improve product flow. That is to say, amenities should be easily accessed to avoid traffic, there should be enough lighting to provide visibility and areas of operation should follow proper layout.
- Visibility – can be achieved by providing adequate lighting on work stations and areas such as the aisles where most traffic occurs. Aisles should be clutter free for easy access.
- Amenities and work areas – should be properly equipped, clean, easily accessible and comfortable to use.
Cold storage facilities are busy with the constant traffic created by forklifts, transport vehicles or any other kind of mobile plants. Traffic management can be an issue if not properly handled. To ensure safety and efficient traffic flow, separate access should be provided for walkways and forklift loading/unloading operations.
Working with industrial chillers in cold storage facilities can be environmentally challenging. These environmental hazards include working in cold conditions, exposure to dangerous atmospheres, slips, trips and falls.
- Cold conditions – and too much exposure to them can cause thermal stress. Using protective clothing, utilising health monitoring systems and avoiding activities that may cause sweating are some of the ways to prevent thermal stress, sometimes referred to as “cold stress”.
- Dangerous atmospheres – controlled rooms have low oxygen levels which may prove fatal when inhaled. Rooms with low oxygen levels (2% or less) can be life-threatening or brain-damaging upon exposure. Dangerous atmospheres also pertain to the presence of carbon monoxide buildup from LPG, petrol or diesel operated forklift trucks.
For added safety measures, industrial cold room facilities should undergo periodical assessment and preventative maintenance to avoid further problems that may be as simple as food safety issues or as complex as machine malfunctions.