Cold Storage Hazards

When you’re dealing with cold storage, there can be hazards involved. Some of these can result in goods being lost so it’s in your best interests to be aware of them and monitor your cold storage for potential issues. So let’s have a look at the most common hazards and how you can minimise them.

Packaging is key. Always check any goods you store are properly packaged. Look out for holes in the packaging and make sure the right film wrap is used whether you’re involved in cold storage haulage or warehousing.

How you store goods is really important too. Incorrect storage could mean your products will freeze when they’re not meant to. If this happens, check your evaporator coils are set at the right temperature or positioned correctly. Pallets of goods need to be stacked so the air can flow evenly around them, and remember to leave a bit of a space between them and the walls. If they’re stored too close to the walls, freezing might occur.

Humidity can also be a big problem in cold storage. You’ll know if you’re suffering from this as some of your goods will shrivel. The good news is it’s relatively simple to solve, and installing a few more evaporator coils should do it. Sometimes wooden storage crates are to blame for shrivelling too, as they can suck the moisture from the air and whatever’s stored in them. If this happens, change the container and thoroughly dry the products before you store them. Occasionally, certain agricultural products are more likely to shrivel than others so it’s worth doing a bit of homework about the best way to store these.

Another serious problem is condensation. This will occur on either the outside or inside of the packaging. It can be caused by warm air hitting the packaging which you can sort out by simply moving them somewhere else. And don’t forget to check products near to where you’re experiencing condensation as it could be water dripping from them – or evaporator coils – on to the goods that’s causing the problem. If this is the case, move the goods and make sure you’ve got somewhere for the excess water to drain from the floor.

 

 

 

Safety Checks to keep staff safe around Walk-In Refrigeration

There’s no reason that a walk-in refrigerator needs to be dangerous to your staff… so long as you keep on top of all of the necessary checks and regulations. A lot of health and safety in the workplace is simply about common sense – and walk-in fridges are no exception – however that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take a moment to make sure that you’re up to speed on the most important safety checks:

Brief Your Employees

You shouldn’t let any new staff use the walk-in refrigerators without first ensuring that they’re up to speed on all of the precautions that need to be taken. It’s no good bringing management up to speed but forgetting about the members of staff who make the most use of the equipment!

Check Safety Release Mechanisms

Getting locked inside a walk-in refrigerator could be very dangerous, as the human body is not able to withstand such cold temperatures for extended periods of time. With this in mind, any walk-in refrigerator should come equipped with a safety release mechanism, and you should test this regularly. If it isn’t working properly, employees can’t go in – it’s just not worth the risk.

Keep the Right Humidity

You’ll also want to check the humidity, as letting it get too high could encourage the growth of harmful toxins. 60% humidity is recommended, and anything above 70% becomes dangerous – if you do suspect mould growth, keep the area clear until you can have it thoroughly inspected and cleaned.

Suitable Footwear

Sometimes the smallest factors have the biggest role to play in keeping people safe, and something as simple as a slippery shoe could lead to accidents. Suggest that employees wear shoes or boots that have rubber soles with good grip!

Buddy System

Safety in numbers! Even if everything is as it should be, ensuring that people never head into a walk-in fridge on their own means that if something does go wrong, there’s always somebody available to help out or inform a supervisor.

Follow these tips and you and your staff shouldn’t have anything to worry about – just remember that when it comes to work place risks, there’s no such thing as too careful.

Refrigeration Accident

Mike And his Refrigeration related accident

A service worker – we’ll call him Mike – goes to work inside a commercial refrigerator; it’s almost the end of his shift at the supermarket, but he needs to restock before the fresh products spoil. Each fridge has an emergency handle inside in case the door shuts, but it doesn’t work and Mike becomes locked inside. Nobody can hear him shouting as they busy themselves with evening plans. He wonders who will feed his cat.

After long term exposure – the refrigerator is anywhere between 0 to -20 °C – Mike starts to suffer from hypothermia, which occurs when heat loss is greater than heat production. Mild effects begin within around 30 minutes. Initially, he begins to shake vigorously as would be expected in a cold environment. But as his core temperature further drops, the shivering begins to discontinue before ceasing altogether. As he sits there waiting for help, he becomes  disoriented and confused, unaware of the danger he is in. As time ticks by, he gradually becomes more tired, his breathing increasingly shallower as his blood pressure drops.

A few hours later he looks down at his hands and notices some of his fingers are a peculiar colour, realising frostbite has begun. Mike has been long forgotten by his colleagues, who are getting merry on their Friday night. The reduced flow of blood to his hands makes them excruciating to move, and with little insular clothing he knows there is nothing he can do but hope a neighbour will adopt his cat. One by one his fingers became pale and numb, his frozen tissue wooden to the touch. As he is about to give up all hope, the door swings open. His colleague walks in – of course, the night shift! – unaware of what he was about to find.

Drifting in and out of consciousness, Mike hears loud, unfamiliar noises around him. The environment is not the cold, industrial setting to which he has become accustomed, and a siren reassures him his cat most likely won’t starve.

How to avoid getting locked in the walk-in freezer

Commercial walk-in freezers can be found in just about every commercial kitchen, restaurant and supermarket. When it comes to the food industry, they are an essential requirement – exactly what you need to keep perishable goods and frozen foods at the right temperature (i.e. somewhere between 0°C and -40°C). But what happens if something goes wrong; perhaps you or an employee manages to get trapped in the unforgiving sub-zero conditions? It may seem unlikely, but trust us, we’ve heard plenty of horror stories. It’s incredibly easy for a trip to the walk-in fridge or freezer to escalate, quickly turning into a very dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation.

Here at MTCSS, our team boasts over 50 years’ experience in the cold storage sector and we pride ourselves on our expert knowledge and sound advice. When it comes to the safety of a walk-in freezer, we believe that prevention is definitely the best form of cure. Be precautious, follow our useful tips, and make that you and your employees avoid getting trapped in the first place!

Invest in the Safety of Your Walk-In Fridge or Freezer

A walk-in fridge or walk-in freezer should be sealed as tightly as possible and its doors should be kept shut at all times. This helps to keep it in full working order, maintaining its temperature at an optimal sub-zero level, and it applies to both when the freezer is not in use and when it is occupied by an employee. With these requirements in mind, it is important that a number of precautionary steps are taken, thus ensuring the overall safety and welfare of anyone who is working inside.

Number one on your safety checklist should be to invest in a safety release latch. This is the simplest way to avoid getting trapped in a walk-in freezer – offering a quick and easy escape and a way to free yourself in a matter of seconds.  A safety release latch is, essentially, a door handle that can be accessed from inside the unit. Here at MTCSS, we offer an extensive range of internal release handles for both hinged and sliding doors and we recommend taking the time to choose the right one for your walk-in freezer and fitting it before anyone accesses the room.

Secondly, we also recommend fitting your walk-in fridge or freezer door with one of our entrapment alarm systems. These alarms are a simple yet very effective way to avoid getting trapped for long periods of time. If you do manage to get stuck in the frosty conditions, you can simply pull a cord or push a button to activate the alarm and alert your fellow members of staff. Entrapment alarms often come with a battery back-up in case of a power cut or failure and, for sites with limited numbers of staff, the internal alarm can be attached to several external “remote repeaters”. They can also be set to sound (or send a text message) if there is a problem with your walk-in freezer – such as the door being left open. An incredibly handy investment, that is sure to put your mind at rest!

Useful Tips to Avoid Getting Trapped in Your Walk-In Freezer

Once you have invested in the necessary safety equipment outlined above, there are a number of rules, regulations and general practices that you and other employees should follow, thus maximising the safety of your walk-in fridge or freezer. Of course, it is important to use common sense and think about what you are doing; but here at MTCSS, we also recommend that you:

  1. Conduct a weekly test of all door latches and push knobs, especially the emergency internal safety release latch. If you do find any faults with these, get them fixed or repaired as quickly as possible and make sure nobody uses the walk-in freezer in the meantime.

 

  1. Maintain excellent house-keeping standards at all times. Check that all products are packed correctly, don’t over-stock shelves, and keep your walk-in freezer tidy and spillage-free. This will help to prevent any slips, trips or falls that could, potentially, lead to entrapment.

 

  1. Ensure that only employees who are authorised, and therefore sufficiently trained, have access to the walk-in fridge or freezer. They should know how to conduct a risk assessment, how to maintain their personal safety, and how to avoid getting trapped by using both the internal safety release latch and any entrapment alarms.

 

  1. Communicate with fellow colleagues. Before entering a walk-in freezer, you should notify a colleague of your intentions and how long you will be inside. If you do not return in due course, your colleague is fully aware of your whereabouts and can, therefore, check on your safety. If you do happen to get locked in, it wouldn’t be too long before you are found.

 

  1. Phone signal can sometimes be very weak inside a walk-in fridge or freezer, but if you plan to be in there for a significant length of time, it is still good practice to take your mobile with you. Emergency calls are still possible and, if you do manage to contact a co-worker, this is a very easy (and obvious!) way to avoid being trapped for long periods of time.

 

Getting trapped in a commercial walk-in freezer is quite a scary thought. But it is something that can be completely avoided. Just follow our useful tips and you’ll never have to worry about getting stuck in harsh sub-zero conditions again. If you’d like further advice and guidance regarding the safety of your walk-in fridge or walk-in freezer or you’d like to invest in specialist safety equipment, such as an internal release latch or an entrapment alarm, we’re always here to help. Contact us today on 01886 833381 or email the relevant department at spares@mtcss.co.uk.