Urethane concrete flooring systems have demonstrated excellent performance in wet food processing environments and in areas subject to severe thermal cycling, especially within harsh conditions present in meat processing facilities. Meat processing and dairy processing facilities provide some of the most challenging environments for concrete flooring. The following factors must be considered before choosing an appropriate flooring material for these environments.
- Cleanable – The floor covering must provide a cleanable surface
- Chemical resistance – The flooring material must be resistance to a wide range of chemicals through significant variations in pH and temperature
- High compressive strength – The flooring system must have very high compressive and flexural strength to withstand heavy loads and abrasion while maintaining a safe surface for foot and wheeled traffic.
- Hygienic conditions – The flooring system should not contribute to the growth of bacteria, mold, or mildew.
Unique flooring conditions in a meat processing plant
The ambient conditions in a meat processing plant are two ends of the extreme. The ‘clean’ sides of meat processing and further processing plants are generally cool during production, while the ‘dirty’ sides are normally very warm. Many area on both sides are constantly wet or immersed in water or water slurries of animal waste, animal blood, fat, and other by-products. Further processing areas include cooking operations and/or cryogenic processes that can subject flooring to significant temperature variations. Cleaning and sanitation operations can also subject the floor to significant thermal cycling.
Most meat processing plants use strong alkaline cleaners in their operations due to their effectiveness on grease, oil, and other organic matter. Some plants use live steam to clean and degrease, which can subject the flooring to dramatic thermal shock resulting in the possible spalling of concrete.
Sugar, animal fat, vegetable oils, animal and vegetable proteins, wheat gluten, corn syrup and countless other foods and food additives will attack exposed concrete due to their acidic nature. These acidic compounds react with the alkaline cement paste, which is the binder for the concrete. This weakens the concrete and makes it more susceptible to damage from impact, abrasion, thermal cycling, and further chemical attack.
Most meat processing facility floors present slip hazards. They are almost always wet or damp, and animal fats or oils are usually present. Plant personnel must have secure footing, particularly when working around hazardous equipment and/or heavy moving loads. A floor topping system must provide the required anti-slip properties in order to prevent slip and fall accidents. The flooring covering that will allow subsequent redressing of the worn anti-slip profile without requiring the removal of an otherwise sound topping is also very desirable.
Heavy traffic and loads
Process plant floors are also subjected to heavy forklift and pallet-jack traffic. Most damage to the floor occurs near isolation joints, construction joints, etc. This is due mainly to impact resulting from the dynamic load shifting from one side of the discontinuity to the other. Heavily loaded steel wheel traffic can destroy concrete and mineral aggregate filled topping systems. Heavy traffic will also degrade the non-slip performance of a floor system over time as it wears.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) place strict requirements on the operation of food and beverage processing facilities in order to ensure the safety of the American food supply. Plants are subject to significant fines, offense related to shut downs, and even plant closures for failure to comply with pertinent regulations. Polymer flooring systems must not hinder the plant’s compliance with USDA and FDA requirements.
Urethane Concrete flooring systems are highly recommended in meat processing and dairy processing plants. systems consist of waterborne urethane resins with Portland cement, and graded aggregates to provide fast cure, moisture tolerant systems with no strong odors or flammability hazards. They cure quickly in the cool and moist conditions typical of meat processing plants. These systems provide very good chemical resistance and abrasion resistance. They withstand organic acids and common cleaning and sanitation chemicals. They provide excellent impact and abrasion resistance. Because their composition is similar to that of concrete, their coefficient of thermal expansion is very close to that of concrete. Thus, cementitious urethanes provide the best resistance to delamination from thermal cycling versus all other resinous flooring systems. The working time of urethane concrete is very short, so projects must be thoughtfully planned and executed by skilled installers.
Urethane concrete flooring systems have demonstrated excellent performance in wet food processing environments and in areas subject to severe thermal cycling, especially within harsh conditions present in meat processing facilities.
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