As one might expect, various forms of water can cause some of the biggest problems with cold chain integrity and worker safety. When warm air infiltrates cooler environments, condensation – and in some cases, frost – can develop.
Condensation and frost on the floor can cause safety hazards inside the facility for workers who might slip. Furthermore, condensation can lead to diminished product quality and compromise the safety of food and pharmaceuticals. Cold storage facilities can’t simply cite building defects as an excuse and are expected to comply with legislation and best-practice by finding verifiable and documentable solutions to frost and condensation build-up.
Frequently called “sweating slab syndrome”, condensation forming on the ground is a common problem in facilities with concrete floors. This usually happens due to warmer air entering through open loading dock doors or gaps between trailers and the perimeter of the dock opening during loading and unloading. Because negative pressure is typical of most facilities, warmer outdoor air (especially in refrigerated/cooler dock areas) typically rushes inside.
Extremely harmful condensation can also form on products that have high water content, like fruits and vegetables, which can cause spoilage. Even products that don’t immediately spoil can be compromised and become harmful to consumers who eat them later. Condensation is a common factor in many listeria cases.
Many facilities combat this problem with environmental seals and shelters at loading dock openings. The most advanced dock shelters can eliminate virtually all gaps along the dock perimeter to minimize air infiltration, as well as any debris or pests.
HVLS fans also play a role in mitigating condensation build-up on and near the floor. Through a process called destratification, HVLS fans unify air temperatures from floor to ceiling. An HVLS fan can transform a tall facility with a 8°C difference from ceiling to floor into a single degree. Instead of cool air settling on the ground where warm air can condense, temperature and humidity levels that become uniform diminish condensation development.
Similar to condensation, frost can develop near especially cold areas. It’s not uncommon to find frost near doors and door openings that separate freezers from warmer working areas. This frost can lead to worker safety issues and also increased risk for air infiltration in instances that affect freezer doors closing.
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Image: HVLS fans help minimise condensation by creating uniform temperature and humidity levels.