If you run a warehouse, especially one containing food and drink, then you probably want to ensure that you avoid outbreaks of contamination in your facility. Needless to say, contamination could render your efforts useless as bacteria penetrate your goods and make them unsafe to consume, negatively affecting your bottom line and causing hazards.
Although many warehouses are still using old-style wooden pallets for their warehousing, we would highly recommend using plastic pallets instead if you would like to avoid contamination. Why? Because in New Orleans a study found that 43% of wooden pallets tested positive for E. coli, salmonella, and listeria, all of which can wreak havoc on the human body.
Here we offer you some tips for avoiding contamination outbreaks in your warehouse!
1. Consider using plastic pallets
Plastic pallets are much less likely to become contaminated due to their very nature. Wood is a porous natural material which can easily become damp and rotted, posing unique dangers to its stability. Furthermore, the organic properties of wood also mean that it is susceptible to bacteria and infections – acting as a home for numerous harmful bacteria which can then make their way into goods stored on the wooden pallets. Wood also cannot be cleaned very easily, particularly the kind of wood which is used for traditional pallets.
On the other hand, plastic pallets are non-porous and they are not made from organic materials, meaning that bacteria seldom survive on them. Furthermore, even if plastic pallets do become contaminated, they can be easily sanitized and cleaned effectively, thereby killing any contaminants that find their way onto the plastic pallet’s surface. This makes them ideal for storing fresh produce, as they can be easily cleaned between loads, providing a secure and sterile surface to transport high-risk goods on. This is why plastic pallets are an upgrade to warehouse safety.
2. Safeguard equipment and employees
There are many things you can do in order to keep your equipment clean and secure. For example, you should encourage your employees to wash their hands on a regular basis, especially after going to the toilet. Regular handwashing makes it harder for cross-contamination to occur, reducing contamination risks. However, you should also take it a few steps further if possible, installing epoxy-coated walls and flooring materials which are designed to keep bacteria at bay and improve safety. Also, consider fixing equipment to the floor and replacing any trench drains with can drains or removable box drains which can make clean-up easier and more thorough.
3. Use inside/outside machinery
If your warehouse has both inside and outside areas, consider splitting your equipment such as forklifts and pallet jacks into “inside” equipment and “outside” equipment. Generally speaking, the outside equipment is more likely to become contaminated with bacteria, so separating the two provides you with a sort of barrier which prevents too much contamination.
4. Perform routine tests
You should establish routines for certain tests, making sure that your routinely clean your machinery and test it for contamination. If you’re working with newer equipment which you have less experience with, you should ideally test it for contamination before and after every process it is used for, ensuring that it is not prone to picking up or fostering bacteria. Assuming the equipment passes these tests repeatedly, you should be able to start performing random spot checks instead, periodically checking that the equipment is still germ-free.
5. Sanitize pallets between use
It doesn’t matter if you’re using plastic pallets or wooden ones – you should always sanitize your pallets between uses, especially if they have been carrying high-risk food items. If you don’t clean your pallets between uses, you run the risk of cross-contamination, something which is very common when working with raw meats and other high-risk produce. The National Consumers League recently found that Listeria was present on 3% of warehouse pallets, and even though plastic pallets fared better than their wooden counterparts, they are still not impervious to bacteria, especially if they’re kept outside in vulnerable conditions.
6. Work with reliable partners
If just one party in a supply chain is not following contamination best practices, then they are invalidating all the efforts of the other parties in the supply chain. As a result, it is crucial that you do your homework and work with companies who prioritize food safety, otherwise, you’ll be putting in a lot of effort for no good reason! The FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) is looking to enforce stricter guidelines for transporting food safely, although the act is still young and many stakeholders do not follow good food safety practices.
We hope you enjoyed these tips on reducing contamination in your warehouse, something which can be easily achieved by using plastic pallets. If you’d like to know more about our plastic pallet solutions, get in touch with PTM Solutions today!