Food Storage and Preparation Refrigerant Safety

A typical grocery store has between 20 and 50 coolers or chilled food storage areas and refrigerated workspaces. Each of these areas is cooled with a refrigerant system which can leak, and many of the refrigerant coils and pumps are located in unventilated or poorly ventilated spaces where an employee can be exposed without any fresh air to dilute the fumes. This creates a serious risk of asphyxiation.

Refrigerant leaks can impact the store’s bottom line in multiple ways:

  1. A refrigerant leak can cause valuable food to spoil – resulting in lost inventory as well as disappointed customers.
  2. A refrigerant leak causes the loss of expensive refrigerant.
  3. Any refrigerant leak in a confined space can be a hazard to the health of a grocery store employee.

In the fast-paced grocery store environment – with quick-turning inventory, spoilage and low margins, it might be tempting to overlook a Life Safety System that protects both employees and customers.  While many grocery stores have acknowledged the hazards of a refrigerant leak, a Refrigerant Monitoring system is often treated as an afterthought – designed and installed by unqualified personnel, with improper sensor placements and inadequate maintenance, calibration and certification.

A Simple Sandwich Making Operation?

Food preparation is a growing business for many retail grocery outlets. The need for adequate food storage and preparation safety has opened the grocery industry to hazards more typically associated with mass production food facilities.

In one recent incident, a food worker working alone making sandwiches became ill and lost consciousness. He was discovered by a supervisor who called for help. Emergency responders were able to revive the worker and a subsequent investigation revealed a leak in the nitrogen injection equipment used to preserve the packaged sandwich. The resulting release of nitrogen lowered the level of oxygen available resulting in the employee’s loss of consciousness.

Carbon Dioxide(CO2) and Nitrogen are hazardous by their potential to create an oxygen-deficient atmosphere in the event of an unplanned release. Whenever Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen are present in a closed area (like a refrigerated food preparation area).  Installing a refrigerant monitoring system to detect low oxygen levels is critical to monitor oxygen levels are a critical Life Safety function.

Life Safety Systems

Gas Detection and Leak Detection systems inside grocery stores are truly Life Safety systems.  Identification of the hazards is critical – whether the hazards exist around large chillers and lockers keeping food cold, or in retail units where customers would be directly exposed in the event of a refrigerant leak, or in a food preparation area where nitrogen is injected inside a package to help maintain freshness and prolong salability – protecting employees and customers from hazardous material exposure is vitally important.

Proper system design  – including sensor placement that reflects the characteristics of the hazards – is critical.  And finally, regular maintenance including system calibration and certification is essential.

Ino-Tek focuses on the design and maintenance of Code-Compliant Gas Detection, Leak Detection and Life Safety systems. Our experts understand the hazards and the building and fire codes that apply – ensuring protection for customers, employees, and the store’s bottom line.

Need a Code-Compliant Life Safety System?

Whether you are building a new facility or have an existing one, talk to one of our Field Service Engineers to make sure it meets all compliance requirements.