A: Absolutely, structural fiberglass (FRP) is an excellent building material for this kind of facility. Mainly because at the end of the shift, they have to clean the facilities. Typically, it’s highly corrosive bleach to clean the equipment and there’s where FRP’s corrosion resistance comes into play. It’s used typically in access level platforms, trench grating, even in stair towers used to access mechanical equipment.
If you’ve watched any of our vlogs or used our structural fiberglass products, then you know how durable FRP is. One of the most defining ways it shows that durability is its remarkable corrosive resistance. Whether it’s used in marine conditions, environments with acidic substance exposure, or offshore oil rigs—it’s unaffected by corrosives. This one simple characteristic of FRP makes it highly desirable in many industrial applications.
What Are Corrosives And Why Is Structural FRP A Better Choice?
We hear the term corrosive quite a bit within the industrial world as it’s a factor in safety protocols. However, do you know what a corrosive is rather than types of corrosive substances? For example, most people know that hydrochloric acid is corrosive to metals. But, how many know what even makes a substance corrosive or not? Let’s start with the definition of a corrosive:
[ kuh–roh-siv ]
Adjective: having the quality of corroding or eating away; erosive
So, to expound on that, corrosives are any materials (usually an acid, base, or some other chemical) that can destroy other substances. Sometimes those substances may be human tissue, or they might be metal walkways and support beams. Either way, corrosives can be quite harmful to your health, compromise structure safety, or injure you directly through contact in inhalation.
Naturally, our focus is on how corrosives react with traditional structural building materials vs. structural fiberglass. Now, there are many corrosives out there that are well known to corrode metal and wood such as:
- Hydrochloric Acid
- Sodium Hydroxide
- Hydrogen Peroxide
In fact, there are many corrosive substances out there that are well known. However, did you know one of the most overlooked corrosives is blood? Yes, that’s right, due to the minerals such as sugar, salt, and amino acids in blood, it can corrode metal.
So, you can imagine in a meat processing plant, metal catwalks, trench grates, and other metal structures will be exposed to blood regularly. Now, imagine how much damage all that constant corrosive exposure can do over time. How much revenue would be lost due to an OSHA non-compliance shut down caused by a rusted out structure?
Thankfully structural fiberglass offers a complete solution for this problem. One that costs less overall and is far more durable.
Structural Fiberglass Is Unaffected By Corrosives
The elements in blood that make it corrosive to metal are harmless to structural fiberglass. As mentioned, while metal corrodes with exposure to a variety of substances—structural fiberglass does not. In fact, due to its durability in other aspects as well, fiberglass structures can last upwards of 25 years. This means you could replace aging and weakened steel structures with fiberglass that would last at least twice as long.
In addition to being unaffected by blood, it is also impervious to harsher chemicals that are used to clean the facilities. Things like bleach and some cleansing agents that use acids, wreak havoc on metal creating a catch-22 situation. You need to thoroughly clean the facilities, but the cleaners used cause damage to the structures. It puts many companies between a rock and a hard place.
Therefore, structural fiberglass is becoming more and more popular, especially in these hard economic times. Meat processing plants are struggling to maintain production with COVID-19 related safety protocols. Being able to properly disinfect their facilities without shortening the life of their structures would be advantageous.
How Meat Processing Plants Are Benefitting
Meat processing plants benefit greatly when they convert their facility structures to incorporate structural fiberglass. Everything from access walkways and trench grating, to hygienic fire doors and other structures. This switch to structural fiberglass has already paid off for some of those that made the switch early on. New clients that make the switch find it very affordable since installation costs are a fraction of steel and require no expensive machinery.
Not only is it saving money in the long-run by using long-lasting materials, but structural fiberglass is also mitigating bacteria breakouts. You constantly see it in the news—companies like Blue Bell, Del Monte, Tyson having to recall products. Pathogen contaminations such as Listeria, E.coli, and others can lead to a much larger problem than a recall. There could be massive class-action lawsuits, loss of consumer trust, fines, and a shutdown.
The problem is that meat and food processing plants are typically housed in old industrial buildings that have seen better days. These buildings are built old-fashioned with right-angled construction, angled steel, concrete block, and stainless-steel panels. This translates into bacteria, mold, and pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli having thousands of places to hide
The challenge posed with Listeria, for example, is that it is adept at escaping detection. Not only can it thrive in cold climates, but it can also aerosolize and travel in the air. It can even attach itself to people and equipment despite freezing temperatures. This makes it very hard for a processing plant to turn a profit as a shutdown can mean millions of lost revenues.
Structural FRP Retrofits
In these aging buildings though, pathogens and equipment maintenance related contamination isn’t the only source of the problem. In addition to concerns about bacteria, contamination also comes from facility maintenance issues. Problems such as chipping paint from a concrete wall, cracked concrete, and nooks and crannies that collect dirt, mold, and other contaminants. The USDA has stringent guidelines for meat processing plants regarding the facility design. They must have certain features such as washable walls, floor drains for blood, sterile kill floors, and many more. This is why it is so important to have materials that can withstand the caustic environment. 24 hours a day, these facilities are exposed to corrosives, water, and structures endure extreme physical impact. FRP manufacturers such as DEFI are making it possible for plants to retrofit their facilities using FRP as the base. Some of the structures being used include:
Hygienic Fire Doors
Structural fiberglass fire doors are being used in many plants today. Because FRP is an inorganic material, it is incredibly strong while remaining lightweight and highly resistant to impact. Also, bacteria have nowhere to hide as the doors can be hosed down with water as much as needed. FRP is not porous and as it’s fire-resistant, it is the perfect material for hygienic doors in fire hazard areas of a plant.
Walkway and Trench Grating
Processing plants need to have access walkways to large machinery to make repairs and to clean. Usually, those walkways are constructed of stainless steel and steel grating—but the environment is very corrosive. FRP offers the same performance without being susceptible to corrosion; a broken walkway can cause a shutdown to repair it. With steel, that repair could take over a week due to the weight of steel and equipment needed to move it into place.
Structural fiberglass walkways, on the other hand, are lightweight, easy to carry, and installed using regular tools. The grating used is a perfect replacement for the walkways as well as trench grates over drains.
To comply with OSHA standards, walkways as mentioned above must also include handrails to mitigate fall risks. These handrails in steel are very heavy and depending on the size of the plant, can strain the building’s foundation. Usually, concrete has to be poured to reinforce the foundation so it can bear the additional weight. FRP is lightweight and can be installed in a few hours, not a few months.
Structural FRP Is The Future For Any Facility
No matter if a meat processing plant, printing company, paper mill, or oil refinery—FRP is good for business. It’s good for profit margins, and it’s good for safety and risk management. Let DEFI show you how our structural fiberglass can improve your bottom line. Contact us today to speak with a consultant.