Connection Guest Column
Facility Risk: Does Your Plumbing Infrastructure Affect Your
By Ken Fry, PE, LEED® AP
Often overlooked and critical
for food safety are the plumbing systems installed in your
facility. More often than not, these systems are inherited
from the previous tenant or plant manager. What is out of
sight may be out of mind, but there are things you can
survey easily to look for signs of trouble and keep your
facility out of “hot water” down the road.
A quick walk through can give a good indication of whether
or not your systems might not be up to code and be a ticking
contamination time bomb for your facility. As you review
your plant, ask yourself the following:
• Does water pool in areas and not readily drain quickly?
• Are there leaks, visible drips or wet areas that are a
constant cause for concern?
• Are the drains in your facility stainless steel? Do they
have easily removable covers for ease of cleaning? Do they
have removable sediment baskets? Are the corners inside the
drain radiused to eliminate buildup of solids?
• Is piping in wash down areas properly installed with
stand-offs to allow ease of cleaning behind the pipes?
• Is the insulation on the piping protected with washable
• Does the equipment connected to your domestic hot and cold
water systems have the appropriate backflow protection?
• Do you constantly have a problem providing adequate flow
and temperature with your hot water wash down systems?
If you answered yes to more than three of these questions,
then you might be setting your facility up for possible
product contamination problems and potential lawsuits.
Regardless of how good your product is, one incident of
product contamination can ruin your business and your
reputation for good. So what to do to avoid this nightmare
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HIt is not as dire as
it may seem. Putting together a plan now can save you
headaches later. Start with addressing the most critical
areas and turn this into an opportunity to take your food
safety to a new level. Here are some possible steps you can
take to ensure your plant is on the right track to a safe
and sanitary operation:
• Review your HACCP plan. Where are the critical areas where
problems pose the biggest threat? Make these areas your
number one priority.
• Talk to your people on the line. They often know where the
problems lie better than you.
• Do plant inspections and walk-throughs on a regular basis
during normal plant operations and after the line is shut
down. Some problems may only stand out when things quiet
• Document your existing plumbing systems and know where the
weak links lie. Identify these areas and make sure
maintenance is done to prevent little problems from becoming
• Review your maintenance records and look for trends in
equipment failures and problems. When viewed as a whole,
these records may point to a systemic problem.
With a little forethought and attention to detail you can
make a big impact on reducing problems and the potential for
serious issues in the future. A little diligence now will go
a long way to protect the future of your business and the
health of your customers.
Kenneth L. Fry, PE, LEED® AP, is with BD Engineering, LLC.
For more assistance in resolving any of the above concerns
and challenges, please contact us at