Conducting the Investigation
The health issues, resulting from unrecognized sources in the warehouse, will require a critical analysis of the safety measures and protocols implemented by the warehouse management. The initial step in conducting the investigation will be to determine whether product and warehouse management complies with stipulated safety and health protocols. This will ensure that the prevalent conditions in the warehouse assure and maintain the integrity of food products. Additionally, returned and retained products should be kept separately to ensure that damaged and spoilt products do not mix with authentic goods. This will ensure that any toxic substances, that may be inherent in returned or spoilt products, do not spread. Therefore, the investigation would seek for ascertaining that retuned products are held separately, designate areas. An accurate log of all products in the warehouse, their locations and conditions, must be up to date (Robertson, 2012).
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These aim to ensure that stipulated storage procedures are adhered to; therefore, the health hazard does not arise from stored goods. Subsequently, the investigation of the safety and health requirements of the storage facility will be critical. This will entail structural integrity to ensure that stored goods are kept in the appropriate environmental conditions. The integrity of the refrigerated systems will be investigated to ascertain their viability and compliance to the stipulated refrigerated standards.
Furthermore, the investigation will seek for ascertaining whether the warehouse has sufficient drainage and waste disposal systems, ventilation systems according to warehousing standards and essential equipments such as gas and heat detectors (Robertson, 2012). This will significantly contribute in the determination of causes of the health hazard. The investigation will also seek to determine whether docks are maintained adequately for products’ safety and the integrity of the warehouse is preserved. The investigation will entail for inspection of the dock and shipping areas to verify the efficiency and integrity of these areas. The investigation will also seek to determine that all workers are in good health condition and operate under hygienic conditions to devoid of safety and health hazards.
Identifying Possible Sources of the Problem
While the warehouse management has implemented a refrigeration system which ensures the integrity of products in the freezer; they may have neglected to consider the environmental conditions within the rest of the warehouse. This oversight can be attributed to the health challenges facing the workers at the warehouse. Therefore, given the structural conditions of the warehouse, it is likely to attribute the problems facing the workers to gas emissions within the warehouse.
While the refrigerated area is locked to prevent warm air from getting in or cold air from getting out, the management has also sealed the rest of the warehouse and the loading docks. Furthermore, there are some gas operated fork-lifts which operate within the warehouse and the docks. Since, these machines emit carbon based exhaust fumes; the warehouse is essentially filled with carbon based gas emissions. Consequently, when the exhaust fumes come into contact with the moisture in the refrigerated area, the formation of carbon gases such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide is highly likely (Ghosh, Das, Bagchi & Smarta, 2012). Therefore, the dizziness and sickness experienced by workers can be attributed to carbon based gas emission within the warehouse. Since, the warehouse has not implemented any environmental detection systems and control measures; the accumulation of harmful gases goes undetected; leading to the highlighted symptoms by the workers.
Additionally, the warehouse has sealed the warehouse and the docking areas with special seals to prevent air from coming in or out; therefore, the harmful gases continue to accumulate within the warehouse. The seals prevent fresh air from getting into the warehouse; therefore, creating a hazardous working environment for workers. The accumulation of carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide would go unnoticed since these gases have no discernible odours; furthermore, the absence of environmental detection systems results in the accumulation of these gasses without anyone noticing until health issues begin to emerge (Robertson, 2012).
Standards Applicable to Possible Sources
International Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) have stipulated standards, which ensure the health and safety standards of food distribution warehouses, followed and fully implemented. These standards stipulated that warehouses and any other designate storage areas must be spacious, for easy access during inspection and cleaning processes. Therefore, these areas must be in good orderand clean at all times (Sun, 2011).
The ventilation systems in food distribution warehouses are particularly critical; hence, products in warehouse must be stored in such a way that they do not block vents or blowers. This ensures that air is circulated efficiently in the warehouse. Products in the warehouse must be at least six inches off the floor. Slip sheets may be used to store units of products which are complete or they can be stored using unit wrapping on the floor if the complete item is packaged in riqid and sealed containers; however, this can only be done where sufficient and effective pest management and sanitation measures are in place.
Refrigerated sections of the warehouse or storage areas must have their temperatures consistently monitored and controlled; to ensure that the appropriate temperatures, required for the stored contents, are maintained consistently (Sun, 2011). The warehouse walls and floors must be additionally free from damage; floors under racks, pallets or isle ways must be regularly cleaned and free from accumulated debris, broken pallets, spilled products or dirt.
The shipping and dock areas must be regularly cleaned to eliminate any debris, water or food materials; consequently, these areas must be subjected to a master sanitation program. Meanwhile, double stacking of palletized products, which are complete, should employ the use of slip sheets in order to eliminate the occurrence of contaminants from damaged or dirty pallets (Sun, 2011). Since, freezers and coolers are critical to preserve the integrity of stored products; they should be subjected to continuous electronic surveillance with temperature detectors and recorders. This will ensure that deviations in temperature are accordingly noted and acted.
After conduction investigations, it is recommended that the warehouse separate its refrigeration section from the rest of the warehouse, in so doing there will be no need to seal the warehouse in a bid to preserve internal temperatures of the freezer. The separation from the freezer and the rest of the warehouse will ensure there that accumulating gasses from fork-lifts and other machinery; within the warehouse it does not react with the moist air around the freezer forming harmful gases. Since, the health issues reported by workers in the warehouse are gas related, it is recommended that blowers and vents should be installed to ensure sufficient circulation of air (Assuming the warehouse has no vents or blowers).
While the freezer has all the essential detection systems, the rest of the warehouse should have environmental detection systems in proper place; therefore, it is highly recommended that environmental detection systems should be put in place for early detection of harmful environmental conditions. The rail car lines should not end at proximity with the production area, since, the exhaust emissions from the rail cars might have a high affinity of compromising the integrity of the items under production (Assuming the production area is open to the rest of the warehouse).
Therefore, it is recommended that the warehouse should be restructured to ensure that the production area is sealed from the rail cars and are at opposite ends of the docking area. This will ensure that warehouse operations have a chronological order and separation of the warehouse functions is implemented. In doing so, there will be limited contact of unnecessary potential contaminants. These recommendations are aimed at ascertaining that the integrity of the warehouse is maintained; while enforcing the health and safety measures in order to prevent such health issues as those, indicated by workers in the warehouse.