By Ben Adams, Jr
Like Santa Claus and his elves at their toy-making tasks in the bitter cold of the North Pole, it takes hardy souls to help keep food products “on ice” and safe for future preparation and consumption. It also takes highly protected transport equipment to help them do their jobs.
I’m referring to the men, women, and machinery of public refrigerated warehousing (PRW).
It’s cold in the refrigerated storage units here at Adams Cold Storage, where the refrigeration temperature of our coolers are kept just above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In the cavernous freezers, though, “cold” doesn’t tell the half of it. The storage rooms for frozen foods are kept in the polar-like range of 2 to 5 degrees below zero. When the evaporators and fans kick in with even the slightest rise in temperature, the wind chill can make the temperature feel more like –18 degrees. Ironically, ice in a freezer warehouse is considered a contaminant by USDA and is unacceptable in today’s food safety environment. Freezer roofs, walls and floors require constant vigilance and maintenance to ensure proper and safe operations.
How does a warehouse worker operate for hours in an environment like this? Bodily tolerance of the cold and great adaptability to well-below-freezing temperatures help — along with a great attitude — but so does about $1,000 worth of special clothing and outerwear. “Freezerwear” includes highly insulated full-body coveralls, gloves, a head cover/face mask, insulated boots, and a hooded coat thickly lined with about 2 inches of cold-protection material.
The mobile equipment our warehouse employees operate is special, too. Our forklifts, electric pallet jacks, and turret trucks are fitted with freezer-proof electronic casings, lights, wheels, seals, and lubricants. Additionally, the devices on wheels are well protected against the considerable condensation that takes place on them when they move from a freezing and dry environment to ambient and more humid air. Water and electrical circuitry don’t play nicely together.
Warehouse work in PRW isn’t a job for just anyone. It takes special people to work together on the very cold front lines in this business, and a few dozen are right here at ACS. We appreciate and thank them all.
From all of us at Adams Cold Storage to all of you, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
BIO: Ben Adams, Jr., is an owner and president of Adams Cold Storage, LLC, in Auburndale. He has been directly involved in citrus production, warehousing and distribution, as well as state and community support, since 1980. His facility incorporates some 250,000 square feet of multitemperature warehousing, and is AA rated by BRC-International.