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Courtney Thorne introduces Altra advances

Wireless nurse call specialist, Courtney Thorne, has developed its HTM08-03 compliant ‘Altra’ system with the addition of new accessories, a new software architecture and a three year warranty as standard with all installations.

Designed specifically for hospital environments, the Altra Health range from Courtney Thorne offers Department of Health HTM08-03 bedhead services compliance with all areas of the stringent guidelines. The system offers unparalleled wireless reliability, utilising the dedicated European 869.2Mhz social alarms frequency to avoid any risk of interference, along with ‘listen before talk’ anti-collision technology and call acknowledgement to underpin call integrity.

Bluetooth and WiFi sensors have now been incorporated into the ground-breaking wireless nurse call to enable full connectivity without using any of the hospital’s administrative bandwidth thanks to a dedicated internal WiFi network. The system can be integrated with hospitals’ DECT telephone systems to enable alerts to be answered by interdisciplinary nursing and clinical teams located across the building and further integration capabilities with Android and iOS devices are currently under development.

Explains Courtney Thorne’s Managing Director, Graham Vickrage: “Our in-house software development team has created an entirely new architecture for the Altra system that is not available for any other nurse call range.

The system has been designed to provide complete peace of mind and accountability for NHS Trusts and private hospital operators while offering cost savings of up to 40 per cent when compared to hard wired systems along with the reassurance of a three year warranty.”

Wireless installation of the Altra system is fast and simple, with minimum disruption to patients and no noise or dust. The system can be programmed and re-programmed remotely to meet the hospital’s changing needs and all calls are displayed on the ’Altra Touch’ touch screen unit. The Altra Touch unit also collects call data, response times and call duration information to aid with management and planning of staffing levels and enables detailed reports to be generated for complete accountability and evidencing.

Courtney Thorne has now also introduced the new ‘Altra MiniTouch’ unit to the range, offering a smaller wall-mountable touch screen display that can be located in communal areas to provide call alerts and location information for staff without requiring them to return to the nurses station to consult the Altra Touch.

A number of innovations have now also been included in the Altra Health range to address issues of wandering and patient falls, providing discreet wireless solutions for dementia, geriatric, paediatric and mental health environments. In addition to traditional call buttons (Altra Call), pull cords (Altra Pull) and bathroom/toilet pull cords (Altra Assist), the range will also include wireless pressure mats and floor sensors along with ‘Altra Guard’ door sensors and an ‘Altra Wear’ pendant that can be worn on patients’ wrists or carried on a lanyard around their neck, giving them access to a call button when they are away from their bed.

The wireless Altra Wear pendant also ensure that staff are automatically alerted in the event of a fall. The pendant combines multiple sensors and a digital microphone to detect a fall and send a location signal to the Altra Touch unit so that help can arrive quickly, even if the patient is unable to raise the alarm.

The system also includes the stylish ‘Altra Light’ alternative to a traditional hard wired lamp system, which can be mounted outside patients’ rooms to provide an at-a-glance indication of calls made.

Graham continues: “Wireless nurse call systems offer significant benefits over hard wired alternatives because they are so easy to install, scale up and reconfigure, helping to futureproof the installation.

The Altra range takes these advantages a step further with an integrated suite of hardware and accessories all integrated with an advanced software architecture that offers robust signal integrity and data capture. The result is a best value system that our customers can rely on; and we’re so confident of that we’re providing a three year warranty!”


BIM takes protection to another level

The growing use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) is becoming significant with central government requiring the use of it on all of its projects. Here, Bob Glendenning of Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine Coatings Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) tracks the relevance and benefits of BIM for protection of complex modern steel structures.

The level of protection afforded on any building where large numbers of people move about has to be proportionate to the structure. If this falls short, the time the protection provides for rescue services in the event of a real fire could be reduced and potentially the load bearing capacity of the steel breached much more quickly than anticipated, threatening the safe evacuation of people.

Increased knowledge of how real buildings react in fire and of how real fires behave has led many authorities to acknowledge that improvements in fire safety may now be possible in many instances using the BIM process and technology.

The essence of Buildings Information Modelling (BIM) is to support complex supply chains with a platform which helps collaboration, essentially enabling data sharing.

On major projects such as those rising in our major cities, there can be issues of logistics and handover of one phase to another, from concept, design, installation of products and application of fire protection.

The principles of the BIM process bring together all the data associated with that project into one place.

The UK Government’s requirement for Level 2 BIM on all central government projects means the construction industry wants to know which suppliers are BIM compliant.

Indeed, the British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA) for steelwork contractors has provided detailed training to more than 100 of its members, and has launched the Steel Construction BIM Charter. This means that BCSA Member companies can now be certified as meeting the requirements of both PAS 91:2013 and PAS 1192-2:2013.

The certification process requires companies to carry out an online assessment, which is then followed up by an onsite audit.

Certified companies are provided with a comprehensive document summarising the company’s BIM capability, which they can then provide to the supply chain.

The BCSA’s online directory means clients and main contractors can see which companies have been assessed against the BIM Charter, with the Charter providing a simple way to prequalify steelwork contractors.

Under BIM, an essential component addresses budgeting and cost estimating, known as 5D. This can be a valuable source of information to reach better estimates, reduce assumptions, and create a better dialogue early in a project.

Ideally, BIM 5D is used either to link model elements to unit cost or assembly processes to produce an estimate. The BIM trend of collaboration and real-time input continues to bring efficiencies to cost controls and is creating a shift in input as data, and the ability to report from the field begins to replace input from the office.

The transparency of those in the supply chain who follow the principles of BIM can help in making previously challenging projects financially sound, fit-for-purpose and more importantly – safe.

Benefits in the process are apparent for main contractors, architects, structural engineers, steel fabricators and site inspectors. Being able to access a BIM model collaboratively allows much more efficiency and versatility, particularly on projects that have global players where project team members may reside in different geographies around the world. All can access the model over the internet including cloud sharing technology as well.

At Sherwin-Williams, our own fire design estimation tool – Firetex Design Estimator 2.0 – is offering a new calculated solution to the issues of fire engineering safety, and embraces BIM with an integrated tool allowing 3D modelling data to be directly linked into the software.

This offers the capability of providing calculations for coatings thicknesses of all shapes and sizes of steel sections, fire engineering, and in the case of cellular beams, allows for any configuration of web apertures to be seamlessly designed and passed back into the model.

We believe this software helps to eliminate any personal interpretations or assumptions. Many of the buildings currently being designed present difficulties further down the line in terms of fire protection design and this software supports the industry in keeping pace with advances in design and materials.

For the steelwork fabricator, the approach under BIM means they can manage the whole process from concept to design through to delivery of materials on site including the off-site applied fire protection. The same principle could also be adopted for use with on-site applied fire protection, offering advantages to the main contractor and eventually to the owner/operator.

Once the fire protection properties have been passed back into the BIM model, future interested stakeholders can access any of that information to manage many areas such as inspection and onward building fire maintenance as well as building insurers. Even fire and rescue services could create strategies using this data.

Under the current Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, those responsible for commercial buildings including the employer, owner, or any other person who has control of any part of the premises, must carry out a detailed fire risk assessment identifying the risks and hazards in the premises.

The responsible person usually has to call in a fire engineer or qualified person to assess the risk and make calculations about fire engineering design depending on the type of building and the risk.

Based on the findings of the assessment, employers need to ensure that adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a fire.

Although fire deaths are falling, insurers are concerned at increasing fire losses, which are at the highest level ever experienced since records began, totalling around £3.4 million per day across the UK.

Designing structures in the ambient state with no consideration for the fire condition presents unacceptable risk.

Our current industry procedures mean that this can easily happen and the burden of ensuring fire safe design, which may well include additional costly measures, is placed with either the wrong party or, in the worst case, missed altogether.

The danger in cutting corners is that the fire safety measures will be compromised. We believe the responsibility in modern building design should lie with the designer up to handover of the building and then, with full knowledge of all fire safety requirements, it becomes the responsibility of the owner-manager.

Using modern fire protection design as part of BIM can play a major part in delivering a safe, cost-effective project which meets the expectations and agreements made by all parties at the outset.

For more information contact Sherwin-Williams, tel: +44 (0)1204 521 771 or visit


The Mary Rose released from her ‘hotbox’ for the first time since 1545

Culmination of a 34-year restoration project with 16th century maritime engineering protected by The IMC Group’s 21st century Hanwell technology

The Mary Rose was built in 1510 and was in service until she sank in 1545. The sunken ship then lay beneath the water for more than 400 years until she was discovered in the Solent in 1971 by a project team initiated by Alexander McKee and the Southsea branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club and finally raised in 1982 by more than 500 divers, archaeologists and scientists who developed new techniques in diving and conservation.

A ‘ship hall’ was actually constructed over the ship in the dry dock, located in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, in an ambitious and challenging conservation of this officially-listed monument and 2013 saw the opening of a wonderful new museum.

During the museum’s construction the ship’s hull was contained inside a sealed ‘hotbox’, and in April 2013 the polyethylene glycol (PEG) sprays that gradually replaced the water within the timber were turned off, and the process of controlled air-drying began. Ducts were placed evenly around the ship for the air-drying process to ensure that the ship dried evenly, minimising distortion and cracking of the wood that would occur if some sections dried faster than others.

Specialist engineers from Hanwell – part of the British-based IMC Group – were called in to install the firm’s sophisticated technology and 30 environmental monitoring sensors were placed on or near the hull, continuously checking and recording temperature and humidity. The ship is now sufficiently dry to remove the ducts, lower the intensity of the drying system, and open the museum up further to the public.

IMC’s Hanwell technology continues to play a crucial role in protecting the historic ship’s safe passage back into the limelight, explains the Trust’s Head of Conservation & Collections Care, Eleanor Schofield. “The Hanwell monitoring system was easy to set up to give us all the data we needed and we link it to alarms, which are set so that if one sensor reports an environmental factor has become out of tolerance we can react quickly. We currently have the limits set at 50-58% RH and 18-20C and we’ve had a few alarms, but the system enables us to get the problem sorted quickly, as well as helping us with routine maintenance.”

The IMC Group’s Engineering Director, Dr Martin Hancock said: “Because of the unique nature of the project, we had to design a unique solution. The technology that we introduced gave the conservation team a form of insight and measurement that hadn’t been available to them before, and has proven crucial to the successful completion of their work.”

Now, the ‘hotbox’ itself has finally been removed and for the first time since 1545 the ship will be revealed dry, along with many of the artefacts recovered from within the ship – fully integrated into the museum environment dedicated to the warship and the historical context in which she was active.

Until now the public have had only a limited view of the ship due to the tightly-controlled environment. Now that the ship is sufficiently dry, it is possible to open more of the ship to visitors. The salvage team discovered only half the ship so as part of the £35m project, galleries representing the lost half of the ship were created, to give visitors a real insight in to what life on board the Mary Rose was like. There are three viewing levels: The top level is a balcony looking down on the ship, the other two levels allows visitors to view the remaining hull on one side and the artefacts found on the Mary Rose on the other side, such as weapons, the crew’s possessions and even musical instruments, all of which help to capture the atmosphere and complete the story.

Hanwell monitoring will continue. “It’s a vital integral part of the conservation programme, added Eleanor Schofield. “The Hanwell system has been a key indicator in monitoring the drying of the timbers – if something had gone wrong it would have affected the whole ship but there were no isolated areas of concern and we continue to experience a good working relationship with IMC and support whenever needed. Our need to monitor and control the stability of the environment of course continues, measuring and reacting to how changes in weather, visitor traffic and so on affect the ship, so our Hanwell system will continue to be crucially important to the Mary Rose.”

The graph below is an extract from a Hanwell report showing that the mean, min and max readings for both RH and T have been within their limits of 50-58% RH and 18-20C 100% of the time over a 24hr period. If limits were breached the experts would be alerted and would look at their BMS and air handling units and determine if they are providing the right conditions. If not then adjustments would need to be made to ensure RH and T are brought back into spec.


Join Instarmac at this year’s inaugural Tiling Show

Visit Instarmac on stand Q3 where their premium brands UltraFloor, UltraTile and Granfix will be showcasing their popular subfloor preparation, tile fixing and grouting solutions.

To be held at the Harrogate International Centre from the 18th – 20th September, The Tiling Show is an exciting new exhibition for the tile and stone industry. It will run alongside The Flooring Show creating a ‘2 in 1’ day out for all visitors.

The Instarmac stand will debut the Granfix range following this year’s acquisition and the new UltraTile Level IT Rapid, a leveller formulated for same day tiling. There will also be the opportunity to discuss the new UltraFloor products launched earlier this summer, moisture suppressant, Suppress IT and bulking concrete, Fill IT.

A guaranteed popular feature at the show will be TTA’s Demo Zone. A full timetable of half an hour demonstrations will be held during the course of the show’s three days, Instarmac will hold two of these. On Sunday 18th September at 3pm take your seats for the ‘Fixing of Large Format Porcelain Tiles’. Instarmac representatives, Daniel Spencer and Andrew Carroll, will be taking the floor discussing these problematic tiles and the use of UltraTile FibreGrip FX to fix them.

At 1.30pm on Tuesday 20th September, join Daniel again for the ‘Grouting of Natural Stone Installations’. This demonstration will provide all you need to know on both internal and external grouting. Daniel will be joined by Nick Holmes, who will showcase UltraScape’s flowable external paving grout, Flowpoint. This rapid setting grout is ideal for use with sandstone, limestone, granite and concrete paving types.

For more information on Instarmac and any of the brands featuring at the show please call 01827 871871 or visit Register free to attend the show by visiting We look forward to seeing you there and having a drink on our stand with you.


Door panelware and security for server racks – EMKA

Server racks are a specialist type of cabinet today often requiring the highest level in access control along with the simplest in hinging and gasketing. Primary concerns of course are regarding physical security and nullifying the possibility of data theft via removal of servers or connecting of unapproved memory devices such as thumb drives. Whereas the ventilation needs of the housed equipment leads to lightweight largely perforated doors with little need for sealing externally but a need to maintain ventilation integrity, along with a simple cushioning requirement to absorb rattles and ensure correct feel and function of the door when required.

Such a package is provided by hardware specialists EMKA with their program 3500 BioLock which adds high level fingerprint technology packaged at the door with the convenience of a low profile swinghandle, so ensuring that it really is the authorised person opening the door while ensuring gangways to be as narrow as practical – and snag free.

3500 BioLock can be used on individual racks or suites and integrated into site-wide monitoring/control systems.

The requirement for door hinging is met by EMKA with their captive pin program 1031 for lay-on doors and suits the narrow 25mm return used on such lightweight fabrications. Hinge pins on the 1031 may be readily withdrawn but are held captive. For especially light doors and side panels the 1117-U6 pin hinge is a simple, low cost, push-fit solution.

Sealing and vibration absorption of these lightweight doors is very effectively managed with a simple clip-on D profile gasket strip such as the EMKA 1011-24 which is self-gripping on flanges of 1mm to 2mm while providing up to 2.5mm of compression to ensure that unwanted materials are kept out and that the internal ventilation is not compromised by leaky door flanges.

Further information on EMKA products can be found on the EMKA website – Readers can find the latest information and news on the EMKA blog – or follow them on twitter –


Phenomenal four-day response from Portakabin provides classrooms for 480 children

When the Royal High School of Edinburgh had to be closed for urgent remedial building works, Portakabin, the UK’s leading modular building specialist, responded with 16 classrooms to enable 480 children to resume their studies – and in just four days from the initial enquiry.

The local Portakabin Hire Centre team in Edinburgh provided the exceptionally fast response – sourcing 16 buildings for high quality classrooms, transporting each building to the school, and putting in place external power connections to generators, emergency lighting, fire alarms and extinguishers, and access steps and ramps.

The Portakabin building solution allowed the school to re-open and most importantly, with all children at Royal High School on their original site. This avoided the need for any displacement which would have been very disruptive to the running of the school and the children’s education.

Andrew Kerr, Chief Executive of the City of Edinburgh Council said, “I am delighted that Portakabin was able to meet our requirements at such short notice, particularly given the scale of the project – getting 16 buildings ready for the pupils in just four days is no mean feat!”

“It was great to see such collaboration, commitment and focus on the urgency of the project to ensure the school could re-open so quickly. We have received only positive feedback from the school about the quality of the classrooms and could not have asked for a better service.”

Pauline Walker, Head Teacher at the Royal High School said, “We cannot believe what was achieved in the timescale. The experience has completely changed our perception of interim modular buildings. The quality of the classrooms far exceeded our expectations and the teaching facilities are completely different to the temporary accommodation we had to endure as children.”

“The site team could not have done more to get our school up and running again. Portakabin was on site within half an hour of the initial call and their performance was exceptional. We also have the impression that their team really enjoys a challenge!”

She added, “Being able to have all the children in one location has made a huge difference to the running of the school. This is a really good solution which has delivered robust, comfortable and secure classrooms. We would definitely recommend the approach to other schools in a similar situation.”

Portakabin has delivered a further project for the City of Edinburgh Council while remediation works and quality checks are completed at Gracemount High School. Eight buildings were installed over a weekend to provide welfare and classroom facilities for 260 children.

In the event of any urgent situation, such as fire, power failure, flooding or the discovery of asbestos, Portakabin can assist with:

  • The rapid delivery of buildings to an organisation’s site from its national hire fleet. This allows core operations to be up and running again very quickly.
  • A bespoke, longer-term accommodation solution developed to an organisation’s exact specifications if the original building has been so severely damaged that it will be out of use for a number of months.
  • Contingency planning – the preparation of up-to-date disaster recovery plans, which can cut an emergency response programme by up to two weeks.

For further information about interim modular buildings for urgent applications, visit, email or call 0845 401 0010.


Five Tips: Cutting Energy Spend, Efficiently

JVR-(1)By Joan Vidal, Energy Solutions Development Leader at Honeywell Building Solutions

When it comes to improving your building’s efficiency, knowing where to start and how to maintain a successful, long-term programme can prove challenging given the array of systems and processes that impact energy use. Robust energy management is about striking a balance between business needs and operational effectiveness. This entails taking a holistic view at how energy is both consumed and purchased, and the resulting gains can be significant.

Here are five things to keep in mind as you look for savings beyond the lights:

  1. View your building as an interconnected ecosystem that should run in sync
    Ballasts, bulbs and thermostats are just the tip of the spear. The building is an extensive collection of equipment that should all be working in concert. By viewing it as a living ecosystem, you’ll be better equipped to gather, analyse and act on data. You can then uncover connections between the building’s performance, comfort, safety and energy costs to make more informed adjustments in the future.

  1. Understand your utility’s pricing structures and available incentives
    Utility pricing, tariff mechanisms and incentives for participating in programmes, such as the UK National Energy Efficiency Action Plan,that help solve transmission and distribution issues all present opportunities to trim your spend. Understanding how you pay for energy gives you the ability to develop and implement strategies for things like peak pricing, points in time that can make or break an energy management programme. Even if you’re using an outside consultant, stay informed and engaged.

  1. Establish your base and peak load benchmarks
    To better respond to external factors like utility pricing, take an inventory of your building equipment and establish a baseline of performance at all times of the day. Improving efficiency is all about determining how to manage a building’s base load and making adjustments when grid-wide energy use and costs peak. It’s not one or the other.
    With this insight, you can ensure your building is only using the amount of power necessary at specific times, helping to squeeze out as much energy savings as possible.

  1. Don’t ignore the obvious when looking for improvements
    In your busy day-to-day life of managing a building, it’s easy to fall into a mode of responding to the most urgent needs and overlooking seemingly minor tweaks. However, what initially looks insignificant can potentially be a gold mine for energy savings. Take HVAC system alarms for example which are so routine they’re often ignored. These alarms, however, not only highlight a concern that needs near-term attention, but analysed in aggregate they can show patterns that indicate much larger issues and opportunities.
    Using technology to your advantage can ensure you don’t overlook the obvious. And now, cloud-based software like Honeywell Attune can help ease the burden of synthesising data generated by your building and accelerate the discovery process to provide smart, targeted recommendations for efficiency improvements.

  1. Assume energy efficiency opportunities are always available
    While it’s true that a newer building may not have as many savings opportunities as an older building — or one that’s been poorly managed — all buildings will display some level of degradation, and steps can be taken to mitigate or slow that process. It’s important to adopt the mindset that there are energy-efficiency opportunities in all buildings. For example, we’ve seen new buildings that weren’t properly commissioned from the outset. As a result, we uncovered significant efficiency opportunities, catching what was initially missed.

Whether you’re managing a school campus or in charge of a hospital site, improving energy efficiency is likely an ongoing theme in your daily operations. Use these pieces of advice as a starting framework to give these efforts the necessary, holistic attention they deserve.

However, also keep in mind that improving efficiency is more than just following a series of steps. It takes establishing a culture that believes there’s always a better way to do things — and a culture that is committed to uncovering the insights necessary to make those improvements.


Assa Abloy Security Solutions supplies hospital

A South Yorkshire District General Hospital has been supplied with a range of hardware by ASSA ABLOY Security Solutions, a UK division of ASSA ABLOY, the global leader in door opening solutions.

South Yorkshire hospital is a 500-bed hospital, run by Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Each year the hospital treats around 150,000 patients along with 95,500 A&E patients.

Foris Solutions worked closely with the Estates and Facilities team at the hospital to explore a range of hardware solutions. ASSA ABLOY cam action door closers were supplied, to ensure that the doors within the hospital are light to open while retaining closing power; ideal for use by disabled people. This assists in helping to meet the requirements of The Equality Act, specifically BS8300 and Approved Document M of The Building Regulations.

In addition, ASSA modular lock cases were supplied, which are engineered to offer a smooth performance in high usage areas over a number of years, ASSA classic lever handles were also provided.

Simon Barrett, Capital Projects Manager at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “South Yorkshire hospital has a historic relationship with ASSA ABLOY Security Solutions, and ASSA products are specified throughout the hospital, so it made sense to specify hardware from a brand that we know we can trust.”

Mark Thompson, Director at Foris Solutions, said: “ASSA ABLOY Security Solutions have a wealth of experience working within the health sector, we knew that they would be able to provide a reliable hardware schedule, which will be able to stand the test of time, regardless of the high frequency of use.”

Sean Falkinder, Regional Sales Manager at ASSA ABLOY Security Solutions, said: “Public-sector budgets are being squeezed hard as the government strives to deliver its planned reduction in the Budget deficit. Facilities managers in hospitals are charged with the difficult task of prioritising budgets for all areas of maintenance in hospitals. We are increasingly seeing the longer-term cost of projects becoming more of a priority; we supply quality products that offer good whole life costing, through reducing maintenance, repair and replacement expenditure.”

For further information on the full range of products from ASSA, please visit



One seating range – infinite possibilities

In response to the growing demand for flexible seating solutions, Komac – by Boss Design – has unveiled a new and diverse range of upholstered modular furniture. Completely flexible and reconfigurable, this versatile collection provides specifiers and designers infinite layout configurations.

Complete with eleven linkable seating units, three privacy screens, side tables and arms that accommodate power, a series of modules can be created and combined to suit any shape desired for complete flexibility. Together with an infinite choice of fabric configurations and vibrant leg finishes, Myriad is guaranteed to revive any interior space.

Private ‘huddle’ spaces, together with stunning ‘islands’ and ‘chain’ modules form the basis of Myriad’s infinitely flexible design. Whilst huddles assist with collaborative working, islands facilitate touchdown connectivity. Complete with or without backs, and integrated power modules, islands also support the ‘work anywhere’ philosophy. Meanwhile, Myriad’s chain modules enable the furniture to be mixed, linked and easily moved around, thereby offering endless possibilities for a more dynamic and collaborative workspace.

Commenting on this market changing design, Julie Skipp at Komac says: “Myriad sets the benchmark for flexible seating in the corporate, hospitality and education sectors. Thanks to its infinite versatility, specifiers can not only meet the brief for multiple design configurations from one dynamic collection, they can also satisfy a wide range of users and environments.”

Myriad also boasts an extensive line-up of extras that may be mixed and matched to enhance each configuration. These include laptop tables, privacy screens, linking arms (with or without power), portable media units, freestanding tables, coffee tables and multi-purpose chairs.

For the ultimate in comfort, Myriad boasts solid plywood internal frames, moulded foam seats and backrest foam and sprung seats. A wide choice of leg frames and finishes are also available to provide the ultimate design solution.

For further information contact Komac Headquarters: +44 (0) 1384 455570 or the London Showroom: Tel.: +44 (0) 20 7253 0364. Alternatively, visit


Losing the ground war against food contamination

In the high-pressure environment of food service, lapses in hygiene make casualties of customers, reputations and even businesses. James White of Denis Rawlins Ltd focuses on a forgotten front in the war against food contamination where outdated methods abet the enemy.

Safeguarding food safety is a constant battle, requiring consistently high standards in processing and storage, personal hygiene, staff training and supervision, and cleaning.

One slip – not washing hands, under-cooking food, failing to chill it properly, cross-contaminating cooked ingredients via a surface or knife used for raw meat – and the consequences for customers and the business can be catastrophic. So in the heat of the kitchen, it’s not surprising if the surface that staff stand on is not seen as a major risk.

Yet the contaminants lurking beneath our feet can easily be transferred to hands and utensils. The risks from poorly cleaned floors are not so well appreciated. And this is where the battle against the ever-present threat of germs and pathogens can often be lost.

Kitchens generate greasy soils that coat floor surfaces. In this warm and damp environment bacteria multiply, especially in crevices and grout lines between tiles. Workers’ footwear also tracks dirt and invisible microbes from other areas, including toilets and washrooms, into cleaned areas. So, whether floors look clean or not, they can end up harbouring a stomach-churning mix of microbes.

Studies in the US and elsewhere have shown not only that floors can become reservoirs of health-threatening pathogens, but also how staff have many direct and indirect contact with floors every day. This could be tying a trailing shoe lace, picking up a dropped utensil, gathering an electrical cord from the floor, or lifting a carton of food that had been placed there.

It’s estimated that 70% of all floors in the UK are still mopped by hand, and that includes many kitchens as well as dining areas. The obvious problem with mopping is it spreads rather than removes soil. Even if cleaning solution and mop heads are changed frequently, mopping inevitably returns some of the soils to the floor. And a mop cannot be expected to dislodge dirt ingrained in crevices.

This whole process – mopping with a degreaser or bleach, and then rinsing with ‘clean’ water – is as laborious and time-consuming as it is ineffective. Moreover, in this constant war against germs, mopping is effectively aiding and abetting the enemy. Hence the Denis Rawlins campaign to Chop the Mop.

In kitchens, or any environment where hygiene matters, cleaning has to remove soil, leaving a sanitised surface. For floors, this means dispensing fresh cleaning solution and recovering the liquid along with soils, by suction or squeegee. Whether this is achieved mechanically by a scrubber dryer or other machine, it’s also essential the floor is left virtually dry and thus safe to walk on.

Food factories test work surfaces to check they’re not contaminated. We too advocate science-based cleaning, and have extended this to floors and touch points, including those in washrooms. Like the food industry, we use ATP meters to measure the universal (adenosine triphosphate) marker for animal, bacterial and mould cells. We test before and after cleaning to show how effective the process is. And we have researched the global market for cleaning equipment to identify the most hygienic and cost-effective methods.

We were impressed by a comparatively low-tech cleaning system that achieves very high standards. As a supplier of wide range of cleaning equipment, we were struck by how this modular system could match more sophisticated, and expensive, technology.

This was borne out by a three-way test by university scientists who compared manual microfibre mopping, a scrubber dryer and the OmniFlexTM system. Based on a patented trolley bucket, as components are added it can be configured to dispense and vac, spray and squeegee, or spray and vac.

The tests involved a solution of Escherichia coli (the E. coli organism responsible for many food poisoning outbreaks) with ‘before’ and ‘after’ measurements using ATP monitors and bacteria plates.

The microfibre mop at best removed less than 51% of the soil, but that dropped to 24% as the plates revealed how the mop dragged bacteria from dirty areas back into cleaner parts of the floor.

By contrast, more than 99% of the bacteria were removed by the scrubber dryer. Significantly, the same standard was achieved by the AutoVac – which is the OmniFlex unit with a drop-down squeegee head.

The Food Service Dispense and Vac uses the same technology as the AutoVac, is simple to use, even for kitchen or casual staff with minimal training. It has proven its effectiveness and productivity cleaning hard floors in the manufacturer Kaivac’s native US, becoming a staple floor cleaning machine in the food service sector.

Studies show the OmniflexTM Dispense and Vac is 30-60 times more effective than a mop and bucket. At least one fast food chain halved its cleaning time while achieving superior cleaning results for no more than its annual spend on mops and buckets.

Given our Chop the Mop mission this is compelling, as it means that food processors and outlets using traditional methods can save money while raising the standards of hygiene in their premises.