This week, we catch up with Jarvis, our New Business Development Manager for the UK, who’s been part of the Flexitog family for over two years. Part of Jarvis’ role is to get out and about, meeting our valued clients so he’s no stranger to site-visits at cold storage facilities across the UK.
We chat with him about the various challenges that the cold storage industry faces, and what it felt like to experience extreme sub-zero temperature for the first time.
What challenges face the cold storage industry today?
Although we cater to many industries that operate in cold temperatures, our typical client will work in the food industry. From a supply chain perspective in this industry, there are considerations due to products having varying shelf lives and then there’s ensuring these products are stored at the correct temperatures. There’ll also be regulations around how long products can spend between cold storage facilities whilst being transported, so logistically, there’s a lot going on!
Incidentally, the frozen food category is the fastest growing in the UK with an overall 5% retail market growth in 2018, putting frozen food ahead of both chilled and ambient. The market is now estimated to be £6.3bn so it’s a huge industry and set to keep growing*.
From a business point of view, this industry is (rightly so) heavily regulated for food safety, sanitation and hygiene, and also for employee safety for working in potentially dangerous environmental conditions. Our clients must adhere to strict health and safety standards and legal requirements to protect employer, employees and the end customer at all times.
And then, of course, those that work in cold stores face a very unique set of challenges when working in sub-zero conditions. Teams will require specific training and need to be supplied with quality thermal clothing for warmth, protection and safety. Temperatures in cold stores can go down to -50 degrees, in some blast freezers, which is colder than the Antarctic. In fact, the British Antarctic Survey team wear the same Flexitog gear in Antarctica that we provide for our clients.
Tell us more about working in cold stores?
Well, it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. Regular exposure to extreme cold temperatures demands another level of physical and mental qualities. Often work is labour intensive so people have to be physically fit and strict working procedures must be followed.
If not properly protected by specialist work wear, cold exposure can quickly affect the respiratory system, musculoskeletal system and cause skin disorders such as rashes and hives. It can also cause cold-associated trauma such as Raynaud's, frostbite, trench foot, chilblains, and hypothermia.**
What is it like to experience extreme subzero conditions?
That’s something I won’t forget! I visited one of our clients who specialise in frozen food, mainly for pubs and restaurants. Before we ventured into the cold storage warehouse, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We firstly put on Flexitog’s protective clothing that’s suitable for temperatures to -50 degrees. This included Flexitog’s ergonomically designed coldstore jacket and salopettes, Endurance freezer gloves, insulated knitted hat and Ice Walker zip up freezer boots.
Walking in, the cold immediately hits you in the face, but thanks to Flexitog’s gear, I didn’t feel the cold anywhere else. I remember that my nose felt very cold and the windchill really does stab at your eyes. Many people would be surprised not to see much ice in the cold storage warehouse, but that’s due to it being a dry environment. However, any moisture that’s created, even sweat will freeze straight away. This is why it’s so important that we make clothing with exceptional levels of breathability, which moves moisture away from the body as fast as possible to prevent freezing and prevent any discomfort.
The work is physical, often involving moving heavy boxes and driving forklifts, so workwear needs to be flexible to allow free movement, as well as being warm. Flexitog’s range is durable, ensures comfort, breathability and our patented FlexEasy sleeve design helps to reduce wearer fatigue in even the most demanding roles.
How long did you spend in the cold store?
I spent just an hour in -25 degrees whereas workers will spend longer. Shifts have to be carefully monitored to ensure personal welfare and protect workers from any potential danger spending too long in sub-zero conditions.
Of course, since my first visit, I’ve now experienced a number of cold storage facilities and I’ve got a new level of respect for those that work in subzero environments. It’s great being able to chat to warehouse managers and their teams about their everyday challenges so we can help make their jobs a little easier by providing the best quality thermal workwear that’s flexible, breathable and warm.
We’d love to hear from you!
Call us on 01692 400300 or drop us an email for more information about any of Flexitog’s ranges.
*Kantar World Panel 2018