Q. What is the best way to protect electrical enclosures from water damage in the harsh wash-down environment in the food industry?
A. NSF International, in conjunction with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), have developed a set of voluntary standards which are used within the food industry to define acceptable operational guidelines for food safety and sanitation. Within these standards there is a specific standard (169) that speaks to the design of electrical enclosures so as to ensure the sanitary and safe operation of these types of enclosures in wash-down environments. Enclosures meeting these standards will carry the NSF label provided that the enclosure manufacturer has applied for and received NSF certification.
Since this is a voluntary standards system, enclosure manufacturers are not legally required to seek this certification. If your current enclosures do not have this certification you should ensure for yourself, at a minimum, that the materials of construction are non-absorbent materials and resistant to moisture. These would be materials such as stainless steel (304). Items like hinges, latches, doors and mounting methods should provide resistance to the internal and external accumulation of dirt and debris. External surfaces should be sloped, and their surfaces need to be resistant to the accumulation of any form of contamination.
While these are only a sample of the design issues to address, another major issue will be the education of your staff on the proper wash-down techniques they should use and the types of cleaning liquids they are applying to these critical pieces of equipment. Proper food plant sanitation will always require good equipment and good procedures. Both elements will also need to be audited on a regular basis to ensure the best possible result.