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Working on cold store ceilings

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The Institute of Refrigeration technical committee has published the new technical guidance note on working on cold store ceilings.

The guidance relates specifically to insulated cold and chill stores that are constructed within a building structure with ceiling panels that are supported by that structure, typically using drop rods suspended from a portal frame or building truss.

Many refrigerated warehouses and factories are constructed from composite insulated panels which provide a barrier to heat and moisture gain from the surroundings. Accidents and near misses over many years have shown that the original design may be insufficient to safely carry in-service or maintenance loads and can be seriously compromised by degradation of the insulation material or the support structure.

The purpose of this guidance note is to provide a reference for good practice in design of these buildings and their use and maintenance.

Smaller cold stores may be self-supporting and the guidance in this note should be applied to them as appropriate, with particular attention paid to the load-bearing capability of the structure and the need for edge protection.

The Health and Safety Executive published a Safety Alert “Deterioration and failure of cold/frozen food store ceilings” in November 2010 (reference CON 4-2010) and refreshed it in October 2020. It was distributed as a Technical Bulletin by the Institute’s RACHP Engineering Technicians Section (reference TB-21 dated October 2020) to raise awareness of this issue, in particular the consequences of degradation of older installations. Other guidance is also available and some links are given at the end of this document.

Approved Document B (Fire Safety) of the Building Regulations (2019) recommends that insulation envelopes (particularly ceilings) should be designed to prevent early collapse. As such, it is recommended that ceiling panels should not only be supported by insulated walls but should be independently supported otherwise a sudden and catastrophic collapse of the ceiling could occur if one of the walls is damaged, for example in a fire or by vehicle impact.

To read more on this note, visit the institute’s website. The document is freely available for download.