Freezer Burn In August
Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Freezer burn in August? Workers try to stay warm despite heat wave By HARRIS BLACKWOOD The Times GAINESVILLE -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robin Michener Nathan

The Times Eskimo Cold Storage workers move pallets of frozen poultry products through the main freezer where temperatures hovered between minus 5 and minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday. The freezer reaches temperatures as low as minus 40 F. Outside Steve Williams' office window, a computerized thermometer reads 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit. About 50 feet away it is colder. Much colder. Williams is the president of Eskimo Cold Storage, a 100,000-square-foot facility on Athens Highway that provides blast freezing and storage for a number of poultry companies. The company, which opened in April, has a blast freezer which is kept around minus 40 F. The larger freezer warehouse is kept at minus 5 F to minus 10 F. That's about the same temperature that was recorded Wednesday at Novolazarevskaja, Antarctica. "When we get the product, it is chilled to somewhere in the 30s. We then take it down to 5 or 10 below zero," Williams said. The products are chilled to the standards of the poultry company and its customers. Much of what is deep frozen at Eskimo will be shipped out of the country. Inside the loading dock, where refrigerated tractor-trailers are received around the clock, it is a balmy 38 degrees. That's 62 degrees cooler than outside, but 48 degrees warmer than just a few feet away past an open air lock. Workers at Eskimo, dress in a manner that is befitting the company name. Most have insulated underwear, their street clothes and an insulated jumpsuit, which includes a hood. Their hands are covered with gloves and many who are in the subfreezing atmosphere for extended times have bandanas covering their mouth and nose. Finding workers who can tolerate the extended cold is sometimes a challenge for Williams. "I've lost a lot of people on the first day," said Williams, who said he makes every effort to tell prospective employees just how cold it is. "At the first break, they go to the bathroom, leave our clothes, and I never see them again." Those working Wednesday were zipping around the freezer facility on pallet trucks and forklifts and seemed to take it all in stride. Some workers who had stepped outside for a break kept on heavy hooded sweatshirts despite the near-record outdoor heat. Some of the management staff has been in the freezer business for 25 years or more. Coat racks holding heavy insulated jackets are a common site in the corporate offices. The poultry shipments, which average 80,000 to 100,000 pounds, can be blast frozen in 24 hours. On each shift, there are about 45 workers in the loading area with 12 to 15 in the warehouse freezer area. Only a brief time is spent in the area where the temperature is minus 40 F, which is easily distinguishable by the buildup of frost on the door handles. The largest forklifts have heated enclosed cab areas to provide operators with extended protection from the cold. The cold storage facility has a computer monitoring system that records temperatures inside, outside and underneath the massive building. Williams, who enjoys his environment on the cool side, admits that it's tough on days like Wednesday, when the weather outside is literally 100 degrees warmer. "I sleep at night with two fans on me," Williams said. "My poor wife just freezes."
Contact:, (770) 718-3423 Originally published Thursday, August 9, 2007