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"I work in a food environment, and our health and safety officer has suggested we switch to H1 food-grade lubricants? Is this a sound decision?"
If this is taken to its logical conclusion, all machinery, including that of transport vehicles and sub-contractors’ machinery, would have to comply at great expense. More importantly, apart from the premium cost of food-grade lubricants, which are sometimes four times more expensive, their performance is, in certain cases, inferior to common mineral or synthetic formulated lubricants, potentially reducing the life of the equipment. In addition, as an H1 lube ages, oxidizes and becomes contaminated, it may not maintain its H1 status.
There is a tendency to assume that the H1 lube is a fail-safe option or simply a convenient substitute for poor maintenance, especially where pesky leakage problems have occurred. Conversely, a healthy, well-maintained machine can substantially reduce the risk of contaminating a food product with a lubricant.
In many cases, it is more cost effective to carry out proactive measures such as upgrading the seals, filters and breathers to prevent leakage. Also, be sure to regularly inspect the machinery and your product. Of course, there are always specific cases when employing an H1 lube is a wise and safe decision.
While many users will insist on full H1 compliance, for those ancillary machines with low risk of incidental contact with a food product, it may be a better choice to invest in more stringent maintenance practices. This can be a win-win situation for everyone.