As part of an Internal Production Safety System Implementation, we will introduce you to a series that will explore the intricacies of implementing and maintaining an internal safety system for a food production facility. The IPSSIS/FS for general food safety (FS) will approach a step wise implementation of a safety system for a food production premises from the “most important” aspects or safety control points (SCPs) to the “less important” SCPs.
PLEASE NOTE: at this stage it should be mentioned that ALL SCPs of a FS system are important, however some SCPs have a much more critical and immediate impact on the actual safety of the foods produced than other SCPs do, thus making the latter less important than the former, however still very important.
No SCPs of FS can be omitted if one wants to have a complete and effective food safety system however, implementing a food safety system can be a daunting and often highly cumbersome task, which often leads to the system being ineffective and in some cases discarded for being “a waste of time”. This is the reason for a step wise implementation of a FS system in which the most important SCPs are implemented first to cover the most important aspects first.
Internal Production Safety System Implementation
Knowledge & Training
The first, and probably the most important of an Internal Production Safety System Implementation of safety control points in any effective system is knowledge. Without knowing how and, most importantly, why one has to do something will make it challenging to generate importance behind it. For example, when someone who is not knowledgeable about vehicle mechanics must have the importance of changing the vehicle’s fluids or brake pads explained to them before they will gladly approve the changes and maintenance, the same is often true for the management and staff in a food production facility.
The fundamental first obstacle in implementing a food safety system (FSS) is getting commitment or “buy-in” from the various levels of staff involved, and here the starting point is often the owner and/or management staff. All other levels of staff in the FSS, or implementation staff members, will find it very difficult to perform their duties if the management staff will not afford them resources to effectively perform their tasks. These resources are also often the most valuable to a business in the form of money (additional equipment or staffing) and time (time often also equates to money down the line).
Implementation staff members in turn may not see the value in the additional tasks they are being charged with if they do not understand why these tasks need to be performed. In order to propagate a culture of commitment to the FSS all levels of staff, management and Implementation staff members need to be trained in the various aspects of food safety and of the FSS. It is also important that the management staff and Implementation staff members are trained on the same training syllabus to ensure all staff have the same understanding of food safety and the FSS.
An independent food safety training service provider should be used, however this service provider must be credible and effective to ensure that all food safety aspects are covered effectively.
A starting point in research is that the training should at least cover the basic requirements of the FCS standard and a “crash course” in microbiology (what bacteria are, where they come from and why they are a problem in food safety).
Training can be quite expensive, and this can usually already restrict the commitment by business owners and/or management staff. If there is already a diluted commitment at this level, this does not bode well for the rest of the FSS. An alternative and increasingly popular approach is to have the management staff members trained to perform food safety training themselves. This also seems to be more sustainable for retaining knowledge in the organisation as well as allowing for scheduling flexibility to accommodate training time with less disruption to production.
In so doing the management staff can then implement internal food safety training for the exact same base training they received, and then sign off the training for the various Implementation staff members. This way one spends less money on formal training but will still achieve a unified level of knowledge across all staff members involved.
Food Safety Team and Skills Recognition
An effective food safety team needs to comprise of staff members that are well suited to implement the various tasks needed to keep the FSS effective and current. It is never a good idea to have only one person in charge or involved of the FSS and its various tasks.
The tasks, especially the day-to-day and hour-by-hour operational tasks, need to be fully transferable between staff to ensure the tasks are kept up to date regardless of fluctuations in staff compliment in the facility.
To achieve this, there should ideally be one staff member overseeing the FSS as a whole. This staff member will ensure that:
- The FSS tasks are delegated correctly.
- There is follow up on the tasks being implemented correctly.
- The task rotation is effective.
This staff member will normally be tasked with being the facilities Food Safety Manager.
The Food Safety Manager should:
- Oversee the record keeping being filed for reference should it be needed.
- Ensure all legal and compliance requirements are kept current.
- Ensure all staff are trained correctly.
- Perform all general long-term administrative and record back-up aspects of the FSS.
The Food Safety Manager should appoint an Assistant Food Safety Manager who knows exactly what the Food Safety Managers tasks are and is also involved in task delegation, follow up and rotation.
The Food Safety Manager and Assistant Food Safety Manager should identify staff members in the facility to be appointed as effective Implementation staff members who would implement the day-to-day or operations (ops) tasks. (These tasks will be detailed in each of the articles to follow in this series where all the SCPs will be discussed in detail).
In identifying effective Implementation staff members, some or all of the following working traits and ethics should be considered:
- Willingness to learn and interest in food safety.
- Ability to take instruction and to implement tasks as instructed.
- Be willing to work in a team.
- Adaptable when swapping between tasks.
Each of the Implementation staff members should be trained in all the various ops tasks within the facility and not just one task. Implementation staff members should also have knowledge of what management tasks need to be performed day-to-day and hour-to-hour.
Implementation staff members should also be regularly rotated between the various tasks to ensure there is a broad spread of knowledge within the whole food safety team.
- All of this training and broad spread of knowledge dispersed amongst all Implementation staff members involved in the FSS will achieve an extremely important aspect of an FSS, which is consistency.
- For an FSS to be effective it has to be consistent.
- Any break in consistency in an FSS creates opportunity for problems to be missed and thus increasing the risk of a consumer being adversely affected by the missed problems.
- An effective FSS is quite simply an all or nothing arrangement.
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Regional Manager (KZN)