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A PAIN FREE APPROACH TO PROCEDURES - PART 1

Janice Giddy
 June 04, 2020
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The word “procedure” brings visions of medieval surgical torture to many managersin the food industry. Nobody has the time to write them; in fact just thinking about having to write a procedure throws one into a familiar pattern of frantic procrastination.

 

WHAT ARE PROCEDURES AND WHY DO WE NEED THEM?


The BRC vs 8 Intpretation Guideline defines s a procedure as: “Agreed method of carrying out an activity or process which is implemented and documented in the form of detailed instructions or
process description (e.g. a flowchart).”

 

Food Safety Systems differentiate between the various types of documents depending on who the document is written for. Most food safety systems consist of a combination of Policies, Procedures, Work Instructions, Schedules / Lists, external documents such as standards, legislation, guidelines, customer specifications, and records.

 

A Procedure Document is a documented description of how a particular process in your organisation is managed and controlled. A procedure provides a more birds-eye-view description and the intended reader is the management team. The procedure needs to provide enough detail to ensure an understanding of objectives of the process, the inputs that have an impact on the process, as well as the required controls to achieve the desired outputs / objective. It provides a map of the process so that all key factors are considered to ensure that the process is adequately managed and controlled. 

 

A process can consist of many interconnecting activities, so it is not advisable to try to describe the details of each activity within the procedure document, the reader, who is the manager, does not necessarly need to know this detail but would need to know where to find the detail for a specific activity when it is needed.

 

A Work Instruction is a documented description of how one of the activities within a process is performed and controlled e.g a work instruction as to How to Clean the Mincing Machine. A Work Instruction is written for the operator and is written in sufficient detail to ensure that the operator is provided with enough detail to perform the activity to the required standard.


WHY DO WE NEED PROCEDURES?

  • It demonstrates your understanding of requirements and your ability to comply with a particular legislative, food safety or quality standard, customer requirement or good business / industry practice.
  • It provides an overview of how the particular process as a whole is managed and controlled and is written to guide the management team.
  • It sets the standard of how a process should be managed and controlled.
  • It provides transparency.
  • It provides consistency, since all who read it should follow the documented process.
  • It provides a valuable training and refresher training tool.
  • Once documented, the process can be monitored and measured.

Procedures are requested during the first phase of your certification or surveillance audit. If you have adequately documented the required food safety and quality controls then this demonstrates your readiness for the second stage of your audit, the on-site inspection, which will verify that you have implemented all the controls required to manage food safety, quality and legality effectively.

 

WHAT DOES A PROCEDURE DOCUMENT LOOK LIKE?

 

There is no hard and fast rule as to how a procedure should look. You can decide on your own format. You can use words, flowcharts, tables, diagrams or maps or any combination of these. I like flowcharts, but you may prefer tables, whatever works best for you. The important thing is that the procedure needs to provide sufficient information to the reader, who needs to understand how the particular process is managed and controlled in order to achieve a desired output or result.

 

TYPICAL FORMAT OF A PROCEDURE

 

The format of a procedure typically consists of the following headings:

Objective: This describes the purpose or objective of the procedure. e.g the Objective of the Cleaning and Disinfection Procedure could be; "to minimse the risk of food spoilage and contamination from any hazards present on food contact and non-food contact surfaces and the environment by ensuring that robust cleaning and disinfection protocols are implemented and maintained that will maintain compliance to food legislation and customer requirements.

References: This section lists any legislation, standards, guidelines or technical documents on which you have based the content for your procedure. These references would answer the question; "so what do you base this procedure on?"

Method: This part of your process is where you provide a description of how each input to the process is managed; e.g in the Cleaning & Disinfection Procedure you will need to ensure that you source your chemicals from approved suppliers and that the chemicals are food grade and are certified as suitable for their purpose. Other inputs are: your cleaning equipment, the water you use, the fact that the staff performing the cleaning and disinfection tasks need to be adequately trained etc. Each of these inputs or contributing factors could be a header and you could then describe how each of these inputs will be managed and controlled in order to achieve the desired objective.

Performance measures: As they say, "what is isn't measured, cannot be managed"and therefore it is very important that you describe the measurements for the desired outputs and who, how and when these will be monitored to ensure that the desired process is consistantly maintained.

Non-conformances: You should also describe how deviations from the standard will be managed to bring the process back under control and to prevent recurrence. You can refer to your Corrective Action Procedure.

Records: You can compile a list of the records that are completed that would provide evidence that the process is being managed to achieve the desired objective. Listing these records is very useful during training, investigations or internal audits.

 

JOIN US IN PART 2 AS WE DISCUSS WHAT PROCEDURES YOU SHOULD HAVE IN YOUR FOOD SAFETY SYSTEM



 

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