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Quality assurance advice (Q&A) - Volume 1

BY Rolf Uys

Quality assurance advice (Q&A)

 

In this column, Rolf Uys offers a service to readers by answering queries regarding practical advice to typical food safety questions.

 

QUESTION: We train our employees every year on food safety. The Quality Department keeps on reinforcing food safety issues on a daily basis. But, most workers just don’t get it. How can we get the message across and get them to ‘see’ food safety the way we do?

 

This is a common problem the world over, but it’s particularly problematic in South Africa. The solution is not a simple one and cannot be achieved by one person alone. It needs to be a company wide effort.

 

The first principle you need to understand is ‘you cannot manage what you cannot measure’. Make sure food safety is measurable. It could be hygiene audit scores, customer complaints, number of serious food safety findings in internal audits, the number of foreign materials picked up off the floor or even hand swab results. These then need to be measured and communicated to all levels. The best way to do this is through short morning meetings with middle managers and junior workers. Discuss the important production issues of the day, but also include food safety measurables and tracking against targets. There need to be explanations and actions if targets aren’t met.

 

A particular technique that works really well is MDI (management for daily improvement). This involves posting all info visually across the factory on white boards. Every morning there should be a ‘boardwalk’, allowing each supervisor the opportunity to explain the measurables on his board. This goes a long way in creating teamwork and ownership. Food safety performance should be included as a pro-rata percentage in all personnel’s key performance areas. It’s very important that everyone realises that there are consequences for not meeting targets.

 

You shouldn’t ‘train’ personnel, but rather educate them. Training covers the ‘how’ to do something, while education covers the ‘why’ and ‘what’s in it for me’. Keep an updated matrix that tabulates the education modules per person, such as cleaning, allergen management, foreign objects, and so forth. Each module should be practical and must include observation evaluation in the workplace. Training modules need to be continually revised to keep track with the changing food industry. It takes effort to track measurables, to empower people and to maintain a training matrix. But, caring about your staff is the secret to not only a food safe workplace, but also a happy and productive one.

 

 

 October 04, 2013
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Food Safety
Rolf Uys

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