Maintaining & Reinforcing a Food Safety Culture at Your Organization
by Paul Barnhill, on March 30,2020
Now that you’ve created a food safety culture, it’s time to discuss how to maintain and reinforce this new culture at your facility. Please note this is the fourth post in our food safety culture series which includes:
- What is a food safety culture?
- What can impact a food safety culture?
- How to create a food safety culture
Training someone once on complex hygiene SSOPs meant to guarantee food safety is almost as bad as not training them at all. Good hygiene practices must be constantly reinforced so that team members can memorize the SSOPs, embrace a mindset of hygiene excellence, and uphold the food safety culture at your facility.
Hygiene Safety Days:
To eliminate food safety risks that may develop from misunderstanding SSOP instructions, falling out of good hygiene habits or deliberately taking shortcuts, we recommend employing "Hygiene Safety Days." These are training events that occur at regular intervals throughout the year to remind everyone of hygiene best practices and their importance for food safety. A company can integrate a Hygiene Safety Day with normal operations, or it can be a training event where team members take a break from their usual tasks and engage in unique educational activities for hygiene awareness.
Reinforce with Facility & Operational Design
While you may train and retrain your team on hygiene and food safety throughout the year, it is just as important that the design of both the facility and its operations facilitate good hygiene practices.
Hygiene zones should reinforce the food safety culture you’ve created at your organization. Upon entering, team members should be naturally guided through a hygiene zone in the correct process without risk of contamination touchpoints. Equipment that enables hygiene excellence should always be present and documentation should be posted that emphasizes correct hygiene behaviors.
Before each shift, during huddle talks, it is important that production team leaders highlight good hygiene behaviors with their teams. Reminding everyone of the hygiene basics or calling out good or bad hygiene behaviors seen that week helps reinforce hygiene practices and the food safety culture at your facility.
Food Safety Committees
For team members to contribute meaningfully to your food safety culture, structural support is necessary. A dedicated Food Safety Committee that is open to individuals from all departments and at all organizational levels should be created. This committee should support and bring attention to any issues in the facility that can affect the food safety culture, as well as find new ways to communicate the importance of hygiene to team members throughout the year.
Hold Everyone Accountable for Food Safety
One of the key things we discussed throughout this blog series is putting everyone on the same flat line of leadership and accountability when it comes to hygiene and food safety. In the third post in this series, we referenced the hygiene social contract as a means to begin holding everyone accountable for keeping hygiene standards, some ways to continually reinforce this are:
Rotate Hygiene Mentors
We’ve discussed hygiene mentors in previous posts and the important role they play during onboarding and training. While some team members may be better equipped at mentorship than others, it’s important to rotate hygiene mentors throughout the year. This practice not only encourages more than one person to lead by example when it comes to hygiene, but also ensures that everyone stays knowledgeable on proper hygiene behaviors and how to teach these to new teammates.
Encourage Everyone to Think Like an Owner
One of the most effective ways to maintain and reinforce a food safety culture at your facility is to encourage each and every person to think like an owner. Employees should be empowered to uphold themselves and others to hygiene best practices, be comfortable addressing poor hygiene practices, and responsible for maintaining the cleanliness and supplies in hygiene zones. In an effective food safety culture, each individual should feel like they have a part to play in hygiene and are encouraged to do the right thing for food safety, even when no one is watching.
A food safety culture is an important part to exceeding food safety standards and ensuring product safety for your consumers. However, creating one can be challenging, so for that reason, Meritech recommends registering for the Employee Hygiene Toolbox. This content partnership with Food Safety Magazine contains resources to help you define, create and sustain a healthy food safety culture at your facility:
If you would like assistance in creating a hygiene zone that reinforces hygiene best practices and the food safety culture at your facility, we can help consult on the design and assist in choosing the right automated handwashing technology for your specific operation. Contact us to learn more!