Sanitation of the manufacturing plant is a pivotal contributor to contamination prevention, overall food safety and risk management, which is why no food safety effort is successful without effective communication with this department. But in many cases, sanitation tasks are outsourced to a third party, causing significant gaps in communication.
When this happens, visibility suffers, assumptions are made, documentation responsibilities fall through the cracks and the entire organization is at risk.
Your sanitation crew is critical to ensuring sanitary conditions throughout the manufacturing process and adhering to strict procedures for cleaning. If important information and issues are not being relayed properly from the sanitation department to QA and, ultimately, upper management, there are likely to be major complications with preventing contamination — which has the potential to cause devastating outcomes for the brand, the leadership team and the entire company.
Whether your sanitation group is comprised of in-house plant personnel or members of an outside provider, it’s essential to foster fluent communication and dynamic visualization of plant activities. Here are some of the most important steps every corporate leadership team should take to strengthen communication and feedback from the sanitation crew.
Execute a Robust Training Approach
One of the greatest obstacles to fostering effective communication on food safety functions is a general lack of knowledge and awareness. If your sanitation team is uninformed and untrained on these responsibilities, they can’t possibly know how to implement them. That is why education and training must be a priority. Be sure to designate a team or individual to overseeing the training initiative and maintaining the company’s commitment to ongoing improvement. With a proper training program in place, communication of sanitation issues becomes a natural occurrence with more successful food safety results.
To support your training efforts, begin by developing written procedures that can be used as a reference for sanitation workers. It should include not only specifics on technical matters like cleaners, personal protective equipment and individual instructions, but also direction on how to document everything and relay the necessary information.
As the food safety landscape transforms, regulations change and industry technology advances, it will be vital to adapt your communication strategies appropriately. Therefore, training should be ongoing and updated to reflect new information, requirements and approaches.
Recognize Problem Areas
Simply put, you can’t rectify food safety problems in areas like sanitation unless you identify them first. Assessing your current conditions, procedures and tools is a fundamental step in the process. From manufacturing equipment and data software to sanitation procedures and communication tactics, make sure you’re continually evaluating your operations and staying apprised of problem areas.
A valuable way to stay informed on these areas is to implement a communication tool that makes the process easy and effective. For example, CONTROL-PRO software features capabilities such as:
- Sending immediate email notifications that identify the location of a presumptive positive found in the production environment
- Documenting the specific tasks required to remediate the problem
- Reviewing SOPs and attaching any corrective action documentation, including notes, pictures, maintenance forms and more
- Viewing progress and supporting documentation at every step of the corrective action process
- Automatically scheduling retests to verify that corrective actions have been effective
- Adding the previously positive sample to the next sampling event and continuing to track the results until the test point comes back negative an appropriate number of times
Make Documentation Mandatory
As new FSMA requirements convey, documentation is a critical aspect of contamination prevention and overall food safety. Without thorough, accurate, organized and accessible documentation, you don’t have the foundation for a proactive plan. Proactivity is dependent on visibility and communication, both of which necessitate powerful data tracking, record keeping and reporting.
Your sanitation and QA teams must be constantly collecting information to compare and manage. Make this documentation process a mandatory component of daily procedures. Facilitate these efforts with a solid solution that enables workers to:
- Take notes, add pictures and document any concerns that may have been noticed when taking testing samples
- Communicate to production that samples have been collected before production starts
- Automatically send out emails to key teams after samples have been collected, along with any notes or observations about the plant
- Visualize the entire plant with regard to preventive controls and corrective actions
- Ensure that sanitation and sampling activities are properly scheduled, monitored and reported on
- Record compliance-related information
- Quickly identify locations and patterns that may need to be addressed in the food safety plan
If your existing visibility and data tracking solutions are not enough to standardize documentation and promote solid communication, they’re obstructing your ability to uphold high food safety standards and protect both your customers and your brand. Documentation drives your contamination prevention strategies, thereby requiring the utmost in quality.
Have a Preventive Controls Plan
A written and enforced Preventive Controls Plan helps make communication from your sanitation crew a routine event. Not only that, but the FDA now has a legislative mandate that requires comprehensive, prevention-based controls across the food supply to prevent or significantly minimize the likelihood of problems occurring.
The main goal of FSMA is to foster proactive versus reactive measures, which means focusing on the early identification and prevention of issues associated with foodborne illness. It is not enough for your company to have a plan for taking corrective action on contaminated products; you must also have a strong preventive plan in place to identify pathogens in the production environment before they affect the product and/or leave the facility.
Part of this Preventive Controls Plan must include a working system that gathers and aggregates preventive data from the sanitation crew (and the rest of the organization). If you’re not receiving adequate feedback on the functioning of your plant(s), it is near impossible to understand where efforts are lacking and make improvements.
Communication with your sanitation crew is just one component of your organization’s ability to detect and prevent contamination within the manufacturing process. For more information on the steps you need to take to optimize contamination prevention and protect your brand, download your free checklist now.