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Hygiene compliance tips

04 March 2022

Sue Springett offers some advice on how to keep on keep on top of hygiene and ensure that compliance in maintained. 

Food hygiene is a life-or-death issue, so it’s not surprising that an audit fail can shut down a business. With many hygiene managers having to deal with multiple audits each month, being able to quickly provide clear evidence of your cleaning processes and results is business critical. 

People first: However much your factory relies on automation, the human factor will have a make-or-break impact on your cleaning and hygiene compliance. Staff communication must be open, consistent and professional. A daily hygiene meeting is essential to allow potential risks and areas of non-compliance to be flagged up, and a focused plan of action to be agreed by all parties.

The role of the health and safety manager is key. They must be constantly vigilant and seen to be so, setting a clear example for all team members. For example, if they see someone with hair escaping a hair net, they should point it out, rather than giving this job to a more junior staff member. If hygiene is taken seriously by senior personnel, it is far easier to spread this culture throughout an organisation. 

Supervision: Whatever systems are in place, the people must do their job effectively. The work of the cleaning team must be actively monitored but, moreover, all production employees must understand that hygiene is also a fundamental part of their roles, and they must be compliant. 

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): Every piece of equipment or furniture must have its own cleaning SOP. Monitoring the effectiveness of a cleaning regime is not possible if it doesn’t start with an in-depth and robust SOP. Properly thought through and documented protocols and procedures are absolutely critical as without these, there is nothing to hold people to. 

Monitoring: Even with the best possible SOPs, without monitoring the result of your cleaning processes are meaningless. Cleaning is being done to minimise risk from bacteria and swab testing provides the proof that the cleaning regime is fit for purpose. 

Swab tests provide an alert to potential hygiene risks. Swabs need to be taken at the riskiest point in the factory layout, such as hidden corners or ledges, which are the hardest, and least popular, areas to clean. 

It’s far better to lose an hour of production for an extra deep clean, than to lose two days to an external audit. An outbreak of listeria has been known to lead to a factory being torn down because it was impossible to properly eliminate. 

Data collection: Did you know that, anecdotally, the time production staff devote to hand washing is less on a night shift? With the growing pressure on staffing levels, due to sickness and recruitment, it is unlikely that many factory owners can afford to have a supervisor manually recording hand wash times.  

So, consider installing infrared taps, which collect data to show how much water is used each time someone washes their hands.  Carefully monitor and document how much hand sanitiser is being used each shift.  Based on the number of people working, are your levels going down at the appropriate rate? Similarly, by recording the number of gloves being used, it is possible to establish whether staff are following proper hygiene procedures. 

Record keeping: Manual record keeping, using paper and clipboards, remains the standard in many food factories.  For this to be effective, records must detail all work carried out, by who and for how long.

Whilst some machinery provides the facility to document when cleaning takes place, how do you know that cleaning was carried out thoroughly?  Consider supervision and spot checks both during and after the cleaning process. Contamination sprays can help flag any areas that require attention.

While production will always be considered a priority for many working within food processing, without a robust hygienic culture penetrating the entire business, it only takes one swab test to bring a factory to its knees.

Sue Springett is commercial manager at Teknomek.  

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