Food safety’s secret weapon against COVID-related turnover

The food processing and manufacturing industry is one of many in the United States that continues to struggle to attract and retain workers. The situation is one processors have found themselves in for years, but amid an ongoing pandemic, the labor shortage issue has quickly reached critical mass.

To fill understaffed processing chains, companies have used a wide range of tactics: raising wages, handing out bonuses, announcing better working hours and beefing up benefits. While these recruiting tactics bring bodies into the factories, they alone aren’t enough to keep things running smoothly. (And, obviously, there’s been less discussion around measures that aren’t as public.) Inevitably, some employees will continue to get sick with COVID-19 and will have to self-isolate for periods of time, which will require a redesign of job functions and the need for interims. Likewise, revenue is expected to remain strong across the industry as companies continue to compete for a tight labor market. Along with this tumult will be continued product delays, supply chain disruptions and the very real risk of critical food safety slippage.

For years, food processors and manufacturers have turned to color coding as a method to ensure quality and prevent product contamination and cross-contamination. Conceptually, the process is simple. By assigning different colors to factory areas, assembly process steps, work shifts, or potential allergens and hazards, workers are able to use the right tools and color-code products the way they are destined. Plans are customized per installation but are still framed by four basic templates mentioned here. When implemented correctly and inclusive— a color coding plan can bring many benefits to a facility, especially right now.

Advantage #1: It’s easily recognizable

The purpose of a color coding plan is to streamline and systematize food safety and sanitation procedures to minimize safety risks to products and team members in an establishment. With that in mind, most color coding plans only include a handful of colors, and often workers in a factory will only interact with one or two. Once a team member learns, “I work in this area and will always use blue tools here; or, I work in that part of the assembly process, which will always use red tools”; it is quite easy to remember these tips.

With the availability of high quality hygienic tools in full color options these days, it is quite easy to spot a tool that is out of place. Additionally, many factories will choose to color code clothing and PPE such as gowns, masks and gloves so that it is immediately obvious when a team member is not where they should be. . Facility signage also comes into play as it is best practice for color coding to always place descriptive plan signage in plain view. Some facilities even put color-coding blueprints on individual ID tags to ensure they are always within easy reach of team members.

Advantage #2: It’s easy to understand

The success of a color coding plan relies on the marriage of simplicity of design (i.e. the fewest colors possible with the most logical categorization) with robust deployment (where each functional element is coded by color). When these needs are met, the plan is easy to understand and follow. This can help multi-lingual teams as the language barrier is minimized by emphasizing colors over terminology, and as these plans grow in popularity, a new employee with industry experience is likely to worked with a factory operating in some form of color. -coding scheme.

More importantly, now a color coding plan can help new employees or temporary workers get up to speed quickly. When turnover and hiring happens more frequently and training team leaders are strapped for time, it’s a game-changer because people can be onboarded quickly without compromising quality and safety.

Advantage #3: He does not depend on a single team member to train

It’s never a good idea to have important procedural safety standards of a facility in one person’s head. This is especially risky at a time when employees are falling ill and needing to permanently self-isolate.

One of the things that makes a color coding plan successful is that everyone who works in a facility is involved. The plan is only successful if everyone understands their unique role in the equation, and because of this structure and expectations, everyone is aware of how the plan should work in practice. This means training new hires doesn’t just involve a small handful of individuals, allowing the onboarding responsibility to be shared.

Benefit #4: It Can Boost Your Mood, Really

It’s no secret that many companies are dealing with declining morale in their teams these days. Between an ongoing pandemic and persistent turnover, new stressors are added every working day. This can not only impact employee job satisfaction at work, but also pose a safety risk, as the culture of food safety really rests with every person in a given facility.

A color-coding plan sets the tone for teamwork and serves as a reminder of the importance of each individual in the larger goal of keeping everyone else and the product safe. This reminder of personal responsibility and impact can be very helpful when baseline tensions rise and workflow disruptions are the norm.

If there’s anything the last two years have taught the industry, it’s to expect the unexpected and, in turn, use every device you have to get the most out of it. of the current situation. A color coding plan can help you do just that by being one of the best tools available to you right now.

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