Building a Food Safety Culture in Food and Beverage Manufacturing

Employee adherence to food safety protocol is critical to success in food and beverage manufacturing. Let’s discuss several methods of enhancing the ways our workers understand and follow food safety guidelines.

The following article is based on EMC’s recent “Food Safety Culture and the Transitional Workforce” event. During this session, Joyce Hughes — Board Certified Coach and established industry leader — discussed various management strategies for strengthening employee engagement and developing adherence to food safety guidelines. Each engagement and education method presented at this event by Joyce is reflected here.

Due to sector-wide labour shortages and the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian food and beverage manufacturing industry now relies upon temporary workers more than ever before. While the usage of short-term labour in itself can certainly prevent losses in productivity, employers must be cognizant of the effect that temporary employment has on food safety. Workers in food and beverage manufacturing have a unique set of responsibilities that they must fulfill without error to prevent contamination of their product and, if established food safety guidelines are not met, the resulting fallout can be catastrophic. It is important for food and beverage manufacturers to create and maintain effective food safety protocols throughout their facilities, and to ensure that these rules are followed regardless of a worker’s employment status. Building a culture of food safety shouldn’t be a dry, tedious process, though — for maximum employee engagement, leaders must understand the needs of their workforce, and make efforts to address them in an interesting, engaging way.

Communication is key to establishing an internal culture. As such, employers should possess a strong, up-to-date knowledge of their workforce’s demographics to accurately utilize informational messaging. Determine your employee base’s communicatory skills: Can your workers comprehend the English language? Do they prefer verbal or written instructions? What kind of phrasing and word choice resonates most effectively with them? The high level of temporary labour utilized by food and beverage manufacturers will likely necessitate the creation of instructional material in more than one language. Bilingual messaging isn’t the only effective form of inclusive communication, though — through visual-heavy instructional materials (like photographs, videos, or illustrations), workers of any background can understand food safety practices and other important information. Using pictorial directions also allows for thorough demonstration of complicated processes, further reducing the likelihood of miscommunication and preventing on-the-job mistakes. To enhance visual-based messaging, consider the implementation of digital technologies through company tablets or employees’ own mobile phones, and develop instructional content that can be easily accessed at any time.

Interaction is a vital component of information retention, and employees that are actively engaged with a culture of food safety will likely have a far greater understanding of their guidelines than those that only follow them passively. As with any form of positive workplace behaviour, adherence to food safety rules should be incentivized through systems that validate and acknowledge employee efforts. For example, many successful food and beverage manufacturers hold regular “town hall” sessions where workers of any employment status are given the opportunity to voice their thoughts in a public setting, allowing majority interests to be immediately gaged by and presented to leadership. Other businesses utilize contests, quizzes, and giveaways to promote and reward knowledge of food safety practices, heightening employee engagement through the appeal of tangible compensation. In addition to strengthening employees’ knowledge of food safety guidelines, participation in workplace events can reinforce the bonds between workers of any type, and can help increase company loyalty — potentially spurring interest in full-time commitment from temporary workers.

At a time when the Canadian supply chain is under an incredible load, ensuring employee adherence to food safety standards is crucial to maintaining productivity, efficiency, and profitability. By establishing a fun, active, and engaging workplace culture, food and beverage manufacturers can feel confident in their employees' knowledge and discipline, and can reap the numerous benefits of a compliant, high-performing organization.

For more on food safety guidelines and employee engagement initiatives, contact Leah Nacua, EMC’s Manufacturing Consortium Manager for Toronto and the GTA. Attend EMC events frequently for knowledge and expertise crucial to leaders in the Canadian manufacturing industry.

For more information on EMC's Health & Safety Excellence Program, please contact Lynn Morris, EMC's Safety Team Administrator.

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