With the fall comes football season. Rooting for our favorite teams becomes our preferred pastime, and wins are celebrated in a big way. Coaches stand on the sidelines barking orders to their highly trained players in the quest to be champions. On a plant floor, simply barking orders rarely helps to build the kind of food safety culture most companies want to establish. In the latest Global Food Safety Training Survey, 62 percent of companies report that their employees are not putting their food safety training into practice on the plant floor. With so much at stake in keeping the food supply safe, how do you keep food safety training top of mind?
1. On-the-Floor Observations/Coaching
Coaching in an industrial setting is a lot different from what you see happening at a sporting event. In the food industry, hazards abound — both in food safety and workplace safety. The coach provides the “atta boy” backslaps and constructive, corrective feedback to keep the plant functioning efficiently while producing safe product.
Anyone can be a coach, although the responsibility typically lies with the supervisor who is conducting on-the-floor observations and reinforcing employee behaviors. Providing corrective feedback can be the difference between an employee neglecting to follow a critical food safety procedure — resulting in possible contamination and risk to the consumer — or producing a safe, quality product, thereby protecting both consumer health and the food company’s reputation and profits. It boils down to recognizing risks, bringing them to the attention of employees, discussing the consequences and perhaps demonstrating the safe way. Coach them toward the right way of doing things rather than sitting back and barking orders.
2. 24/7 Communications (Posters/Digital Signage)
Although effective on-the-floor coaching requires a hands-on approach, there are other methods of reinforcement that are also very impactful. Just like ballplayers, food workers need passive reinforcement tools to help keep their heads in the game. Posters are highly effective when positioned appropriately in high-traffic areas and when they are changed out or rotated regularly. The use of strong images that easily convey key concepts without a lot of words are the most impactful. Changing out posters on a regular schedule will maintain workers’ interest and keep the messages from blending into the background.
Digital signage is another effective method of reinforcement. Think of the scoreboards in a football stadium sharing fast facts, replays and public service announcements to the crowd at the game. Similarly, when used in a plant setting, digital signage should employ eye-catching images, animation and fast facts. The days of screens filled with microscopic numbers, graphs and too many words are long gone. Digital signage is one of the best ways to continuously and passively reinforce food safety culture to all employees.
3. Supervisor/Frontline Talks (Huddle Guide)
Just like a quarterback, supervisors are critically important in setting and executing the game plan each day at a food manufacturing plant. Taking a few minutes at the start or end of each shift to discuss the plan, talk through challenges and provide an important reminder to follow all food safety procedures makes a big difference. Workers don’t always know intuitively what needs to be done or how — they forget, they get distracted or they may have old habits that are hard to break. Sometimes, they simply need a nudge.
By taking a few minutes to talk with their team, a supervisor strengthens his or her relationship with the group. Employees who feel they have an open line of communication with their supervisor will feel empowered to ask questions or to suggest solutions so they can achieve the goals set for the day.
Manufacturing teams, just like football teams, need a winning strategy to become champions. Providing training and then extending that training onto the plant floor through huddle talks, coaching, posters and digital signage is a great game plan. Establishing a pattern of 24/7 communication not only strengthens the front line, but also enhances supervisory skills. Strong supervisors build winning teams, and winning teams make champions. It’s time to start developing your frontline workers into food safety champions.