> 10 Tips to Ensure Your Plant is Prepared for Seasonal Surges - The Food Safety Company 10 Tips to Ensure Your Plant is Prepared for Seasonal Surges - The Food Safety Company
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    Thursday, 17 November 2016

    10 Tips to Ensure Your Plant is Prepared for Seasonal Surges

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    In an ideal world, production rate would remain steady all year, allowing stable staff numbers and a permanent process to be put in place. In reality, however, most production plants undergo peaks and troughs of activity, particularly in the lead up to special and seasonal events such as Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day. These periods often mean bouts of frenetic activity, and with retailers seemingly inventing new retail holidays all the time, the fluctuating pressure only seems set to grow year-on-year.

    Usually, seasonal events mean increased production, and increased production means greater staff requirements. Many sites increase their overall workforce by 100% or more in the leadup to seasonal events, which is a daunting amount of staff to train, equip, and manage over a short space of time. On top of this, providing for all the new staff is only half the problem, as you also have to deal with their eventual departure once demand subsides. Yet fear not, for in this article we’ll give you ten top tips on how to ensure that your plant is prepared for any seasonal rush.

    1) Hire or Buy Additional Workwear

    All those additional workers need something to wear, and that uniform must be conducive to proper safety standards being fulfilled. You may find that you hire extra staff often enough that buying more PPE gear turns out to make economic sense over time. If not, you can hire extra equipment, for example from your laundry company, or even purchase disposable workwear, if it measures up to proper safety standards.

    Img source: Klipspringer
    2) Buy Additional Footwear

    Related to the last tip, there’s no point outfitting your new staff in protective equipment if they’re walking around barefoot! So make sure to invest in some appropriate footwear. The best kind of footwear to buy for seasonal usage is washable, so that it can be reused the next time you have an abundance of staff, or washed regularly and shared between shifts. An example of this kind of footwear is the EziProtekta Washable Safety Shoe, a lightweight, high-grip shoe with comfort supports to keep worker productivity high.

    3) Space and Storage Requirements

    All of these extra staff will have their own belongings that they bring to work, and this requires storage space. Most workers will be much happier if their possessions are safe and secure, so personal lockers are a worthwhile investment if possible.

    4) Set Out Clear PPE Guidelines

    Combine all the new protective equipment with a crowd of unfamiliar workers, and you have a recipe for confusion. To avoid this, make sure your PPE policy is clear and easy to follow, for example on how to segregate allergens and species,. In essence, you want to make it easy to get right, rather than easy to get wrong!

    5) Pictorial Guidelines and Instructions

    In many cases, when you have to draft in a large temporary workforce, this workforce includes foreign workers from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. This means a multitude of languages, and trying to cover them all on your signage and documentation would costly and inefficient. Instead, use illustrations and photographs to demonstrate what is required of your staff, so that the majority of them can understand. On top of this, make sure you have adequate safety signage around plant processing facilities.

    6) Training Buddy System

    Given the potential variety of language abilities, training can be a difficult hurdle to overcome. One way to make it easier is using a “buddy” system, pairing up experienced staff members with new recruits to help them learn the ropes. They can help impart required training knowledge, and show new staff preferred practice in the plant, making it easier and faster to get them signed off and ready to work.

    7) Keeping Everybody Fed

    It’s one thing meeting increased seasonal demand for food production in the plant, but there is another food demand, that of your workers’ stomachs! Keeping the army’s stomachs full can be a logistical nightmare. However, there are many external caterers who may be willing to offer services over your busy periods to bolster the provisions you already have for your staff. Just make sure you have inspected and approved their food preparation facilities to ensure they they don’t pose a risk to your staff or your business. A contingent of extra staff is of no use if they all get food poisoning!

    8) Nut-free Site?

    Is your site supposed to be nut-free? Re-emphasise this to all of your staff members, not just the new ones. At certain times of year, particularly in the lead up to Easter and Christmas, staff tend to bring in food products such as cakes or chocolates that contain nuts. The presence of nuts may not be obvious or easily noted, especially if the baked goods are homemade. As audits and customer visits are more prevalent during these busy periods, the consequences could be grave for nuts being found in the plant, so make sure your staff are 100% aware of the situation.

    9) Quality and Photo Standards

    Related to point 5, photographic information can be a great way to instruct to your staff as to the ideal product appearance, assembly, or packaging. It also demonstrates to customers that you have the utmost commitment to getting their products “right first time, all the time.” Review how these are displayed on the production line, whether on “washing lines” above it, on stands next to the line, or on magnetic sheeting which can go directly on the walls. Just ensure that these will not become a biological, chemical, or physical hazard under your HACCP plan by making them out of the correct material, and placing them in safe areas where they won’t interfere with the process.

    10) Optimise Cleaning Schedule and Equipment

    Along with the extra staff, expanded production volume at a plant also often brings with it extra equipment and lines, all of which must be cleaned. Ensure that you have enough hygiene and cleaning tools in place ready to cover this. Another cleaning issue over busy seasonal periods is that cleaning hours are often reduced due to extended production windows. Risk assessing all your equipment in terms of required cleaning frequency can allow you to prioritise important equipment with the greatest food safety risk for cleaning. With this information, you can create a systematic, optimised cleaning schedule that maintains impeccable cleaning results.

    Overall, if you follow all of these tips, you can go into any busy seasonal production rush confident in the abilities of your staff and your plant to cope. Preparing ahead of time allows you to be ready, and ensures that food safety standards won’t suffer due to predictable risks. This removes worry and leaves you free to reap the revenue rewards burgeoning demand can bring.

    Sam Franklin

    With a master’s in Literature, Sam inhales books and anything readable, spending his working hours reformulating the info he gathers into digestible articles. When not reading or writing, he likes to put his camera to work around the world, snapping street photography from Stockholm to Tokyo. Too much of this time spent in Japan teaching English has nurtured a weakness for sashimi, Japanese whisky, and robot cafés.
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