If you really want to inspect your plant in only 30 minutes per week there are a few things you should know about what you’re looking for before you begin. Food plant inspections are not limited to production and storage areas. They should include the roof, exterior grounds, and every interior area (e.g., boiler rooms, maintenance rooms, and office areas). Problems can exist above and below eye level.
Change your position regularly during the inspection to observe areas from different perspectives. For example, checking the grounds from a vantage point on the roof may reveal areas that require further investigation.
During an inspection, you may find yourself looking too hard to find problems. If you suspect this is happening, step back and become an observer rather than an active player in the scene around you. Clear your mind and allow your eyes to take in the entire area. You can also divide the area into small manageable areas allowing you to process information more efficiently.
Hello Up There
Roof areas can impact the food safety program in many ways. Dust accumulation in air intake systems can support mold and bacteria growth or promote insect development. Pay particular attention to air intake systems to ensure filters fit properly and are well maintained.
Standing water on the roof can promote microbial growth and may also attract birds and other pests. Employee practices can also lead to pest issues. For example, maintenance personnel may leave debris from a project on the roof, which can become a pest harborage. Do not overlook the possibility of rodents becoming established on the roof and going undetected. If rodent control devices are in place, inspect them along with the rest of the area.
While on the roof, observe the grounds. Look at what is going on around the property. Consider how your neighbors’ activities could impact your operation. The roof may also be an excellent observation point for monitoring the receipt of materials. By observing from a distance you may get a true glimpse into which procedures are being followed.
Outside Grounds – Not Out of Bounds
The inspection of the outside grounds should involve the entire area, including the fence line, waste treatment facilities, and all outbuildings. Preparation is important since you will need keys to access outbuildings. Look closely for conditions that could impact the facility.
Rodent burrows are a sure sign of problems waiting to happen inside the facility. Standing water can attract pests to the plant. Unkempt areas with uncut grass or accumulations of old equipment should be a focal point of the inspection.
The integrity of the structure should be checked closely. Identify potential pest entry points, including pipe penetrations, door seals, utility line entry points, window screens, etc. Also verify that all bait stations and rodent traps are being properly maintained.
Consider the processes at your facility and where problems might occur. Identify conditions that support insect populations and locate the hotspots. Identify foreign material concerns that exist in the process and determine if corrective actions have been taken to prevent them. Become familiar with the procedures and policies for the areas you are going to inspect.
The team must use all their combined knowledge to conduct a thorough investigation. Look for deficiencies in all categories. Personnel practices should be observed to make sure employees are complying with the GMPs. The three-dimensional approach also applies to production and warehouse areas. Infestation issues and foreign material concerns can exist as easily in overhead areas as they can at floor level.
During inspections of warehouse areas, bring pallets down from upper levels or raise inspectors up on approved lifts. Identify structural deficiencies that can harbor pests or create microbiological concerns and investigate them closely. Floor drains and cracks in the floor should not be overlooked. Look for food debris accumulations since they provide an excellent area for scavenger or structural insects to
Accessing equipment is an important aspect of the self-inspection program. Confirm that the cleaning and maintenance programs are controlling potential risks to the product. Inspecting equipment can be dangerous. Be sure to follow all company safety rules and procedures. Since some equipment needs to be disassembled for inspection, maintenance personnel need to play an active role on the inspection team.
Change It Up
Do not carry out all your inspections at the same time of day. Vary the inspection schedule since not all equipment is readily available for inspection at a given time. The inspection process may have to be conducted over the course of all three shifts which would require the participation of more personnel.
With your weekly inspection schedule and an idea of what to look for during the exercise, you have a perfect recipe for a successful self-inspection and will be able to identify and correct potential issues before they become your worst nightmare.