In part one of this blog post, we focused on the lack of understanding as a catalyst for many quick fixes, the attempt to implement an approach that requires less work effort often results in employees taking shortcuts and the formation of bad habits that can develop over time when employees use these alternative routes. Yet what we fail to do when it comes to those excuses is follow best practices.
This is why the latest discussions surrounding food safety and sanitary design could lead to hazardous consequences if shortcuts are taken. Earlier we explained the shortcomings, here is part two of ways to eliminate and prevent shortcuts.
Sanitary design practices can be greatly impacted if established procedures are not followed and, as a result, can directly affect whether shortcuts are likely to occur. For example, in a food processing environment, smooth, complete welds are desired; however, tack welding may be performed if personnel are short-staffed and trying to perform a quick fix (shortcut) to get production back up and running. The tack welds create harborage points between the welds allowing food product/residues to accumulate and presenting a conducive environment for insect development and microbial growth. Equal consideration should be provided for maintenance and food safety when performing maintenance tasks. The following sanitary design practices should be adhered to and shortcuts avoided to maintain a sanitary food production environment:
The facility should be sized and constructed to allow sanitary operation. Size and layout should be pre-determined, as such pre-planning will assist in the maintenance of a food safe environment; prevent expensive modifications, adaptations and excess labor; and minimize other costs associated with poor planning and construction. The layout should provide efficient process flows and allow adequate space between equipment and structures for access for cleaning, inspection, and IPM activities. Also consider providing additional space for equipment dismantling, such as for extruder augurs or mixing shafts. It’s also encouraged that process flow in relation to layout is assessed for practices that may increase the likelihood of employees taking shortcuts (e.g., ingredient containers are required to be washed after every use, but the only wash station is located on the other side of the facility).
It’s important to know the construction of your building. Block walls have hollow cores that are ideal for pest harborage and travel. Concrete walls are solid and generally have fewer challenges, but must be maintained to prevent damage and cracks. In addition, the foundation must be designed to facilitate drainage and prevent ground water from accumulating.
Floors must be suitable for the product environment, easy to clean, and able to withstand the anticipated traffic load and the cleaning products used. The floors must be maintained to allow drainage and prevent deterioration as damaged floors allow water and debris to accumulate, especially along floor/wall junctions and corners. Damaged floors cannot be adequately cleaned and can, therefore, lead to pests and microbial development. Avoid performing temporary repairs with incorrect materials that may lead to further damage.
Similar to floors, walls must be able to withstand the intended production environment. They must be easy to clean and prevent dirt accumulation and pest or microbial harborage. Avoid performing quick fixes such as simply filling wall cracks with foam, especially in wet-processing environments.
- Ceilings and overhead structures
Ceilings and overhead structures also should be made of materials that are capable of being easily cleaned and maintained. Minimize overhead structures that contain harborage points and excess piping to facilitate cleaning practices. Ceilings and overheads should be maintained to prevent leaks and condensation.
REDUCE THE TEMPTATION
The following design measures touch on the many ways in which sanitation practices can be improved and demonstrate how appropriate sanitary design can discourage employees from taking shortcuts that may have negative implications.
1. Always consider steps to make cleaning easier, such as using quick-release fasteners and couplings instead of bolts and screws that take considerable time to dismantle. Appropriate equipment design will also discourage shortcuts to cleaning methods.
2. Product zones should be nonabsorbent, nontoxic, and corrosion-free. All surfaces should be smooth and free of pits, cracks, and spot or tack welds.
3. Non-product zone surfaces should be maintained in a similar manner as product zones. Joints should be smoothly sealed and consideration should be provided for any loose parts or debris (such as equipment safety labels or nameplates) that could fall into product zones.
4. Construction materials should always be considered for potential contamination risks such as glass, brittle plastics, and ceramics. These materials should not be used except when essential and no alternative exists. If these materials must be used, then adequate controls must be implemented to contain pieces in the event of breakage such as reinforced or safety-coated glass.
5. Supporting framework should be installed so as to eliminate hard-to-clean crevices and hollow areas. There should be no open-ended structures or access to hollow areas. Fill voids where possible and raise equipment to appropriate levels to allow thorough cleaning on the underside of structures.
6. Inspect equipment for potential harborage points such as rolled-under edges and beams with edges that can collect product; take action to eliminate them.
7. Identify and eliminate dead-ends by filling and sealing the pockets or recesses or installing quick-release access points for cleaning. Equipment junctions should be smooth and flush with no seams or cracks that can harbor food products.
8. Equipment and drain covers should be capable of being easily removed for cleaning. Special consideration should be provided for tanks where only half the cover opens, because residues frequently accumulate on the non-removable underside. Adjust the design to allow full access for cleaning.
9. Drive guards should be able to be easily inspected and removed for cleaning. Consider designs with a semi-open bottom to allow debris to fall out or transparent covers to facilitate inspection without requiring removal.
10. Equipment food and non-food contact surfaces should be maintained to prevent flaking paint and rust. Painted surfaces and those prone to rust should be properly treated as appropriate to the materials used and should be inspected routinely for chipping, peeling, and bonding characteristics.
11. Equipment should be secured and sealed to the floor or elevated to permit cleaning. Caulking can be used to secure equipment mounting pads to the floor, followed by bolting of the equipment to the floor.
12. Catwalks, access platforms, and bridges crossing over product zones should not have an open grate design to prevent contaminants and debris from shoes falling on or into product, and to facilitate cleaning. Deck plates should be solid with no holes and, ideally, the joints should be continuously welded. The decks should be equipped with kick plates approximately four inches high that are either covered or continuously welded to the deck.
When it comes to food safety, there is no gray area. Taking a shortcut is not worth the risk when it comes to food safety practices. If workers have suggestions that they believe would constitute best practices, they should discuss them with their supervisor; supervisors should encourage direct reports to share their ideas with them. It’s best to review and discuss rather than having someone individually deciding to try a new shortcut that could have hazardous consequences.
How far can food safety be sacrificed for the sake of efficiency, production operations, and daily quotas? Food safety should never be sacrificed. When it comes to food safety, a true shortcut is not the fastest way to complete a task, but rather the fastest way to do it right and in a manner that doesn’t result in product contamination