Columns

It's a food plant, not a garage

February 3, 2005
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
Your maintenance area may be more of a food safety hazard than you think.

Richard F. Stier
Think of a food plant safety audit and many plant operators and managers first think about the processing area. But one of the most common problem areas is actually the shop and/or maintenance department. Tools may be askew, lubricants stored helter-skelter and the maintenance staff may be dressed in clothes that are greasy or dirty. Remember, it's a food plant not a garage.



Perhaps nowhere is the old adage "a place for everything and everything in its place" more applicable. In the shop, there is a great potential for cross-contamination, especially if maintenance people aren't cognizant of the dangers. Processors who follow that old saying will be much less prone to problems.

The first step is to mandate that the maintenance staff keep the shop clean and well-organized. Lubricant storage is an excellent place to start. Every plant says it only uses food grade lubricants in areas where food is processed and on equipment that is used to process or move food. Yet, when food grade and non-food grade lubricants are stored together in similar containers, you increase the chances for cross-contamination and the likelihood that the incorrect lubricant may be used. Efforts should be made to store these products in separate areas and to clearly delineate which products are food grade and which are not. Some processors color code grease guns, while others use distinctive containers.

Likewise, tools must be used properly and for their intended applications to eliminate potential contamination risks. One simple way to accomplish this is to store tools in the vicinity of where they will be used. Of course, storing tools in a plant can create other problems. They could get lost or they might be removed. Some processors store the tools in lock boxes to which only maintenance people have access. I have even seen operations where the tools are hung in locked storage units with clear, unbreakable plastic covers. Only managers and maintenance staff have access to the boxes. The clear covers allow management to be sure the tools are properly stored.



When it comes to the storage facilities in the shop or processing area, be sure to take into account what is being stored and who will be using it. For example, if an operator places flat topped lockers or benches in the plant area, it usually does not take long for these spaces to begin to accumulate other treasures. Oftentimes, what is kept on or in such areas has no place in a food plant or anywhere near a location where food is handled. Sanitarians recommend that lockers or cages used for personal item storage be cleaned regularly, be accessible for cleaning (at least six inches above the floor), and have gabled or slanted tops. Many prefer cages so management can easily see that no food or drinks are within them. The same principle should be applied to storage areas in the plant. I have yet to see a flat topped locker that is used for equipment storage in a plant that does not have something on top of it.

Finally, don't overlook the maintenance staff. More operators are providing plant workers and managers with smocks, lab coats or uniforms that minimize the potential for product contamination. The clothing is designed with snaps or Velcro clasps rather than buttons and has no breast pockets. To further prevent the chance of cross-contamination, you may want to establish changing rooms between raw and cooked food areas.

Each and every processor needs to take the appropriate steps to protect product. This includes providing the workforce with the tools and support to properly do the job. An organized maintenance shop may not be the first safety concern that comes to mind, but in food production where and how your maintenance staff parks tools and equipment can be the key to improving plant safety.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

Recent Articles by Richard Stier, Contributing Editor

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

Fabulous Food Plant: Paramount Citrus

Learn more about this fabulous food plant in Food Engineering's article, found here.

Podcasts

Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts

What was your favorite part of FA&M 2014?

View Results Poll Archive

THE MAGAZINE

Food Engineering Magazine

Food engineering magazine 2014 april cover

2014 April

Catch a preview of the Powder and Bulk Show in this April 2014 edition of Food Engineering. Also, be sure to check out a coffee stick making a real stir and a major advancement in the the pet food industry.
Table Of Contents Subscribe

THE FOOD ENGINEERING STORE

Food-Authentication-Flyer-(.gif
Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

Food Master

Food Master Cover 2014Food Master 2014 is now available!

 

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit www.foodmaster.com to learn more.

STAY CONNECTED

FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.pnglinkedin_40px.png