The United States has arguably the most stringent and progressive takes on consumer safety when it comes to the food manufacturing industry. Since we now have the knowledge of food hazards, there is an increase in regulations and monitoring of new protocols and procedures within the food manufacturing industry. In addition, regulations are constantly being reviewed and updated based on new studies and advances in manufacturing and production technology.
Safety protocols for food manufacturing plants are mandated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). However, the last 18 months have shown that additional mandates are needed to protect the estimated 1.7 million food plant employees in the United States from illness or injury.
Currently, standards set for food manufacturing plants do not have mandates in place to keep workers from injuries or falls. According to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, ensuring food safety helps reduce loss of income or healthcare costs; improves productivity; provides a safer food supply; and increases consumer confidence. Adding safety protocols for food manufacturing locations will only add to the stability and reliability of the industry.
The FDA and Centers for Disease Control have guidelines for food safety, which should be followed in food production plants as well, however, more can be put in place to protect workers handling the food products. This is how OSHA can become directly involved. OSHA currently has statutes focusing strictly on construction, maritime, and agriculture. Therefore, introducing OSHA codes specializing in food production should not be a new concept.
OSHA, unfortunately, does not consistently communicate with the FDA or CDC regarding employee safety, so what can you do as a business owner to ensure proper food handling and a safe environment for your employees?
- Keep a pulse on the industry. What trends and changes are happening nationwide, and how do these new regulations affect your current business practices? Find reliable sources to discuss these updates and begin to brainstorm implementation strategies sooner rather than later.
- Identify issues and opportunities to improve or stay ahead of the curve. For example, well before it was required, some logistics companies installed dashcams and speed limiters in their vehicles. When the safety practice was adopted and made mandatory, these companies did not need to scramble for extra funds or lose time to make repairs or updates to the vehicles. Staying ahead of regulations will give you and your employees more time to implement new protocols and give you the opportunity to prepare financially as well.
- Develop training programs to keep staff informed and educated on how they can stay safe and compliant with current codes and upcoming updates. If you need help managing your training programs, the Training Tracker software may be right for you. Check out our 14-day free trial here, or schedule your free software demonstration.
- Lobby for change. Consider the current challenges you face as a leader and the effort needed to keep up with standards. What regulatory body needs to change, and how, for your business to run safely and effectively moving forward? For example, OSHA can fine companies who fail to comply with general guidelines, but if more specific requirements were available, OSHA would be able to issue more fines and cause other manufacturing plants to take food safety more seriously.
Safety regulations in the food manufacturing industry will create a more efficient environment in which employees can feel protected and appreciated. For these operations to continue to run smoothly, taking a proactive role in the training and education of managers and employees will continue to be a critical piece of the puzzle.