Reforming Food Safety

Published on Jul 18, 2021

In the food industry, the safety issues common to manufacturing are compounded by difficult working conditions, a high staff turnover and a wider range of regulations than in most other sectors. As hygiene is imperative, the environment is often wet, which not only affects processing machinery but also presents a safety hazard to workers. Top that off with the high level of automation in most plants, the need for careful waste management, pest control and the stringent demands on personal cleanliness, and employees have to be on constant high alert.

The industry has tried to address the numerous risks with a wealth of technical safety precautions, process safety rules and systems such as ISO and HACCP. Each manufacturer, processor or packaging company will also have their own additional guidelines and processes. But there is still a variable the industry struggles to control: human behaviour.


The key to effecting change

People differ and their decision-making is influenced by a wide range of factors, some sub-conscious. In spite of training on food handling and instruction on food safety precautions and rules, it is individual decisions that are often at the root of cross-contamination issues and food safety incidents.

Manufacturers and processors in the food and drink industry recognise this and do invest in staff training. They see the benefits it produces in product quality and employee engagement, yet they are often reluctant to invest the time, particularly if they believe recently trained staff will shortly leave. One way around this is to understand what motivates employees and what the levers are for improving safe behaviour at the same time as raising morale, increasing retention and therefore also productivity.

Understand attitudes and barriers

Managing value creation alongside ESG, dss+ has developed a Food Safety Culture Survey that rapidly assesses the prevailing food safety culture in an organisation and evaluates mindsets at an individual level. The parameters of the survey are adjusted to the operational situation of the company concerned. A survey recently created for a food ingredient manufacturer, for example, focused on the prevailing food protection culture and measured alignment with the organization's vision, risk sensitivity, communication, leadership modelling, resourcing and talent, as well as motivation and trust. The results allow companies to identify gaps so they can address critical weaknesses but also use the information to improve overall food safety behaviour and demonstrate they are taking employee views on board. This is not only key to preventing food safety incidents, but to increasing employee engagement.

But how can organisations influence behaviour and engagement? It requires more than just training or the application of a standard. For everyone in an organisation to share and pursue the same overarching goals demands leadership, a cohesive strategy that integrates food safety with other business objectives, the right organisational structures and processes, and a high level of risk awareness among all employees. 

“If organisations can identify and influence behavioural patterns and triggers, they will not only be able to improve food safety but will also unlock workforce potential, improve productivity and create value for their organisation.”


Top 3 benefits of understanding attitudes and barriers to food safety through a Food Safety Culture Survey.

Get a clear picture of food safety perceptions among employees.

It is hard to fix issues when you are operating blind or in semidarkness. Shed light on barriers, identify weak spots and understand what prompts behaviours so you can make changes in the right areas.

Analyse alignment and potential gaps with the company vision.

Has the workforce understood the strategy for food safety and the reasons behind it? Do you need to improve or change communication and role-modelling?

Create a positive culture around food safety to increase engagement.

Improve workforce motivation and retention through recognition and positive reinforcement of the right behaviours.