How controlled are your maintenance activities?

Uncontrolled maintenance activities, maintenance tools, maintenance debris are a source of foreign matter that can impact the safety of your finished food product. Welcome to week 19 of the Food Safety HACCP Challenge. This week I would like you to walk around your food production facility and see if there has been any loose maintenance tools left on any equipment.

How to check the impact of maintenance activities

(1) Grab a bag or box big enough to hold maintenance tools and maintenance debris.

(2) Walk around your production areas and visually look for any loose maintenance tools, maintenance debris or by-products of maintenance works. This can include items like screws, nails, washers, cable ties, tape, string, wire or plastic bits.

(3) Any maintenance tools that are not controlled or any maintenance debris observed remove and place into the bag or box.

(4) Take a photograph of all of the items and report a non-conformance on maintenance department.  Follow-up with maintenance to implement preventative action.

(5) Check the hazard analysis documented for your food business and see if the different types of foreign matter that comes from maintenance activities has been identified as a potential hazard. If it hasn’t been identified add the ‘type of hazard’ and the ‘source of the hazard’ and then complete a likelihood and consequence analysis for your food business.

Why are loose maintenance tools and debris an issue?

In a nutshell, uncontrolled or loose maintenance tools and debris has the potential to end up in your food product. Larger items like screwdrivers or spanners can end up falling into equipment causing damage to the actual equipment. This can then lead to significant production down-down.

Foreign matter has been and continues to be found in food as a result of maintenance activities. Many of these non-conformances result in customer complaints and in the worse case scenario, public food recall or food withdrawal. Depending on the type of foreign matter that originates from maintenance activities, your food business could be subjected to private litigation if injury has occurred by the customer.

Educating Maintenance Staff

It is well recognised throughout the food industry that maintenance staff sometimes do not consider what they do to be risky to the food product being produced. Use this opportunity to further educate your maintenance staff as to their own food safety obligations. Education can be through formal training, memos, maintenance policy and procedures that include food safety elements. This would also be applicable to contract maintenance staff.

Give ownership to the Maintenance Department

Sometimes it is hard to get maintenance to take ownership of their food safety responsibilities. Organise to have the maintenance person to participate in this challenge with you. Get them to walk around and pick up items. Whenever you find the issue of maintenance tools or maintenance debris left on or around food production equipment explain to them why it is an issue.

Continuous Improvement Activity

If your maintenance activities are well controlled and implemented – congratulations. To give more ownership or provide refresher training to the maintenance department, make a copy of the applicable ‘maintenance’ sections in the standard that you get audited to. For example, if you are required to comply with SQF give the maintenance section a copy of the maintenance requirements in this standard. If you do not have to comply with 3rd party certification standard, you can also refer to your local food legislation for maintenance requirements. Go through these requirements with maintenance representatives as part of refresher training.

How did you do?

Have you had any foreign matter end up in your food product related to maintenance activities? Did you find any issues on your walk-around? Let me know by leaving a comment below. You can also share this article with members of your maintenance department by clicking on the ‘envelope’ social share button below to email them.

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