In the food processing industry, like many factory-based jobs, employee turnover is high. When you’re seeing a turnover rate of about 35% yearly, how do you train your staff to follow important safety plans? When you’re in an industry where a simple mistake by a single employee could result in thousands of people getting sick, how do you ensure HACCP compliance?
For many, color coding has become the easiest answer. Color coding offers a simple solution to an otherwise complex problem. Even the newest employee can quickly learn that red products belong with the raw product, and white goes with the finished.
Here are our top 5 tips to using color coding to ensure all of your employees follow CGMPs.
- Set up cleaning stations
Cleaning stations serve as a visual reminder that everything has its place. Put a sign over a station filled with blue tools to remind everyone that those tools are used to clean floors in the packing area, and another sign over a pink wall bracket to tell employees that those tools are used in receiving. Cleaning stations also remind employees to hang tools back up once they’ve been cleaned.
- Separate allergen control zones
Training new employees on how and why to respect allergen control zones is difficult. Popular culture has made everyone aware of the danger of peanuts, but many people don’t respect the potential harm trace residues of milk ending up in the wrong product can do. Even if your individual employee doesn’t understand why blue tools are only to be used in a certain area, they can at least quickly understand that it’s the way the factory operates. If the new employee still doesn’t respect the separation, they can be quickly corrected, since it will be immediately obvious they’re using a tool outside its zone.
- Back up your plan with pictures
It’s riskily idealistic to think every employee who walks through your door will know how to read in English, or know how to read at all. Photos of what to use each tool with will back up your written signs and make them easy to understand for all of your employees, no matter what their background or education level is. Use easy photos like a picture of peanuts with a big red X over them for your peanut-free tools, or a photo of a purple scoop next to wheat grains so employees know what those tools should (and shouldn’t) touch.
- Don’t use commonly color-blind colors
When you choose colors, be aware that some are more easily confused than others. Of people with color-blindness, about 99% have trouble distinguishing between red and green. Try not to use these colors in the same color coding plan. Also, be aware of the fact that about one in 12 men are colorblind, and one in 200 women. Choose shades that are contrasting, like white and red, and avoid putting similar shades near each other, like brown and orange or blue and purple.
- Use color-coding to spot training issues
Is someone using the brush meant for a different shift or a different area of the facility? It’s time for a small, informal retraining conversation with a floor manager. These easy discussions can essentially boil down to telling the employee the color they should be using for their purpose. Quick one-on-one sessions with a manager will reinforce these guidelines, and with very little time or effort wasted. Floor managers should have color-coded zones memorized so they can make the most of their time on the floor and correct problems where they see them.
Food safety is everyone’s job in the plant, but training comes down to managers and owners. Creating an environment where safety comes first starts with using the right tools for the job, and color coding can help with that.