How To Use Risk Management To Eliminate Workplace Hazards | NFI | National Food Institute

How to use risk management to eliminate workplace hazards

The three steps you should take when handling jeopardy areas in your workplace

No matter which workplace you’re in there will always be risks to your safety and wellbeing. You will encounter these risks every day. That’s why it’s so important to have a risk management strategy (RMS) setup at your workplace. A risk management strategy can help minimise risks and reduce the incidents that may harm your business.

Here at the National Food Institute, we believe risk management can be approached by looking at the 5 key business jeopardy areas within a food manufacturing business, these being:

  • Worker Safety
  • Food Safety
  • Quality
  • Environment
  • Productivity

When considering these 5 jeopardy areas you then follow three key steps to manage the risks:

  • 1. Identify the potential hazards,
  • 2. Assess the risks, and
  • 3. Control the hazards.

When everyone in the workplace follows these steps correctly, they all become effective risk managers. We believe risk management isn’t just the responsibility of an OHS officer. It’s everyone’s responsibility and it’s our goal to help build a risk management culture.

When everyone in a workplace is trained in risk management, you spread the load of responsibility. Everyone is doing their part to make your workplace safer and it has many other benefits too. In some cases, companies are not able to cover the cost of insurance premiums because they have skyrocketed after previous workplace incidents. After setting up an effective RMS, we’ve seen workplaces drastically decrease their workplace incidents to the point where getting insurance cover was affordable again.

Through workplace based training, we’ve helped many workplaces set up their own RMS. When everyone is trained to recognise and manage risks the same way, you get consistency in the way hazards are handled. Everyone does their part to make the workplace safer. There are no gaps in knowledge because everyone has gone through the same training. So when there’s a hazard present in your workplace, everyone has the ability to identify, assess, and control it.

The 3 main steps for risk management

When risk management is used correctly it can be a proactive process. It can help your workplace respond to changes fast and foster continuous improvement in quality and safety standards. It should be well thought out with plans and consistent structures in place. All employees should have the foresight to recognise when elements of a task can become a hazard or have an associated risk.

In the food processing industry risk management is broken down into three main steps; identifying the hazard, assessing the risk, and controlling the hazard. These three steps are focused on to keep the risk of an incident down to an absolute minimum. From effective workplace training, these steps become a habit that everyone follows automatically.

So no matter where people are in your workplace they will automatically identify, assess, and control a hazard as soon as one presents itself. For example, if an employee identifies a spill as a hazard they will automatically assess the risk of slipping, and attempt to control the situation by installing signage or begin cleaning it up straight away.

Step 1: Identify hazards

An employee identifies a hazard-based on the risk it poses to their safety and everyone else’s in the workplace, hazards can come from any one of the 5 jeopardy areas. They need to ask themselves “what hazards do I face and are these hazards visible to everyone else?

Step 2: Assess the risk

An employee should assess how big the risk is to themselves and everyone else in the workplace. They should consider the likelihood and severity of a hazard. Staff can then determine if a hazard is significant and the size of the risk it presents. Is it a huge risk, medium risk, or minor risk? Once the risk is understood, it can be automatically handled by employees.

Step 3: Control the hazards

After identifying if the risk is significant, an employee needs to ask themselves how they can control the hazard they’ve identified. Is there a way to eliminate and minimise it? Is there a way to protect themselves and others in the workplace from this hazard immediately?

When you stick to these three RMS steps of risk management it becomes easier to be proactive about workplace risk. It’s a simple system that everyone can follow and improve upon whenever a new risk to safety presents itself in your workplace.

5 jeopardy areas for food processing

Here at the National Food Institute, we’ve established five jeopardy areas for the food processing industry. These areas all deserve special attention when it comes to risk management. We believe that by understanding risks across five jeopardy areas, any food processing business can set themselves up for success.

1. Workers safety

Workers safety should always be the number one priority for any workplace whether it’s in the food processing industry or not. Workers should always have access to a safe environment, safe equipment and knowledge of safety procedures passed down to them via workplace training. When worker safety is not taken seriously, people can die or suffer serious injuries.

Identify

In a food factory, you may be able to identify any hazards that pose a threat to the safety of your workers. One common example may be a liquid spill on the floor.

Assess

Floors are often exposed to liquids or food products that can make them slippery and unstable to walk on. A slippery floor would be assessed as an immediate risk for staff in a workplace that needs to be fixed asap.

Control

An immediate way to control a slippery floor would be to install temporary signage until someone cleans up the spill. A more long-term fix would be to install rubber mats on the floors to prevent future slips. Personal protective equipment also has a role to play here too. You could make it a requirement for your workers to wear shoes with a proper grip on the outsoles.

The same process can be followed for other identified worker safety hazards such as moving machinery, forklifts, cuts, burns, lifting heavy objects, chemical handling, working at heights or confined spaces etc.

2. Food safety

It doesn’t take much to jeopardise the safety of food. Exposure to hazards can affect the quality of food produced in your factory and cause serious issues. When an issue with food safety is identified it can cause the costly disposal of a factory’s product or a product recall if it’s identified after the products are on shelves.

Food safety is important for the safety of your consumers too. The mishandling of ingredients in a food processing environment can lead to food poisoning and other related illnesses after customers have consumed your food products. When food safety hazards are not managed correctly they can lead to complaints and recalls. In some cases, customers may even die after consuming food that’s been incorrectly handled or stored.

Hazards for food safety are commonly classified into three main categories; chemical (including allergens), physical, and micro (biological or microbiological). Let’s look at the way that risk management can be applied to food safety in order to remove these hazards.

Identify

In your workplace, if you work with sensitive ingredients they need to be stored correctly under refrigeration to reduce the growth of dangerous microorganisms. When temperatures are not maintained consumers may get sick due to food poisoning. All staff should be aware of the correct storage requirements for ingredients such as meat, dairy, seafood etc. Staff should be able to identify If temperatures of these items are to high.

Assess

The risk assessment of poor storage shows that if temperatures are not maintained there is a high likelihood that consumers will get food poisoning from consuming the foods that have had temperature abuse which has serious consequences. This hazard is therefore significant.

Control

All staff should be vigilant to monitor temperatures. Simple things like keeping doors closed can have a positive impact on keeping food items cold. Larger problems such as breakdown of refrigeration equipment need to be reported to management quickly so that repairs can be organised.

3. Quality

By regularly assessing the quality of your food you can maintain consistency with your products. All of your staff should understand what it takes to produce the same high level of quality again and again. They need to be trained on how to measure and manage good quality during all stages of food production. When issues arise that can affect quality, your staff should be able to identify them straight away.

Assurance measures should be implemented to ensure a consistent standard of food production processes. Quality checks should be carried out daily to ensure all stages of food production comply with a certain standard. So let’s put this into practice with the three main areas of risk management.

Identify

If there is an issue with the appearance of food, it should be identified straight away. If batches of biscuits are not consistently cooked the same way then it’s likely you’ll get trays that of biscuits that vary in colour. Some could be yellow, golden brown, dark brown, or black.

Assess

After identifying inconsistent colours of biscuit batches it’s time to assess what’s causing the issue. Are the wrong ingredients and ratios being used or are batches being cooked at different times and temperatures? After assessing the cause of the issue it’s time to focus on how you can control the issue.

Control

If the issue is caused by inconsistent baking temperatures then a new measure of control needs to be implemented. A perfect example of how to control this risk is to retrain staff on proper baking temperatures. Another example could be updating recipes and baking instructions to make sure they’re easier to follow. Staff will also need to be retrained on how to assess the colours of biscuits so they can identify when they’re not cooked correctly.

Quality issues don’t normally cause harm to the consumers but they Jeopardise the business because unhappy customers don’t return or give you bad publicity which can impact future sales.

4. Environment

Now more than ever consumers are concerned with the environmental impact that the production of their food has on the environment. Consumers are being pickier about where their food comes from and what production processes are being used. Even the type of packaging being used can influence their decision to buy your product.

It’s for these reasons that businesses now need to focus on their image. How do they look to consumers? Do they appear to be environmentally conscious? Are they doing the best they can to eliminate wastage and pollution during food production?

Food processing companies are seeing the growing need to change the way their production affects the environment. If you own or work in a food processing factory then it’s important to have a plan in place for managing the environmental impact of waste disposal and pollution caused by food production.

Our risk management strategy can easily be applied to a food processing plant to make the product more environmentally friendly.

Identify

In a food factory, you may identify that non-recyclable plastic is being used to produce your packaging. This packaging can be seen as a hazard to the environment because it doesn’t break down in a rubbish tip and cannot be recycled with other plastics. This packaging can be an instant deterrent for consumers who may choose not to buy the product at all because it can’t be recycled.

Assess

You could assess the risk of using plastic packaging by researching how this material is disposed of and how it contributes to general waste that ends up in a tip. You can also assess whether there are any plastic alternatives that can be used instead of packaging materials.

Control

You could control this hazard by substituting non-recyclable plastic with recyclable materials such as cardboard, paper, or recyclable plastic. The recycling symbol could also be printed on the packaging to further show customers that your packaging is now recyclable.

5. Productivity

Productivity is about the efficient use of resources in your workplace. All inputs to the business are resources which include labour, ingredients, packaging, utilities, capital equipment, and systems used. These inputs need to be managed properly or else your business could end up failing.

The productivity of your food processing factory can have a significant effect on the revenue and profitability of your company. One inefficient work process can add hours to production times and schedules. This extra time can lead to a loss in revenue and prevent your factory from reaching strict production targets.

It’s so important to carry out regular assessments on the work processes of a food processing factory. That way you can analyse productivity and establish weak points or bottlenecks. Weak points and inefficiencies in work processes should be identified and changed to enhance workflow. For productivity, you should focus on measuring and managing all inputs and outputs to an enterprise.

Here’s one example of how you can incorporate the three areas of risk management

Identify

Imagine you’ve identified a system that’s significantly slowing down production. These are often referred to as a bottleneck. You could already have a system in place for moving boxes from one end of the factory to the other. Can this be done faster? Or with less effort? If so, then you’ve just identified a hazard to productivity.

Assess

Now it’s important to assess the risk of this process slowing down productivity. If the likelihood is “happens often in our workplace” and the severity is “will impact productivity or increase costs”, then the risk is high and it will most likely be a process that always slows down production. It doesn’t help that the entire process of moving the boxes is a manual task carried out by workers lifting and walking boxes over to another area (which could also cause a Workers Safety Hazard).

Control

One way you can take control of this hazard is to modify the system used to move boxes. Is there a faster way to do it that will improve productivity but won’t jeopardise safety? By implementing an expanding skate conveyor system, your staff can efficiently move boxes from one area to another faster. This hazard could also be controlled by using a pallet jack or forklift to transport boxes instead. You could also consider rearranging the flow of product through your factory to reduce distances and increase efficiency.

How NFI can help with risk management

As part of our training, here at National Food Institute, we specialise in teaching students about RMS (Risk Management Strategy). Our students learn how to identify, assess, and control hazards in a workplace.

Our aim is to not only inform staff about risk management. We want to create a risk management culture that’s shared by everyone in a work environment. That way everyone can become aware of risks in the workplace. All staff become effective risk managers.

After finishing a food processing course with us, your staff will have the confidence to make decisions and act on the five jeopardy areas of worker safety, food safety, quality, environment and productivity. They will understand how to approach these areas using the three steps of risk management; identify, assess, and control.

This training is specifically designed to create awareness and reduce the risks of hazards at all levels of a food processing business. Contact NFI today and discover how Risk Management can become part of your company’s workplace-based training program.

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