Bloomberg Businessweek recently published an article on how America’s worst graveyard shift—third-shift sanitation—is grinding up workers. Those using in-house staff are required to report injuries and other situations in which an employee may get sick and/or hurt on the job. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t require plants to report contractors’ injuries. Whether you are involved with supporting the in-house and/or contract sanitation staff, the time is now to make sure your sanitors commit to attention to detail.

In today’s food safety environment, not only does training become the number one focus within your day-to-day sanitation operations, but it also lends itself to reinforcing hazard communication/safety and attention to detail. Recalls can be devastating for companies. Environmental positives can also contribute to loss of revenue and production downtime, and can even contribute to losing a key account. Our sanitation staff is the first—and best—line of defense against mishaps that can lead to costly injuries, recalls, etc. Although turnover continues to be a very challenging concern, the better we teach these people the “whys” of sanitation and the better we view this as a family approach, the better our chances to minimize costly recalls, lost product batches and workplace injuries. Sanitation typically is viewed as a thankless job. As we all recognize, the consistency of performance is a result of a solid sanitation training program. It not only teaches workers how to perform but also why it is so important.

Safety continues to be a challenge for anyone in sanitation. The atmospheric conditions generate challenges for safety glasses/goggles/face shields due to some environments creating fog-like conditions. In going through your safety training, whether it be ongoing or annually, focus on two areas.

1. Eye protection: Pictures can vividly share the horrors that can conceivably allow one to lose their eyesight and/or have blurred vision the rest of their life. Let’s remember, we have only one set of eyes. Eye injuries in the workplace are very common, with about 20,000 eye injuries occurring each year (let’s keep in mind reported injuries). Eye injuries not only cause pain and suffering, but the costs are more than eye-opening, adding up to $300 million annually in worker compensation, medical expenses and lost production time, according to OSHA.

2. Wear/utilize the appropriate gloves. The macho effect in sanitation does not work! “I don’t need to wear gloves.” Too many times we see employees who are very young in years, but their hands have the look of adding 50 years to their lives. In turn, this can create other challenges that potentially will risk your health in the long term.

FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) truly impacted food production/food sanitation in 2017. An additional focus will be placed on food safety/sanitation programs in the coming years. Let’s focus on one of the integral parts of your food sanitation program: the seven steps of wet cleaning:

1. Remove excess material that has been produced during the day.

2. Thoroughly rinse all the production equipment (130–135 °F has been shown to do an effective job at removing fats, oils and greases). By doing this job thoroughly, the remaining steps will be accomplished more efficiently.

3. Apply the appropriate cleaner, making sure it is mixed properly and has sufficient contact, cling and dwell time.

4. Agitate the production equipment very thoroughly. Identify harborage points, as these are the areas where biofilms will accumulate, grow and multiply. Plus, they conceivably create environmental concerns within the facility.

5. Thoroughly rinse the surface.

6. Inspect your work—ATP units are not only a terrific way to verify/validate that cleaning has been done efficiently but they also are an excellent training tool for your sanitation crew. The more your sanitation team understands the “whys” of cleaning and sanitation, the more empowered they are and the more efficient they become at their job. ATP can be an excellent tool to show your team what your numbers are after you rinse the gross soils. Comparing the before and after cleaning numbers can be a real game changer.

7. Apply your properly mixed sanitizer per directions for use so that it is at the no-rinse sanitizing levels.

Knowing that sanitation workers can face some of the harshest, most dangerous conditions in American industries, we can all agree that the better trained and fundamentally sound our team is, the better we execute your sanitation program to protect your brand. Working in an industry that deals with high turnover rates reinforces that training continues to become our number one priority. This will ensure the safety of our workers, ensure we continuously produce a quality and wholesome product and, most importantly, protect your brand in addition to those of the companies for which you copack.

To learn more about how Spartan’s food processing sanitation program can help you eliminate foodborne pathogens and prevent recalls, contact Christopher A. Celusta, director, food processing sanitation, SQF 2000 Systems certified, ServSafe certified, HACCP certified, PCQI certified, at