A food facility’s design is often studied for cost efficiency and flow; however, evaluating flows of materials, equipment, and people for food safety is often overlooked. Facility design should consider multiple factors regarding how people and materials flow through a plant as overlapping flows can be a source of cross contamination. As today is World Food Safety Day, this topic is especially relevant as we consider how business operators can keep food safe.
- Overall, a facility design should promote a one-way flow of people and materials in the facility. The flow of people and materials should avoid crossing, turning back, or overlapping. It is key to consider flow to the manufacturing line, but do not forget to think about in-process product, waste, inedible, portable equipment, change parts, and so on that leave the line.
- Separate raw and ready-to-eat (RTE) flows of materials, equipment and people. If possible, have separate areas for locker rooms, lunchrooms, or break rooms.
- Keep pallets from external sources or contaminants in the dock area. External pallets can often carry unwanted pests or microbes on them. Switch incoming materials from an external pallet to a clean “captive” pallet.
Several elements should be considered for personnel as well.
- Simplify access routes for personnel to their workstation, to the break room, and back to the locker room. Are foot baths, hand wash stations, and sanitizing stations positioned so they can easily use them? Have raw and RTE workers been separated? Is there separation of the employees in main aisles so they do not touch passing items?
- Quality and maintenance staff often work across the entire facility. Should they be focused in one area and not support the entire plant? Should maintenance be separated into raw and RTE teams with separate shops? If quality and maintenance staff must support the entire plant, do they understand and flawlessly follow good manufacturing practice (GMP) guidelines?
- How do they get to the construction site? Can they enter the site in a way that they do not come in contact with plant staff? Have special GMPs been put in place so that contractors do not cross contaminate the plant or workers?
Simplifying and separating flows of materials, equipment, and people is an important step to a food-safe facility.