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Dealing with your superiors and colleagues who aren't food safety


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#1 GMO

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 12:10 PM

This is something I've been working on my entire career.  I have worked in all kinds of businesses but there is always that one person (often more) who are in a position of seniority or influence and think "food safety?  That's someone else's job" even when it should be part of theirs.

 

What are your top tips?  I have strategies for working on people but I've never found I've got to the point I can completely live with it.  You know the situation where, in your heart of hearts, you know the site shouldn't be sending something out.  I'm always the person to speak up and get shot at as a result.  The frustrating thing is I can see the implications and the risk of what could go wrong and I know I'm right that it is a risk, the difficulty I've had is in every food business I've worked in, they've got away with that risk, so far but I've ended up moving on because these aren't risks I could live with.

 

I often wonder what would have happened if someone in Cadbury's had said "this is wrong" or "we shouldn't let this go" when they had their Salmonella issue and trust me, I'm not talking on that scale but the mass of grey which is only a step removed.  So if you think about it in H&S terms with the iceberg that for every death or major injury you will have had 10 minor injuries, 60 incidents with property damage and 600 near misses, I'm talking about stopping incidents at the "property damage" level.

 

So what changes do you make?  What do you do?  Do you feel like a lone voice in this way?  How do you manage the stress, the relationships etc?


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#2 Scampi

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 02:36 PM

Unfortunately, lets face it, companies DO NOT get into producing food in order to provide safe items for sale, they get into business due to a whole host of other reasons not the least of which is profit. Producers are all only providing safe food as it impacts the bottom line if they don't.

I will add a caveat here, I worked for a company who suffered a major recall (not naming names) who did everything CORRECTLY as required, but could perhaps have done more.......sometimes you simply cannot know all the risks

 

Having said all of that, I take great pride in doing my portion........I cannot change attitudes, but I can know that I have done everything I possibly can to produce a safe product and I am willing (if pressed) to be a whistle blower if I think it is warranted, but I truly hope I'm never in that situation.

I am the lone voice in my position, but at least I have the maintenance department on my side (just heard about a millwright using a zipsaw on a RTE product line during production) WOW at least I know that wouldn't happen here)

 

There also has to be more government involvement There isn't an industry on the planet that can effectively police itself.


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#3 GMO

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 03:51 PM

Just realised my spelling is terrible, I do apologise. 

 

"There also has to be more government involvement There isn't an industry on the planet that can effectively police itself"

 

That is the truest statement ever and the answer though is not "more audits" or perhaps "a different type of audit".

 

I would love it if auditors took the "ethical audit" approach of sitting people down at all levels and talking to them about food safety.  Seeing if the MD really understands their responsibilities and understands HACCP for example!  Seriously though, standards have played lip service to Senior Management Commitment and we all know that MDs are getting away without living and breathing it in many organisations and we are all guilty of covering it up for them when if they actually really did try it would make our lives so much easier.  I recognise food safety is not the only thing on an MD's plate but it should be one of the most important.

 

I recognise I'm not perfect, I am occasionally overcautious but when you're surrounded by cowboy's it's hard.  It's making me lose my love for the food industry and I really think it's some of the problems behind why recruitment and retention in Technical is difficult.  Why would anyone want to always be the bad guy getting told by the commercial and operations people that you've made life difficult / wasted money etc when all you've done is defend the consumer normally from someone else's mistake.  And if you don't?  You risk the consumer, the customer, the business reputation or even the business.  It's tough.  I seem to be between a rock and a hard place all the time right now.  :helpplease:


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#4 Scampi

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 04:33 PM

Auditing is actually at the heart of my particular shade of jade............paperwork will never give a true snapshot of what actually occurs in manufacturing (hidden camera footage released of Kellog employee urinating on a cereal line), that video came out after employee had quit. Clearly no one either A-saw what was happening or B-cared to do anything about it

 

Because of what we make, we have a daily constant presence in our facility by CFIA, HOWEVER, when they send out the auditors (once/two years) they never leave the office..........mitigating risk is only part of the issue, if implementation fails, the best program in the world isn't worth the ink its printed with.

 

Yes, we are a special brand of crazy-nuts. We must have incredibly thick skin, board shoulders and really not afraid to confront authority (there very things our moms taught us not to do!!!). I have turned it into a running joke, "i know I always bring bad news but XXXXX just happened"  or "don't shoot the messenger, but XXXXX has to be changed today" , at least then the operator knows that I am fully aware of what my job entails, but that I don't really care!  A take no prisoners approach seems to work at this location, I don't work on pretence.......I know you'd rather not have to have me here at all, but you're required to so deal with it!!!!!!!!!!

 

As for stress relief, this form helps as does wine!


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#5 Tony-C

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 06:53 AM

I recognise I'm not perfect, I am occasionally overcautious but when you're surrounded by cowboy's it's hard.  It's making me lose my love for the food industry and I really think it's some of the problems behind why recruitment and retention in Technical is difficult.  Why would anyone want to always be the bad guy getting told by the commercial and operations people that you've made life difficult / wasted money etc when all you've done is defend the consumer normally from someone else's mistake.  And if you don't?  You risk the consumer, the customer, the business reputation or even the business.  It's tough.  I seem to be between a rock and a hard place all the time right now.  :helpplease:

 

Hi GMO,

 

Oh boy can I sympathise and relate to your posts :angry:

 

On a management level I try and get others on board during management reviews and on discussions regarding the setting of KPI's and objectives where I politely (sometimes not so politely!) suggest that food safety and product quality are included in everyone's job descriptions and objectives.

 

With regards to 'incidents' I've had my fair share. You mentioned reputation and one of the things that is respected about quality/technical people by their customers is honesty and integrity. Obviously this can come at a price, I've had a Managing Director insist that disciplinary be taken against me but in the end the company couldn't follow through with it because I told the customer the truth. It did not seem like it at the time but the company benefitted long term because of the 'respect' the customer had and the confidence they gained that I would ensure that 'the right thing' happened. I can see how with smaller organisations this may lead to an extended vacation ....... :eekout:

 

Kind regards,

 

Tony


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#6 GMO

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 08:18 AM

What I get frustrated with is being told I need to have "more of a grey area".  I have a grey area but it's not as large as someone whose main priority is getting tonnage out the door or maximising profit.  Of course it's not the same and nor should it be. 


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#7 Tony-C

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 11:48 AM

What I get frustrated with is being told I need to have "more of a grey area".  I have a grey area but it's not as large as someone whose main priority is getting tonnage out the door or maximising profit.  Of course it's not the same and nor should it be. 

 

Better than being told that you need more 'grey matter'

 

I'm a sort of black and white guy and I guess that is my problem

 

Kind regards,

 

Tony


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#8 CMHeywood

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Posted 22 March 2017 - 03:26 PM

Grey area?:  "At least there were only a few people that got sick or died!"

 

In the USA, there is a trend to prosecute the owners or top management for severe food safety problems that affect the public.


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#9 GMO

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 08:42 AM

Grey area?:  "At least there were only a few people that got sick or died!"

 

In the USA, there is a trend to prosecute the owners or top management for severe food safety problems that affect the public.

 

I know.  They do in the UK too and not even just for big companies.  For example, a guy who owned a chain of curry shops was jailed after a member of the public had a curry with nuts in (and died) despite asking for one without.  The owner wasn't there at the time but due to cost cutting measures he'd brought in, they'd started using peanuts instead of almonds and he'd not trained his staff so he was liable.

 

The big boss doesn't think it would be him in the dock if we killed someone.  I think he believes it would be me and to some degree it could be but ultimately, he carries the majority of the responsibility.

 

The difficulty is with the grey area discussions though is with food safety there are certainties (that test says the product has pathogens in it, we're not sending it out) but there are also grey areas (that product has had something happen to it which isn't right, although the test results are good, testing isn't 100% effective.)  It is the latter where we really come to blows and (sadly) only the former situation where it's completely cut and dried where people end up being prosecuted (normally).  Still confuses me why that didn't happen with Cadbury's though.


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#10 Pepper

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 01:22 PM

I suggest an mixture of training and endorsement of a no blame culture. I have faced your problem and when I was very junior I learnt to do a 2 pronged attack. Raise the question politely in the meeting, often in the guise of seeking knowledge & information, and if that did not get the response I was looking for asking to take it outside of the meeting. Often the public request was enough to show I was really concerned. The second was to present a positive release form - if you are so sure it is OK to go you will sign your name to it and take responsibility - with option for a go or no-go / hold -  moves away from blame culture to positive decision making.

Training involves enabling the candidate to see the bigger picture.

I hope this helps 


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#11 GMO

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Posted 25 March 2017 - 11:30 AM

I suggest an mixture of training and endorsement of a no blame culture. I have faced your problem and when I was very junior I learnt to do a 2 pronged attack. Raise the question politely in the meeting, often in the guise of seeking knowledge & information, and if that did not get the response I was looking for asking to take it outside of the meeting. Often the public request was enough to show I was really concerned. The second was to present a positive release form - if you are so sure it is OK to go you will sign your name to it and take responsibility - with option for a go or no-go / hold -  moves away from blame culture to positive decision making.

Training involves enabling the candidate to see the bigger picture.

I hope this helps 

 

Nope, doesn't work.  I am already accused of not being prepared to take responsibility and risk.  The rock and a hard place situation I have is unless I let product go when the MD wants it to go, I'm seen as "excessively risk averse".  If I raise my concerns, I'm seen as "not being a team player" and if I don't come to the same conclusion as everyone else, then I'm seen as being wrong, there is no recognition that I have every right to hold a different opinion even when the business decision is to send something out.


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#12 Tony-C

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 11:13 AM

Pretty sure I've been described as all those things. I remember the 'bad old days' when it was the same and the MD's favourite saying was ' if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem'.

 

Hope that you find a better organisation to work for.

 

Kind regards,

 

Tony


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