Building a Positive Food Safety Culture (2022)

Building a Positive Food Safety Culture (1)

Building a Positive Food Safety Culture (2)

The most comprehensive Food Safety Programcannot achieve its goals without the support of the people in your business.

This guide was developed to help food business owners and managers develop a strong culture of food safety that will help to protect customers from food-borne illness and other food safety risks that can damage your business.

Resources: Food Safety Tips

Resources: Safe Food Practices

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Introduction

Building a Positive Food Safety Culture (3)

Cultivating a positive food safety culture is one of the most important things that leadership in a food business can do. A business’s culture is made up of the shared values and unwritten norms (good and bad) that influence the behaviour of everyone in the business.

The impact of food safety culture on the success of a Food Safety Program is often understated, but without the support of your team, even the most meticulous Food Safety Program cannot achieve its objectives. Food safety must be treated as an integral part of your day-to-day operations, not just something you discuss at a weekly meeting. The everyday behaviour of your leadership and employees is a reflection of your business’s culture.

A negative food safety culture can be difficult to change, but culture is fluid and changes over time. Food business owners, managers and supervisors can achieve positive and lasting change by establishing policies and procedures that place a higher emphasis on food safety, creating a ripple effect that flows from the top to the bottom.

While the reverse can also be true, the role of management cannot be overstated when it comes to building the foundations of a strong food safety culture.

As a food business owner, manager or supervisor, you are responsible for:

  • providing a suitable environment, equipment and tools that are in good condition and are made of food-grade materials that are easy to clean
  • making it easy for Food Handlers to perform critical food safety tasks without disrupting work flow
  • creating policies and procedures that provide clear instructions for how to make food safely
  • communicating the food safety goals and priorities of the business to all employees
  • providing training and resources to ensure employees understand food safety policies and procedures
  • making sure every employee understands their individual responsibilities as they pertain to food safety
  • identifying opportunities to improve food safety practices and procedures
  • evaluating the effectiveness of the business’s Food Safety Program and food safety culture
  • monitoring and evaluating staff behaviour
(Video) Building Your Food Safety Culture

Why Positive Food Safety Culture is Good for Business

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In today’s competitive market, you need to do a lot of things right to outshine your competitors and grow your business and bottom line. Great food at reasonable prices, a good atmosphere, a decent location and an efficient and charismatic workforce come to mind — but they’re worth less than nothing if you’re not getting food safety right.

Dirty tables, utensils or restrooms are among the top complaints of diners, closely followed by Food Handlers with poor personal hygiene.

If customers are put off by dirty forks and dishevelled servers, they won’t take kindly to undercooked chicken, broken glass in their salad or cockroaches under their feet — and that’s saying nothing of the financial and legal consequences that can follow a serious food safety incident like a food-borne illness outbreak or an allergic reaction to your food.

Food safety failures cost money and damage your reputation, which in turn costs even more money and threatens the long-term viability of the business. By investing time and resources into fostering a positive food safety culture in your business, you can:

  • protect your customers from food safety hazards
  • protect your brand and reputation from negative reviews, complaints or media scandal
  • enjoy peace of mind knowing that your business is always inspection-ready
  • avoid costly fines and closures

A strong food safety culture requires the continuous improvement and commitment of your entire staff. You’ll know if you’ve been successful if your employees have the skills and resources they need to do their job well and are invested in the success of the business. This makes it possible for management to take a step back from day-to-day operations and focus on long-term strategies to grow the business.

Make It Personal

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For your food safety culture to succeed, everyone in the business must understand their role in food safety and why it’s important. As the food business owner or manager, you need to communicate the overall food safety priorities and goals of the business, as well as clearly defined rules and procedures that are specific to different teams and individual roles.

For example, if you have a specialty coffee maker in your business that needs to be cleaned on a regular basis, your kitchen staff may not need specific training or sign-off sheets, but your serving staff will need:

  • an understanding of who is responsible for routine maintenance (including regular cleaning and sanitising) of the machine and how frequently it must be done

  • training and instructions on how to disassemble/reassemble the machine and how to clean and sanitise components

  • sign-off sheets and other documentation to verify that cleaning and maintenance is being performed

Each team needs to have its own routine, set of rules and documentation that is customised to the tasks they perform. As the food business owner, manager or supervisor, it is your responsibility to provide these. It’s risky, and a little unfair, to assume that employees will know how to do the best job if ‘best’ is never properly defined for them. Invest the time required to help everyone to understand their role, why it’s important and what your expectations are.

It’s also up to you to make sure that employees understand that the risks of non-compliance are real and can have consequences, for the business and for themselves. When employees are held accountable for following established food safety policies and procedures, they are more likely to do the right thing — even if nobody is watching.

Don’t make it all about the consequences — you’ll find you get much better results by focusing on how your employees will benefit from supporting a positive food safety culture. A safe food business is more likely to be a successful food business, and a successful food business is in everybody’s best interest.

Employees who commit to doing the right thing for the business can reasonably expect to be able to:

  • make more money (more tables, more shifts and higher wages)

    (Video) The Five Keys to Building a Better Food Safety Culture

  • feel confident that they know what they’re doing and what is expected of them

  • feel confident that they have the tools and training they need to do their job well

  • enjoy peace of mind knowing that they aren’t putting the safety of others at risk

When everyone in your food business is working towards one goal, you will see lasting and positive change that can have a huge impact on all aspects of the business.

Lead By Example

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A business’s food safety culture is a reflection of the importance of food safety to its leadership. Leaders are responsible for identifying food safety goals, engaging the entire staff in the food safety strategy, holding employees accountable for following the rules and empowering employees to raise food safety concerns.

The highest levels of management set expectations for everyone in the business; clear and consistent messaging from the top is important, but it is more important that management is seen “walking the talk” and leading by example.

Employees are watching; if a Food Handler sees someone else, especially someone at a higher level than them, taking shortcuts or making questionable decisions — decisions based on the bottom line and not food safety — it’s easy for them to decide that these are acceptable behaviours. If management doesn’t follow their own rules, employees will learn that your 'commitment'to food safety applies only to situations where it is easy or convenient to do so.

This can have disastrous results — because it’s harder to do the right thing when it comes to food safety. There are extra steps involved to ensure that surfaces and equipment are properly cleaned and sanitised; to check and double check the quality and safety of the food that is prepared; to communicate food safety concerns; and to take corrective actions, especially if those actions will have a short-term negative impact on the business or the day’s operations.

Management can demonstrate a sincere commitment to food safety by:

  • positioning food safety as non-negotiable
  • investing in training and certification of all employees who handle food in the business
  • supporting decisions based on food safety regardless of financial impact
  • recognising and giving credit to employees who follow food safety best practices
  • empowering and encouraging employees to raise concerns about food safety
  • establishing formal protocols for employees to report food safety concerns
  • taking an active role during food safety training sessions
  • providing incentives for employees who exceed the expectations of management

Fostering a positive attitude when it comes to health inspections or customer complaints deserves a special mention in this section. If management thinks of Health Inspectors (or disgruntled customers) as the enemy, so will the team. As the food business owner or manager, it is important that you have a positive attitude when it comes to receiving negative feedback.

Feedback, whether it’s from an Inspector or a customer, can help you to identify opportunities where your business, your team and/or your processes can improve. If you are communicating to your team that an inspection or complaint is something to be afraid of, you do not have a positive food safety culture.

Repeat Yourself

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Food safety is best achieved through training and education. People learn differently; some people retain information best through listening (having something explained to them), others are visual learners (having something demonstrated to them) and others learn best from hands-on activities (doing the thing themselves). No matter what their learning style, repetition and continuous exposure to the information is the key to making it stick.

We recommend taking a multidisciplinary approach. In addition to traditional Food Handler training and certification courses, find ways to build five-minute training sessions into your weekly — or even daily — schedule. Put your business’s goals and expectations in writing and display them prominently in various stations in your food business.

Use visual cues to remind employees to do (and how to do) various tasks in the business. For example:

  • hand washing poster in the staff bathroom
  • cleaning and sanitising infographic above the dish sink
  • cleaning agents cheat sheet in your chemical storage area
  • safe food cooking temperatures fact sheet in your hot food station (we recommend laminating it)
  • recommended food storage times poster in your walk in cooler
  • information about food allergens and how to identify them on product food labels

These should be clear and easy-to-follow. Take the time to think about what resources will make each job easier to perform. If you were a cook on the line, what might make your job easier?

As part of your strategy, it’s important to communicate the importance of food safety to everyone in the business and return to that conversation often; the more often you highlight your business’s expectations, the more likely they are to stick in the minds of the people who hold your business’s reputation in their hands every day — your Food Handlers.

AIFS Members get the resources they need to keep food safety front-of-mind in a food business. Find out more about AIFS Membership.

Measure Your Success

(Video) Food Safety Conversation: Creating A Food Safety Culture
Building a Positive Food Safety Culture (8)

Measuring helps you to understand if your efforts to foster a positive food safety culture in your restaurant have been achieved or if you need to reconsider and adjust your strategy. If you don’t measure, how can you know if your strategy is working?

Some examples of what and how you can measure are:

  • observing employee behaviour when following standard procedures
  • reviewing health inspection reports
  • evaluating the frequency of customer complaints and how they were resolved
  • reviewing documentation of corrective actions that have been taken in the business
  • assessing employee knowledge of food safety best practices
  • assessing employee understanding of food safety goals and priorities of the company

Change may be slow at first — especially if you’re struggling against an existing food safety culture — but don’t lose hope. Change can and will happen over time; if you need help to take your food safety culture to the next level, get in touch with us.

AIFS is committed to making food safer for Australians by improving the food safety skills of food workers; we support Food Handlers and managers in all types of food businesses across Australia.

About the Australian Institute of Food Safety

As Australia’s largest provider of food safety education, the Australian Institute of Food Safety is dedicated to helping organisations protect their business and their customers from food-borne illness.

As a community focused organisation we deliver public health information to food businesses and consumers in order to improve food safety throughout Australia.

AIFS delivers nationally recognised training that meets all federal and state compliance requirements related to food safety. This includes Food Safety Supervisor and Food Handler compliance training.

The mission of the Australian Institute of Food Safety is to reduce food-borne illness within Australia by educating, advocating and promoting food safety.

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Building a Positive Food Safety Culture (9)

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(Video) Best Practices for Building a Food Safety Culture

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FAQs

What is a positive safety culture in the workplace? ›

Organisations with a positive safety culture are characterised by communications founded on mutual trust, by shared perceptions of the importance of safety and by confidence in the efficacy of preventive measures.”

How do you promote a positive health and safety culture in the workplace? ›

Use OSG's six tips to begin establishing and maintaining a strong and positive safety culture in your workplace
  1. Communicate. ...
  2. Provide Training. ...
  3. Lead by Example. ...
  4. Develop and Implement a Positive Reporting Process. ...
  5. Involve Workers. ...
  6. Put your JHSC into Action.

What are the three steps to create a safety culture? ›

3 Steps to Create a Safety Culture
  1. Raise safety awareness with “safety champions.” ...
  2. Implement safety policies and procedures that support your safety message. ...
  3. Truly reward safe behavior.

What is an example of safety culture? ›

A positive culture of safety in the workplace rewards employees for ceasing work that may be unsafe, even if it means losing materials or missing a deadline. Safety culture encourages on-site employees to be aware of, identify and address hazards as soon as they can to avoid potential risks.

What does a positive safety culture look like? ›

A positive safety culture connects everyone in the company around a common goal to measurably reduce near misses and incidents. It goes beyond following safety procedures and rules. Great cultures elicit safety buy-in from employees.

Why is it important to have a positive safety culture? ›

Safety culture is having a bit of a revolution right now, and it's having a significant impact on workplace injury and overall wellness of employees. Having a strong safety culture promotes more than safety; studies have shown that a positive safety culture also benefits worker confidence, retention, and productivity.

Why is a positive safety culture important? ›

The importance of a safety culture cannot be underestimated. Creating a positive culture – where employees actively participate in health and safety – will help you to meet your duty of care and provide peace of mind. And the great thing about having a strong safety culture is it is self-sustaining.

How do you maintain safety culture in the workplace? ›

5 Steps to Change the Safety Culture in your Organisation
  1. Commitment and Communication. Both are key aspects to a successful and positive safety culture in the workplace. ...
  2. Lead by Example. ...
  3. Develop and Implement a Positive Reporting Process. ...
  4. Provide Training. ...
  5. Involve Employees.

What is positive health culture? ›

A positive workplace health and safety culture is a vital part of a successful and effective health and safety system. It is created and embraced by the mentality, attitude, and behaviour of employees, supervisors, managers and company directors towards health and safety in the workplace.

How do you improve safety culture onboard? ›

The necessary components of a quality safety culture include:
  1. Management Leadership Commitment. ...
  2. Effective Training. ...
  3. Measurement and Continuous Improvement. ...
  4. A Focus on Learning, Not Blame. ...
  5. Continuous Reflection and Visible Commitment to Safety.
Feb 25, 2016

What is a food safety culture plan? ›

Food safety culture in a food business is how everyone (owners, managers, employees) thinks and acts in their daily job to make sure the food they make or serve is safe. It's about having pride in producing safe food every time, recognising that a good quality product must be safe to eat.

What should be included in a food safety culture plan? ›

Food safety culture assessment
  • observing employee behaviour when following standard procedures.
  • reviewing health inspection reports.
  • evaluating the frequency of customer complaints and how they were resolved.
  • reviewing documentation of corrective actions that have been taken in the business.
Jun 13, 2019

What is food safety culture and why is it important? ›

A food safety culture helps bring written processes and procedures and hygiene best practices to reality by ensuring that upholding food safety standards is at the core of every decision or action by individuals in the organization.

What are the four 4 major characteristics of safety cultures? ›

“Basically, they [employees] get their safety habits from work.” The four types of safety cultures are forced culture, protective culture, involved culture and integral culture.

What are the 4 components of a safety culture? ›

Safety culture is presented here as a pyramid with four components: safety values, safety leadership strategies, safety attitudes, and safety performance.

What makes a safety culture? ›

A safety culture is an organisational culture that places a high level of importance on safety beliefs, values and attitudes—and these are shared by the majority of people within the company or workplace. It can be characterised as 'the way we do things around here'.

What is an important part of positive health and safety culture? ›

Good communications between all levels of employee: In a positive culture questions about health and safety should be part of everyday work conversations. Management should listen actively to what they are being told by employees, and take what they hear seriously.

How do you change safety culture? ›

Changing the Hidden Safety Culture
  1. Start fresh with self honesty. ...
  2. Develop a discomfort strategy. ...
  3. Perceive those things that cannot be seen. ...
  4. Heed renowned quality expert Edwards Deming. ...
  5. Surface hidden mixed messages and reduce them. ...
  6. Look for grassroots fixes. ...
  7. Practice pattern recognition. ...
  8. Leverage leadership.
Nov 14, 2018

How can culture influence health and safety? ›

The largest influences on safety culture are:
  1. management commitment and style;
  2. employee involvement;
  3. training and competence;
  4. communication;
  5. compliance with procedures; and.
  6. organisational learning.
Sep 29, 2021

How do you change safety Behaviour in the workplace? ›

Four Key Steps to Changing Unsafe Behaviors in the Workplace
  1. Encourage a Safety Culture. More than three in four Wisconsin workers (76%) say they work in high noise levels where a raised voice is needed to talk to people less than four feet away. ...
  2. Be Proactive, Not Reactive. ...
  3. Take the Time. ...
  4. Build a Safety Program.

What is the first step in creating a safety culture? ›

Secure Buy-In and Alignment

The first step to creating your safety culture is securing buy-in from both senior management and the field level employees who will be most active in day to day safety activities.

What are the 5 element of safety? ›

5 Key Elements of Safety Culture
  • What is safety culture? The simplest definition that is used when discussing Safety Culture is: “the way we do things around here”. ...
  • Benefits of Positive Safety Culture. ...
  • Creating safety culture. ...
  • Risk Awareness. ...
  • Fair and Just culture. ...
  • Inclusiveness. ...
  • Management Commitment. ...
  • Accountability.
May 26, 2021

What does creating a culture of safety mean? ›

Creating a culture of safety means embedding safeguarding into everything an organisation does. Embedding a culture of safety starts at the very top of the organisation with the senior managers pledging absolute commitment and support, including ensuring the resources are available to make it happen.

How can we improve safety culture onboard? ›

The necessary components of a quality safety culture include:
  1. Management Leadership Commitment. ...
  2. Effective Training. ...
  3. Measurement and Continuous Improvement. ...
  4. A Focus on Learning, Not Blame. ...
  5. Continuous Reflection and Visible Commitment to Safety.
Feb 25, 2016

Videos

1. 7 Best Practices to Improve Food Safety Culture
(International Food Safety & Quality Network)
2. Food Safety Public Health Webinar - Setting SMART Goals to Build a Strong Food Safety Culture
(Ecolab)
3. Building Good Food Safety Culture – 1947 Eatery
(Ministry for Primary Industries)
4. Building a Food Safety Culture into the Organization
(PECB)
5. Webinar 3: Building a coalition of food safety culture champions across your organization
(The Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness)
6. What is a food safety culture?
(Safe Food Production Queensland)

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