Sanitation is an essential step for any food manufacturing plant. Proper sanitation ensures that food is processed on clean machinery reducing or eliminating the risk of microbe, pest and allergen related issues. We simply could not have a safe food system without individuals working on the front lines and keeping plants clean.
You could even argue that the sanitation department is one of the most important departments.
How can you expect to do anything if nothing is clean?
So how do we highlight this integral career? Well, by putting the spotlight on them of course! That’s why this week FoodGrads is taking an in-depth look at the essential role of sanitation workers and how they maintain good housekeeping and sanitary conditions with in a facility.
1. Sanitation Workers sanitize and clean processing areas
A sanitation worker is:
a professional responsible for ensuring that the plant (including its equipment and machinery) is cleaned on a regular and scheduled basis in accordance with government regulations, the public health code and generally-accepted food industry sanitation standards.
Sanitation workers perform this by working as a part of a sanitation team and completing the responsibilities of the sanitation department. These responsibilities include using the appropriate cleaning methods (in accordance to Good Manufacturing Standards) to clean all equipment/utensil (ex. pails, containers, machine parts). Furthermore, they may be required to clean, roof, fans, ceilings, walls and floors.
Throughout the cleaning process sanitation workers complete forms as set out by the sanitation and quality departments. These forms help to keep track of sanitation procedures and show proof that equipment has been cleaned should an audit occur.
Finally, they clean and sanitize production equipment based on the Master Cleaning Schedule. Schedules provide indications as to what change overs that have occurred through out the day
2. Sanitation Workers work in teams
The number of individuals that a sanitation worker will work with varies depending on the size of the company. Many sanitation workers work independently and are assigned specific tasks to complete by the end of the shift. However, sometimes these professionals might be required to work as a team in order to clean a large piece of machinery.
Throughout cleaning they need to be aware of colleagues and how they are cleaning because it will help to avoid cross-contamination. For example, you wouldn’t want to clean an allergen surface beside a non-allergen surface or use the same water. This could is a big no no in cleaning applications.
3. Sanitation workers work in a mixture of working conditions
Manufacturing plants vary in the set up of their facilities. Some facilities are cold, some on the more humid side while others are just at room temperature.
Sanitation workers have to be prepared to work in different conditions as required by the employer. It’s important to note that each plant differs. Nowadays a newer plant is pristine and can be highly automated, therefore the environment is very high tech.
4. Sanitation workers have a very physical job
Sanitation workers spend nearly all of their time on their feet moving. Throughout the day they are required to stand and/or stoop for the full shift and in many cases to climb ladders. Good mobility is also required because they might have to reach high to clean things such as roofs, fans, ceilings and walls using specific procedures as directed.
Not only that but depending the size of the equipment they may have to be able to control high-pressure hoses. Furthermore, these workers have to move equipment to different parts of the plant and lift heavy chemicals.
5. Sanitation workers have this education
The best part about this job is that typically no previous experience is required and many facilities will provide you with on the job training. Training sometimes comes in the form of formal training but mostly learning from colleagues and supervisors.
It is a very good occupation which gives you the option to enter with no formal education but work your way up the ranks and pay grades. You could start off as a sanitation worker, work your way up to a sanitation lead and eventually a quality assurance manager.
6. Sanitation Workers understand MSDS
Sanitation workers come across a variety of chemicals throughout their days and it is integral for their own safety that they know what they are using. To obtain information on chemicals they look to a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) – a document that contains information on the potential hazards (health, fire, reactivity and environmental) and of a chemical product.
This is why is important that sanitation workers have a basic levels of communication and reading. These workers need to have the ability to understand what each chemical does and how to properly use.
7. Sanitation Workers keep track of what they do
Documentation isn’t always the funnest but it is also a requirement of the job. Sanitation workers keep track of what they are doing by completing form, marking check boxes and recording numerical information. Documentation allows for facilities to show record of cleaning schedules and when an audit comes up they can prove they have cleaned.
Other basics tasks might include:
- Writing short notes to supervisors requiring supplies.
- A brief description or report on a corrective action report.
8. Sanitation Workers have these set of skills
Being a sanitation professional requires a range of skills however there are a few which are more essential than others. These skills include:
- Good use of memory- Although sanitation workers have written Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) these can take time to read every single day. Over time sanitation workers develop a good working memory by watching other people perform. Having a good memory ensures faster times and better muscle memory as well.
- Task Planning and Organizing: Sanitation workers need to be flexible and prepared at any time that their required tasks might change. For example, an unexpected order might have come in for a plant so they need to clean a machine ASAP. They need to have a good understanding of how long each task will take so the can better organize their day.
- Decision Making: Many sanitation workers work independently so they need have ability to make decisions such as when it is best to perform a task use appropriate equipment and efficiently deal with a problem should one arise.
Author: Veronica Hislop – Veronica is a recent graduate working as Quality Assurance Technician at a snack food company. She graduated with a Chemistry degree at Ryerson University and has a passion for bringing awareness to sustainability in the food industry. When Veronica is taking a break from her food endeavours you will find her at home reading a great novel and playing with her cats.
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