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Pain Points to Eyesores

Photo Credit: Grasshopper

We all have habits that create pain for us and others. It’s one thing to have a few problems that only affect one’s personal life. It’s quite another when an unchecked habit directly affects the overall good of a company.

When I started studying FSMA’s Sanitary Transportation Rule, I was fairly certain that I could navigate through the text of the rule and get a plan written. I know how to read and understand legal language, and I can usually write well enough to get important documents in written form.

While my background is not ‘food safety’ specific, after 20 years, managing the different parts of getting a fresh produce load from shipping point to destination has given me enough experience to handle most of the requirements of the rule.

The part that does scare me, and always will, is the people part. It is one thing to have written procedures, kept somewhere for interested parties to review should the need arise.

But it is quite another to make sure that the people who are supposed to be doing the complying are actually doing it. Sometimes it’s not the big obvious stuff that makes a plan go awry. Rather, it’s the one or two noticeable habits an employee may have that if ignored, will lead to quite a problem.

Here’s an example for you.

Ella is a diligent student, and is highly organized. But at times, when she is done working on something, she is DONE, and doesn’t always pick up the area where she works.

If I could confine all these areas, it would not be a problem. But she does work in my office a few days a week, and so now that school has begun, so has the battle over the neatness of the workspace.

It’s not horrible, but it does make our office messy and to me, the owner of the company, it adds a bit of a disorganized, unprofessional feeling to my workspace.

What if someone important stops in? Maybe they will not admire Ella’s excellent study habits more than her willingness to clean up. Maybe they will assume that this visual disorder will translate into sloppy business practices and decide not to work with me.

What if someone NOT important stops in, but since they see things in disarray, they too may leave a mess when they leave.

So around we go. So far, I have managed to keep my guests in the front office so they don’t see our family work style.

Yesterday a friend and fellow business owner did stop in. He is important to me, especially since he and I have actually talked about how crucial it is to have our office space always ready to receive anybody that may very much value a clean, organized area.

And her space was truly an eyesore. Trying to avert my attention to anything other than the messy desk and floor, I looked down at our rug, and to my horror, Corgi fur all over the place!

Of course, food safety concerns far outweigh my Ella’s tidiness issues. But hopefully it is easy to see from my example how a person’s pain point can become an eyesore.

It’s the little things that we put up with in an organization that if unattended can get out of control and lead to a totally wrong or disastrous conclusion about a company.

My experience is in transportation, but of course, in moving fresh produce, I am required to handle problems on the produce side of things as well. Because this specialized area of transportation often boils down to time and temperature, anything that adversely affects these two considerations is a problem.

Time and temperature. An issue of seconds and degrees. Some of the smallest units of measurement are frequently the main focus of a transportation claim.

Think about it. Who has the most control over both time and temperature when hauling a produce load? Right. Sometimes the dispatcher but most often the driver.

But this brings us back to the compliance question. Whoever is ultimately responsible for managing the habits of both the dispatcher and the driver is really the person who needs to understand their role in the compliance process.

And cumulatively speaking, habits that are often ignored could end up being the pieces of the legal puzzle in defending a food safety claim.

Checking pulp temperatures before loading, knowing where the temperature recorder is in the trailer, not taking the time to understand a dispatch, loading patterns, awareness of current road restrictions….

This is a very short list of a few driver/dispatcher related behaviors and habits that are constantly creating a record and a reputation for carriers and shippers. Let little things, that are noticable, get out of control, and they will create an eyesore for a company.

So I end with a warning. If you are responsible for complying with a transportation food safety plan, understand that it is risky to ignore the habits of the people you are counting on to do your compliance. Remember,

“It’s easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.”

Benjamin Franklin

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