Food Safety: Whose job is it?

Food & Agribusiness, Property & Casualty, Risk

Five Ways Human Resources Influences Food Safety

Much has been written about the role the food safety manager plays in developing and ensuring the integrity of the food safety system within a plant. But how often are the words FOOD SAFETY and HUMAN RESOURCES included in the same sentence?

While a human resources director may not be the author of the food safety plan, he or she can have significant impact in creating a company’s food safety environment – also known as the food safety culture. In addition to overall company culture, the human resources director can also support a food safety culture through on-boarding and training, policies and procedures, and recognition and rewards.

1. Food Safety Culture Champion

A company’s culture starts from the top. In an ideal situation, the human resources director works with leadership to make food safety an integral part of the company culture, incorporating it into the company’s mission and vision statements and allocating resources.

So critical is the role of company culture to maintaining food safety, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) completed an 18-month study on this topic. The results of the study are intended to help food industry professionals establish and maintain a culture of food safety within their respective organizations. The report, appropriately titled A CULTURE OF FOOD SAFETY A Position Paper from the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)” (1) emphasizes the essential role that leaders and managers throughout the organization play in establishing and promoting a food safety culture.

The human resources director can proactively engage outside resources to help the plant build on its food safety culture. For example, in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership holds regular sessions on creating a culture of food safety and consults with individual plants on this issue.

2. On-Boarding for Food Safety

On-boarding plans that include position-appropriate food safety training helps establish the importance of food safety with new employees – beginning with day one.

3. On Going Training for Food Safety

The human resources team can work with the food safety team to identify general food safety training that could apply to all levels of the organization, from maintenance personnel to management. HACCP training is often a good starting point for general, company-wide training. As mentioned in Casey FitzRandolph’s article in the June 15th issue of The Cheese Reporter, in order for training to be effective it should be developed and delivered to meet both the educational level and language level of the trainee.

4. Policies and procedures for dealing with illnesses

The human resources director can develop sick leave policies that encourage sick employees to stay home rather than bringing their illness into the food processing environment. Not allowing an employee enough time off work to recover from an illness can have major financial impact. This financial impact was highlighted in a study of the restaurant industry by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.(2)  Their research model estimated the costs of 15 common foodborne pathogens which cause outbreaks in restaurants. According to the model, giving a restaurant employee a week off to recover can cost anywhere from $78 to $3,451 depending upon his/her wages and duration of illness. Whereas, a single norovirus outbreak could cost a casual restaurant $2.2 million in lost revenue, fines, lawsuits, legal fees, insurance premium increases, inspection costs and staff retraining, according to the study. This amount far surpasses the cost of allowing a sick employee adequate time off to recuperate.

5. Recognition and Rewards for Food Safety

The human resources team can work with the food safety personnel to develop recognition programs to reward outstanding and consistent adherence to the food safety protocols. According to the GFSI report, rewards, when paired with fair and transparent recognition programs, can help management guide desired food safety behaviors.

It’s clear from the research, whether it’s a dairy processing plant, restaurant or grocery store – food safety isn’t just one person’s job; it’s everyone’s job!


This blog post is an article by Jen Pino Gallagher, originally published by The Cheese Reporter in August of 2018. M3’s Food & Agribusiness professionals are regular contributors to the Cheese Reporter. Read the most recent M3 articles on

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