Within the food manufacturing industry specifically, global demand for products like processed foods has spiked. Companies are working to meet this demand while facing the challenge of preventing the spread of the virus in the workplace.
When outbreaks like the ones in US meatpacking facilities occurred, for example, officials quickly implemented new health and safety workplace procedures. Some governments have faced union strikes, tasked with meeting important safety and compensation demands of essential workers.
But here's some good news. Based on April 2020 research by the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) in the US (for which survey responses were collected between March 17-30):
As global lockdowns are being phased out, industry leaders have begun to pave the way for a new normal across supply chains and within workplaces. Part of this process of business continuity includes defining a concrete set of rules and must-have technologies to combat the spread (and possible resurgence) of the virus.
How food manufacturers benefit from visitor management systems
While remaining in compliance with food safety regulations to prevent food tampering, breaches in confidentiality, and regular employee safety risks, food manufacturers today are facing a new set of responsibilities.
Leaders across the industry can’t ignore their duty of care to protect staff, visitors, and consumers of their products. In doing so, they may ask:
How will organizations limit and manage essential employees and visitors on the premises as lockdowns end?
What’s the most efficient way to screen visitors before they arrive, and once they come on site?
How will companies inform infected individuals on the premises of potential risks?
1. Screening employees and visitors before they get to your facility to prevent the possible spread of contamination.
Fully equipped cloud-based visitor management systems (VMS) allow for hosts to send any necessary health and safety information to visitors before they arrive at your facility. In an invitation email, you can send NDAs or other agreements for guests to read and sign, as well as any necessary instructions for arrival (i.e. where to go for temperature checks).
2. Asking important questions and implementing a touchless check-in process to keep employees and visitors safe.
Once visitors or employees arrive on site, food companies can use a VMS to ask custom questions on their iPad kiosk at the front desk. Based on the requirements of your organization, questions may ask about recent contact with infected individuals, or whether guests are experiencing flu-like symptoms at the time. Specific responses can be configured to prompt access or denial of guest entry.
Using Proxyclick, leading convenience store food business Greencore found these types of custom questions at check-in to be helpful in vetting visitors for symptoms during the Ebola virus outbreak, as well as in complying with food safety regulations.
As I looked closer at Proxyclick, I could see it could do far more than just replace the signing-in book. There was an opportunity to change our whole approach and transform the experience of visitors before, during and after their visit. - Costas Moraitis, Head of IT and Business Relationship Manager, Greencore
In addition, to implement a touchless visitor check-in process, you can opt to remove iPad kiosks from lobbies. Instead, take advantage of the desktop version of your visitor management solution to have security or reception staff ask these questions (while maintaining a safe distance from visitors).
This can help limit human surface touching, thereby eliminating the need to consistently disinfect hardware or risk potential spread of the virus via these surfaces.
3. Allowing only approved, essential visitors access to specific areas of your site.
As part of the touchless check-in process, you can send visitors, contractors, or employees a QR code prior to their arrival via an invitation email. Once at your building, visitors can scan the QR code from their own devices at access control points like doorways or turnstiles.
This mobile check-in process eliminates the need for touching surfaces like door handles, thus helping reduce the risk of spreading infection.
Provided they've met all necessary visitor screening requirements upon checking in, only essential individuals will be able to access specific areas of your facility or building during specified times of day.
This strengthened management of individuals on site is not only important in meeting COVID-19 social distancing requirements but also reduces risks of food tampering or espionage by unwanted visitors.
"All employers are expected to follow social distancing guidance, including food businesses, as far as is reasonably possible. Where the production environment makes it difficult to do so, employers should consider what measures may be put in place to protect employees." - UK Food Safety Association (FSA)’s guidance for food businesses on coronavirus
4. Accessing necessary visitor data, while following health data privacy regulations.
Within your visitor management system, you can track and report on visitor data in real-time to know exactly who is on your premises and when. Given the possibility of asymptomatic infected individuals on site, you may learn that a visitor came in contact with an infected person days or weeks after their visit.
With visitor data from your VMS, you can track down the exact date and time of a person’s visit and access contact information to notify them immediately and discreetly of potential risks.
To help your company comply with local or national health data privacy regulations, you can set your system to automatically delete visitor data(including any sensitive answers to health-related questions) after a specific number of days.
5. Staying compliant with current food safety regulations like the Food and Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
While keeping employees and visitors safe from coronavirus is top-of-mind across industries, food and beverage manufacturers still have everyday obligations to uphold. Regulations like the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) impose strict rules for produce sanitation, proper transportation of food, avoiding intentional adulteration, and more.
It’s the food organization’s duty to follow these rules for the safety of its staff and customers. With the right visitor management system, you can ensure all health and safety guidelines (COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 specific) are met.
Across all essential and non-essential industries, this year has already introduced new challenges and a need for the right technologies in the workplace. Organizations are working to define the new office normal and put necessary guidelines and systems in place to keep us safe.
But above all, one thing has become clear: companies have an increasingly important duty of care to put their people first.
They need to effectively protect employees, visitors, contractors, customers, and anyone else who sets foot on their premises from this virus and any others that may emerge. Flexible software solutions like visitor management systems, with the right features already in place, are must-haves to safeguard our people during these changing times.