For food and beverage companies, compliance with health and safety regulations is always top of mind. Not only do they want to protect their employees and their customers and avoid costly penalties from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but they also want to protect their organizations’ reputation and integrity.
Last fall, the United States Congress enacted legislation that required all federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation. As a result, the maximum penalty for a serious violation jumped from $7,000 to $12,471 as of Aug. 2, 2016. As for willful or repeat violations, that maximum penalty increased from $70,000 to $124,709 per violation.
More than the Money
However, worse than the increased fines are the repercussions that come with being publicly called out for violating regulations. Besides needing to pay the fine and fix the problem, violators will also be subjected to heightened scrutiny from both agencies and the public, and have to rebuild consumers’ trust in their company and products. With brand trust becoming an increasingly important factor in consumer buying decisions, staying on the right side of the line matters more than ever.
Other important advantages that come from good safety performance:
- Lower injury rates keep workers healthy and working, and keep associated costs low;
- Safe work environments are good for employee morale. Healthy, happy workers are more productive.
The good news is there are some steps you can take to ensure compliance and avoid costly slip-ups. Below we outline some of those steps and offer advice for pulling them off.
1. Encourage employees to be vocal about any safety issues they see.
Empower supervisors to have one-on-one meetings with employees, or provide an anonymous suggestion box so employees feel comfortable sharing.
2. Engage employees in ongoing training and make safety a standing agenda item for team meetings.
This will help maintain employee safety awareness and ensure everyone is on the same page.
3. Proactively plan for inspections.
Conduct mock interviews with your team members so they know their rights during an inspection, or schedule “surprise” inspections so everyone feels comfortable with what a real OSHA inspection looks like.
4. Conduct an EHS audit.
An audit will uncover risks and opportunities for improving your EHS program. If you don’t have the in-house resources or expertise, enlist the help of an EHS consulting firm that has experience in the food and beverage industry.
5. Implement an EHS management system (e.g. ISO 14001, ISO 45001, OHSAS 18001).
These management systems are voluntary, but help companies stay in compliance with relevant EHS regulations – you can’t maintain certification without being compliant. Certification can also provide competitive advantage and help differentiate your organization from competitors.
It’s worth taking some time to think through these preventative measures and identify any risks or gaps in your organization’s EHS plans. Avoiding fines is important, but preserving your good name and a safe, happy work environment is paramount.
Read more about Antea Group's involvement in the Food and Beverage Industry.
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