Safe + Sound Week
When an organization expresses the objective to have a strong safety culture, definitions can vary widely among top management as to what that actually means. According to the UK Health & Safety Commission, a safety culture is “the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behavior that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organization’s health and safety management.”
A strong safety culture has a number of characteristics in common. An organization’s safety culture is ultimately reflected in the way that safety is managed in the workplace, including the actionable steps that should be taken to reach the ultimate goal.
The Science of Behavior
Implementing a Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) approach is one way to create a robust safety culture. BBS involves applying the “science of behavior” to change real-world safety problems. Essentially, BBS aims to increase safe behavior while reducing hazards and risks by examining the motivation behind the underlying behaviors of workers. BBS relies on complete trust and cooperation between every employee—from top management to operation-level employees—to be successful.
Cooperation means working together to develop a strong safety program (e.g., management involving line workers in creating safety policies and procedures). It means that management seeks feedback from workers about safety issues—and uses that feedback to make improvements. And it means that there is no blame when incidents occur. Incident investigations focus on fact finding, not fault finding. Trust in the safety program, in senior management, and in each other is built when each of these characteristics is present and treated as a company-wide priority.
Creating a BBS Program
The hallmark of BBS programs is their aim to provide effective feedback, reinforcement, and recognition to the employees to improve safety conditions in the workplace and increase situational awareness based on behavioral observations. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) recommends following these eight steps to create a BBS program:
- Create a team that will initiate the BBS program.
- List targeted behaviors that are deemed unsafe. These can be taken from safety audits, near miss reports, toolbox talks, etc.
- Create a BBS checklist that any employee can fill out completely when they observe an unsafe behavior. Behaviors should be:
- Observable (i.e., seen or heard)
- Reliable (i.e., witnessed the same way by more than one person)
- Something the employee can control
- Described in a positive way (i.e., what should be done vs. what shouldn’t be done)
- Objective (i.e., not based on opinions or interpretations)
- Determine the measurement system that can count the frequency of safe and unsafe behaviors.
- Conduct behavioral observations.
- Provide appropriate feedback depending on the behavior of the employees. Positive verbal feedback is a powerful way to reinforce safe behavior and a cornerstone of effective BBS.
- Use the data gathered from observing employees and make necessary changes.
- Work with employees determine which behavior(s) or process(es) needs improvement.
BBS is an effective tool for involving all employees in creating a strong safety culture—one that employees will not only buy into but embrace as the way the organization does business. Done effectively, BBS creates the positive reinforcement, non-judgmental feedback, leadership influence, and an environment of trust that are all key characteristics of a strong safety culture.
Does your organization rely on BBS to support its safety culture?
Safe + Sound Week
Safety programs work when employees actively participate in them. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, they tend to work even better when employees are involved in establishing, operating, evaluating, and improving them. That is because employees know and understand the potential hazards of doing their jobs.
Top of the List
Many different organizations have conducted surveys on the top safety concerns for workers. The identified concerns often vary by industry due to the types of job activities performed. And, not surprisingly, some concerns align with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Top 10 Safety Violations (e.g., trips, slips, and falls).
Regardless industry, there are similarities in some of the health and safety concerns employees have, particularly in those organizations with barriers to effective safety communication. Some of the top health and safety issues that are often overlooked by employers—and ones that don’t necessarily hit OSHA’s Top 10— include the following:
- Stress and distractions. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines job stress as “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can, in turn, lead to poor health and even injury.” Long days, increased workload, and increased competition for workers’ attention can lead to lower productivity, more physical and mental illnesses, and the inability to anticipate potential hazards.
- Poor ergonomics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one-third of worker injury and illness cases are musculoskeletal disorders resulting from poor ergonomics. Workers across all industries are at risk of musculoskeletal injuries from things like repetitive tasks, lifting heavy objects, or working at a desk for prolonged periods of time without proper breaks.
- Spread of illnesses. One positive outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increased awareness of the risks associated with spreading illnesses in the workplace. Workers are more cognizant of those with illnesses around them and, subsequently, are becoming less hesitant to call off work if they are feeling under the weather.
- Working alone. While working alone is common in many industries, that does not make the practice inherently safe. Working alone and/or without proper surveillance means workers are at an increased risk of serious injury with no one to call for help or to provide medical attention in the event an incident occurs.
- Temporary workers. With staffing shortages impacting nearly every industry, temporary workers are becoming more common. Unfortunately, temporary workers are the most likely to perform dangerous tasks due to inadequate training on job-specific hazards. This lack of adequate training is not only a risk to the temporary worker, but also to any permanent workers who work along side them. Workers are aware of the lack of safety-specific training for temporary workers and feel the responsibility falls unduly on to them.
Not every employee feels safe to bring up safety concerns with their company. It is important that organizations have many avenues available for employees to bring forward issues they see in a way that is comfortable for them and without retribution. These avenues can be weekly safety meetings as a team, a monitored company email address, or even something as simple as an anonymous suggestion box. Giving adequate time to listening to employee safety concerns increases trust between workers and the company, shows leadership consistency, and aids in employee retention.
Can your company bear the cost of your employees’ concerns falling on deaf ears?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “Safe workplaces are sound workplaces.” An organization’s safety culture is ultimately reflected in the way that safety is managed in the workplace, and having a strong safety and health program can help create:
- Fewer accidents, losses, and disruptions by preventing workplace injuries and illnesses
- Engaged employees and improved morale
- Increased productivity and enhanced overall business operations
- Lower workers’ compensation and insurance claims
- Improved compliance with OSHA regulations
- Improved reputation to attract new customers and employees and retain existing ones
- Better brand and shareholder value that tie to social responsibility
These benefits are precisely why the OSHA created Safe + Sound as a year-round campaign: to encourage every workplace to develop, implement, and maintain a safety and health program.
Safe + Sound Week
One week out of the year—August 15-21, 2022—OSHA promotes a nationwide “Safe + Sound Week” to recognize the successes of workplace health and safety programs, offer information and ideas on how to keep America’s workers safe, and encourage America’s workplaces to commit to workplace safety and health.
OSHA recommends that every workplace have a safety and health program that includes the following three major areas:
- Management leadership. Management must provide the leadership, vision, and resources needed to implement an effective safety and health program. This means that business owners, managers, and supervisors commit to:
- Making worker safety and health a core organizational value.
- Eliminating hazards, protecting workers, and continuously improving workplace safety and health.
- Providing sufficient resources to implement and maintain a strong safety culture.
- Visibly demonstrating and communicating their ongoing commitment to safety and health.
- Worker participation. Engaging workers at all levels in establishing, implementing, evaluating, and improving safety and health in the workplace creates buy-in. Workers are a valuable partner in making the workplace safer, and maximizing participation (without risk of retaliation) allows everyone to feel invested in the program.
- Systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards. Finding and fixing hazards in the workplace is an ongoing process to better identify and control sources of potential injuries or illnesses. This can involve establishing procedures to collect and review information about known or potential hazards, investigating the root cause of those hazards, and prioritizing hazard controls. This continual process ensures that workers go home to their families safe and sound every night.
KTL’s Series on Investing in Safety
Throughout OSHA’s Safe + Sound Week (August 15-19), KTL will be featuring a series of articles and posts on our blog and social media (i.e., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) reinforcing these concepts from OSHA and discussing why businesses should invest in safety. Topics will include the following:
- Where is your company on its safety journey?
- Top employee safety concerns and why they need to be heard
- Worker compensation audits, what to expect, and how you can save money
- Behavior-based safety – what is it?
- Benefits of a third-party safety audit
Watch for these articles! And for more information on Safe + Sound and what your organization can do to participate and promote a strong safety culture, visit https://www.osha.gov/safeandsound.
Get to know our KTL team! This month, we are catching up with KTL Marketing Director Stacey Pisani. Stacey has over 20 years of experience working as a communications professional exclusively in the areas of environmental, health & safety (EHS); food safety; and renewable energy. She has developed a comprehensive understanding of this subject matter that allows her to effectively add value to projects and turn technical information into meaningful content. She is based in our Madison, WI headquarters.
Tell us a little bit about your background—what are your areas of expertise?
I am originally from the Madison area and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a degree in communications and a minor in technical writing. While I do not have an environmental background, one of my first jobs after college was working for RMT, an environmental consulting firm. I found my niche and have remained in this industry for over 20 years.
I joined KTL in 2013 and currently serve as the company’s Marketing Director. My communications and marketing expertise spans all facets of internal and external marketing and communications, including executive communications, brand management, public relations, website design/management, digital marketing, social media, newsletter development, change communications, promotional campaigns, and copywriting/editing for various media. I also am heavily involved in developing proposals and working on a variety of training, reports, and deliverables for many of KTL’s clients.
What types of clients do you work with?
While a large portion of my time is spent working with KTL staff on marketing initiatives to grow KTL’s brand recognition and client base, I am fortunate to also work on projects for many of our clients in the areas of both EHS and food safety. This ranges from developing content for client publications, to writing procedures and policies, to creating training content, to reviewing various types of reports to ensure quality end products. I don’t interface with clients directly too often but enjoy those opportunities when I do!
What would you say is a highlight of your job?
I spend a good portion of my days writing, reviewing, and editing—all things I love to do. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to communicate most effectively some very technical and/or critical information. I am continually learning new things in my job, which is great after 20 years. And I get to work with most KTL staff on some level—I truly enjoy being able to interact with everyone in the office and in our remote locations.
What do you like to do in your free time?
My husband and I have two daughters who fill our calendar with lots of running around to gymnastics and dance. They keep us entertained! But when we aren’t in the car or at some sort of competition, I really enjoy working out, reading, theater, cooking/baking.
Read Stacey’s full bio.
Two years ago—on July 13, 2020—the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) published the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, providing the roadmap FDA will follow to further food safety modernization under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). According to FDA, “Smarter food safety is about more than just technology. It’s also about simpler, more effective, and modern approaches and processes. It’s about leadership, creativity, and culture.”
This has remained the Administration’s focus as it has pushed its New Era of Food Safety forward to meet the Blueprint’s goals to:
- Enhance traceability
- Improve predictive analytics
- Respond more rapidly to outbreaks
- Address new business models
- Reduce contamination of food
- Foster the development of stronger food safety cultures
Progress to Date
For the past two years, FDA has focused on initiatives to support the four core elements identified in the Blueprint. Progress-to-date has included the following:
Core Element #1: Tech-Enabled Traceability. FDA has taken several actions to use technology to create food traceability advancements and reduce foodborne illness:
- The proposed Food Traceability Rule was published on September 23, 2020, as required under FSMA Section 204(d), to enhance traceability recordkeeping for certain identified foods beyond a limited “one-up, one-back” traceback approach. The final rule must be submitted by November 7, 2022.
- Twelve winning teams were selected in FDA’s Low- or No-Cost Tech-Enabled Traceability Challenge, which encouraged development of traceability systems that are cost-effective for food operations of all size. The winning entities are now working with FDA to disseminate their ideas to stakeholders.
Core Element # 2: Smart Tools for Outbreak Response. The Blueprint seeks to strengthen the use of data for root cause analyses and predictive analytics to prevent future outbreaks. Advancements in this area have included the following:
- FDA conducted a pilot study designed to strengthen the ability to predict which shipments of imported seafood pose the greatest risk of violation. Results show that machine learning could increase the likelihood of identifying a shipment containing potentially contaminated products.
- FDA has increased the amount and quality of data through information sharing agreements with regulatory and public health partners, academic institutions, industry, and others. This includes domestic mutual reliance agreements signed with five states (i.e., California, Florida, Minnesota, Utah, and Wisconsin), which “provide opportunities for the FDA and state partners to lay a quality foundation for sharing information and working together on regulatory services and food protection that industry and consumers can trust.”
- In December 2021, FDA released its Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan, which sets the stage to “enhance the speed, effectiveness, coordination, and communication of foodborne outbreak investigations” through tech-enabled product traceback, root cause investigations, stronger analysis and dissemination of outbreak data, and operational improvements.
Core Element #3: New Business Models and Retail Food Modernization. As FDA has acknowledged, “The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for modern approaches as we respond to unique demands on our food system, from unprecedented imbalances in the marketplace, to changing consumer behaviors and a rise in e-commerce, to challenges to performing inspection and compliance work in FDA’s traditional manner.” Correspondingly, the Administration is considering how to address potential food safety vulnerabilities for foods ordered online and delivered directly to the consumer.
Core Element #4: Food Safety Culture. The improvements in food safety, foodborne illness, and outbreaks outlined above depend largely on food safety culture. Every action the FDA takes is intended to help create an atmosphere where organizations are aware of and help to prevent any process and/or operational issues and deviations that may impact the safety and/or quality of their food products. FDA also remains focused on consumer education regarding safe handling of food.
A Look Ahead
As FDA continues to push its New Era of Food Safety forward and new challenges surface, it is important to understand the current landscape, set priorities, and commit the appropriate resources to ensure long-term sustainability. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened a number of issues and unique demands on the food safety system.
As the Blueprint enters year three, FDA will continue to advance its core elements and goals. Companies that operate in the food industry should consider undertaking the following activities to align with FDA’s objectives:
- Implement a food safety compliance management system to help coordinate, organize, control, analyze, and visualize the information necessary to remain in compliance and operate efficiently.
- Conduct third-party assessments to provide an outside perspective of food safety systems and compliance/certification to identify gaps in programs that need development/updates.
- Explore technological advancements that allow for further digitization and promote more timely and accurate collection and management of important data.
- Gather/manage data and conduct root cause analysis, as needed, to identify underlying issues and ensure similar problems do not occur in the future.
- Build a strong food safety culture that focuses on changing from a reactionary to a preventive mindset that promotes safety and quality.
Many hazardous wastes can be recycled safely and effectively. As with most materials, recycling has a variety of benefits. For hazardous waste, this includes fulfilling two goals of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA):
- Reduce the volume of waste materials that must be treated and disposed of, and
- Reduce the consumption of raw materials and energy.
Beyond these environmental impacts, hazardous waste recycling can also provide significant economic benefits to generators, including increased production efficiency, reduced costs associated with purchasing new materials, reduced (or eliminated) RCRA regulatory requirements, and stronger corporate stewardship and a “green” image.
Know Your Options—and Regulations
Used or residual waste-like materials—the byproducts of hazardous waste—are called secondary materials. A hazardous secondary material may be recycled in one of a few different ways, including use, reuse, and reclamation.
EPA has developed hazardous waste recycling regulations to promote the reuse and reclamation of useful materials in a manner that “balances the conservation of resources, while ensuring the protection of human health and environment.” The level of regulation depends on the material and how it is recycled. For example, recycling activities that pose a significant threat are subject to strict hazardous waste regulations. Conversely, the Agency grants regulatory relief for many types of “lower risk” recycling to reduce the regulatory and compliance burden.
Direct Use or Reuse
Secondary materials can be used or reused as an ingredient in an industrial process to make a product or as an effective substitute for a commercial product. Since direct reuse of hazardous materials presents a low risk to human health and the environment, EPA does not regulate these activities unless waste will be burned or placed on the land (see below).
Reclamation involves processing secondary material to recover a usable product. Certain reclaimed materials may be exempt from hazardous waste regulations, while others are subject to full regulation based on the level of threat posed by reclamation activities. For example, EPA standards for handling precious metal waste are significantly less stringent than for other hazardous wastes, and reclaimed scrap metal is exempt from all hazardous waste regulations.
Use Constituting Disposal
This type of use involves direct placement of wastes or products containing wastes on the land (i.e., land application). EPA strictly regulates land disposal of hazardous waste due to the potential for soil and groundwater contamination.
Combustion for Energy Recovery
Hazardous waste can be recycled by burning it for its fuel value. This activity is regulated as strictly as any other type of hazardous waste combustion. Combustion units must obtain a permit and meet performance and operating standards under the boiler and industrial furnace regulations.
Selecting a Reputable Hazardous Waste Recycler
When poorly managed, hazardous waste recycling can become a significant—and dangerous—waste management problem. It is the generator’s responsibility to ensure their hazardous secondary materials are being handled legitimately by recyclers.
Recyclers should be open to periodic inspections of their facilities and audits of their operations to ensure they are fit to handle hazardous secondary materials. EPA recommends asking questions of hazardous waste recyclers to ensure the legitimacy of their operations:
- What is the facility’s site/ownership history? Is the facility financially sound? Does it have adequate pollution liability insurance and provisions for closure and cleanup costs, if necessary?
- Does the facility have a history of environmental compliance? Has there been any previous contamination at the site? Has the facility been subject to any enforcement actions? Does the facility’s record indicate a commitment to sound environmental stewardship? Does the facility have all required permits?
- What are the general housekeeping practices at the facility?
- Does the facility employ responsible practices, such as waste screening and acceptance procedures, residuals management, drop-off and tracking protocol, and certificates of recycling?
- Is there a reliable market for the saleable products or intermediates that are made from recycling hazardous secondary material? Can the recycler provide names/locations of business, landfills, incinerators to which it sends products/residuals? Can the recycler supply certification of final disposition of materials?
- Are any residuals generated from the recycling process managed in a way that is protective of human health and the environment? Does the recycler have an EHS management system to ensure environmentally sound management practices?
A thorough accounting of all materials handled should be readily available from the recycler, including the following:
- Documented evidence that their process meets requirements for recycling hazardous waste, as codified in 40 CFR 266.
- Notification to EPA of activities for transportation, operation of a TSDF, or generation of regulated waste.
- Documented reclamation process, including all downstream and outsourced processes.
- Completed, compliant manifests for shipment of regulated wastes.
- Records showing the facility is not speculatively accumulating.
As best management practice, recyclers may also provide certificates of reclamation to offer generators additional assurance. Certifications that operations meet internationally accepted environmental, health, and safety (EHS) management standards (e.g., ISO 14001/45001) provide additional assurance that programs and processes are in place to comply with applicable regulations and reduce the generator’s liability.
As generators use recyclers, it is important to monitor environmental and financial metrics. When working with a reputable recycler, hazardous waste recycling can result in cost savings through reduced material/energy consumption and avoided disposal cost. It can alleviate environmental compliance obligations. And it can help promote an environmentally friendly reputation.
KTL is pleased to welcome the following new EHS resources to our team!
Christen Hoffman, Senior Consultant
Christen is an EHS professional with over ten years of industry experience providing EHS compliance management, leadership, and support for industry. She is particularly skilled in company culture, environmental risk management, streamlined compliance systems and associated training programs, annual reporting, root cause analysis, hazardous waste management, and air quality compliance. Christen also excels at using digital innovation (Microsoft 365 and SharePoint) to maximize the value efficiency of EHS programs. Christen is based in Ames, Iowa. Read her full bio…
email@example.com | 913.306.7023
Sam Lechnir, EIT, Consultant
Sam joins KTL with nearly five years of experience working in both the public and private sectors to provide environmental compliance and remediation services. In particular, he has strong experience using state and federal regulations to develop permit applications; employing investigative methods with various media; conducting data assessments/evaluations; and implementing remediation technologies. As a certified EIT, Sam has valuable knowledge of the process of engineering and uses this to optimize quality and efficiency on projects. He is based out of our Madison office. Read his full bio…
firstname.lastname@example.org | 608.588.5116
Strong safety performance is a cornerstone of any business. Implementing and enforcing health and safety policies and safe work practices is essential to ensure that the organization does not endanger the health or safety of workers, communities, or customers. More often than not, strong safety performance also makes the difference in being qualified to provide services to customers or being able to sustain/expand the business.
June is National Safety Month. Observed annually by the National Safety Council (NSC), the nation’s leading nonprofit safety advocate, National Safety Month focuses on “saving lives and preventing injuries, from the workplace to anyplace.”
Where to Start
This year, NSC has chosen the following weekly topics to highlight during National Safety Month:
- Week 1 – Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs): MSDs are a leading cause of workplace injury and cost billions each year in workers’ compensation and lost productivity.
- Week 2 – Workplace Impairment: More than 90% of employers agree that fatigue, mental distress, and stress can cause workplace impairment, in addition to drug misuse.
- Week 3 – Injury Prevention: In 2020 alone, more than four million workplace injuries required medical attention in the U.S., resulting in more than $643 billion in costs.
- Week 4 – Slips, Trips, and Falls: Falls are the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death and the most frequently cited standard on the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) top 10 list for the eleventh year in a row (see below).
OSHA’s Top 10: FY 2021
Beyond the topics NSC has chosen to highlight for this year’s National Safety Month, OSHA’s list of the top 10 most frequently cited standards is an excellent place for any organization to focus their attention. OSHA publishes this list each year to help employers take the appropriate steps to find and fix recognized hazards before they experience a workplace injury and/or before OSHA shows up for an inspection.
OSHA’s top 10 for FY 2021 includes the following:
- Fall Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501)
- Respiratory Protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134)
- Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)
- Hazard Communication, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200)
- Scaffolding, construction (29 CFR 1926.451)
- Fall Protection Training, construction (29 CFR 1926.503)
- Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147)
- Eye and Face Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.102)
- Powered Industrial Trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178)
- Machinery and Machine Guarding, general industry (29 CFR 1910.212)
Many workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths that occur in workplaces are related to these top 10 cited standards—and many could be prevented with adequate resources and attention. That is why it remains critical for organizations to continue developing and promoting strong safety and health programs, as well as educating and training workers in safety awareness.
For more information on National Safety Month, visit https://www.nsc.org/workplace/national-safety-month.
The Food Safety Summit brings together the food safety community to learn more about today’s most crucial elements of food safety—from regulatory concerns and current industry trends to ongoing challenges and the latest technology and solutions.
This year’s Summit, held earlier in May, proved once again to be an engaging and informative meeting for all in attendance. Throughout the Summit, KTL’s food safety experts observed several common themes and challenges that the food industry is facing — challenges that your business may be encountering today.
We sat down with KTL’s attendees—Roberto Bellavia, Kasia Branny, Samantha Edwards, April Greene, and Joe Tell—to get their key takeaways from the Summit.
What topics were covered throughout the Summit?
The agenda for this year’s Summit was packed. Just some of the topics covered included cybersecurity, internal audits, food waste, food safety culture, foodborne illness, food safety management systems (FSMS), data-driven analytics, tech-enabled traceability, food recalls, microbial challenge studies, supply chain management, and sanitation.
Food safety culture headlined the agenda as the keynote topic this year, and it is clear this is an area garnering much more attention and visibility across the food industry. The keynote address provided the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) views on the importance of developing and nurturing food safety culture in the food industry, the industry perspective on implementing successful food safety culture strategies, and the importance of food safety culture through the eyes of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
KTL participated in a panel on virtual tools for food safety assessments. Panelists discussed how organizations are using remote technology to perform food safety assessments, food inspections, product and facility approvals, and similar tasks that are usually performed in person and onsite. The group discussed the practical, procedural, legal, and technology considerations any organization needs to develop efficient and effective remote audit protocols and maximize their potential use of remote tools.
In addition, KTL had a large turnout for our Solutions Stage presentation, Food Safety Management System Case Study: Using Microsoft 365® to Improve Compliance. KTL discussed how having a simple, centralized FSMS to manage, track, communicate, and report compliance program information can enable staff to complete required tasks, improve compliance performance, and support operational decision-making. The big secret: most companies already have the software they need in-house. An industry case study demonstrated a cost-effective approach for building an FSMS using the Microsoft 365 platform with SharePoint®.
What are the biggest challenges companies in the food industry are currently facing?
Not surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges we heard time and again is related to staffing, from turnover in the quality department to being understaffed in production. On a related note, many also noted challenges in finding qualified—and available—auditors. Also not surprising, budget constraints and shortages in the supply chain remain challenges to navigate. It is increasingly difficult to get raw materials for operations and finding truckers to get materials to/from facilities is hampering production.
There remains a lot of focus on the application of new FDA requirements—like Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) and Food Defense and Intentional Adulteration—and finding good systems to manage all the related documents. While this is not a new rule, supplier approval/verification programs, vulnerability assessments, and written food defense plans will remain a key focus as a surge in food demand and lack of supply has created an environment ripe for food fraud. It is likely that FDA intentional adulteration inspections could also ramp up.
Finally, many companies are experiencing other regulatory bodies (beyond FDA and USDA) taking much more interest in food companies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have started to realize that they have been somewhat lax on inspecting these facilities. 2021 brought a significant uptick in EPA multi-media inspections, enforcement actions, and large penalties for violations, particularly related to anhydrous ammonia storage, risk management, and chemical accident prevention planning. Anhydrous ammonia is widely used as refrigerant in food facilities, including meat, poultry, and fish processing facilities; dairy and ice cream plants; wineries and breweries; fruit juice, vegetable juice, and soft drink processing facilities; cold storage warehouses; other food processing facilities; and seafood processing facilities aboard ships. Not only are companies trying to make do with fewer staff, but responsibilities are growing to include these environmental, health, and safety (EHS) regulatory compliance concerns, as well.
Are there any *new* food safety trends you heard about that companies should have on their radar?
Food safety culture. Food safety culture and its introduction into various certification schemes and regulations is a hot trend that will only grow in importance. Food safety culture is a core element of the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety. It is also a key component of the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements Version 2020 and, subsequently, is being integrated as a requirement into many of the benchmarked food safety certification standards. Best-in-class food safety cultures have robust systems in place to ensure consistent commitment, communication, procedures, training, performance measurement, and trust.
Cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is moving to the forefront for many. A new law was adopted that requires companies in listed industry sectors, including the food sector, to report to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 72 hours of a cyberattack and within 24 hours if they paid ransom. Implementing regulations will clarify which companies are specifically subject to this reporting. Interestingly, Microsoft SharePoint was mentioned during the Summit as one of the safest technologies for storing and managing information compared to other food safety software from a cybersecurity perspective.
Rapid laboratory testing. Another interesting and very current discussion was about the new micronutrient and chemical analyses that have been developed to quickly test baby formula to help combat the baby formula shortage. There is a lot of opportunity and more “affordable” technology available to set up internal rapid laboratory testing to conduct product and environmental testing.
Data analytics. There is also a big push for usable data. Companies are starting to realize they need to have data they can use in a meaningful way to improve their systems. A well-designed and well-executed food safety program—with data trend analysis—provides an important tool for ensuring food safety. The goal should be to effectively capture and analyze audit data and then use that information to improve food safety and quality, achieve certification requirements, and enhance overall business performance.
Sustainable food management. The regulatory community has identified a real need for addressing food waste and the lack of circularity in the food industry. Wasted food makes up the largest percentage—over 20%—of any one material sent to landfills and incinerators each year in the U.S. The EPA, USDA, and FDA have already joined forces to address the magnitude of wasted food impacts across the U.S. through the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion program. Efforts to promote sustainable food management have begun extending to the state level and will continue.
Supplier expectations. Finally, companies (and customers) are setting higher expectations for the supplier and vendor companies they work with. As a result, more companies are pursuing certifications in areas they may not have previously considered to meet these customer expectations or, sometimes, to work globally. This can include anything from getting certified to various ISO management system standards (e.g., quality (ISO 9001), environment (ISO 14001), cybersecurity (ISO 27001), etc.), or participating in sustainability and corporate social responsibility reporting (e.g., Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), etc.).
What should companies in the food industry be doing now to plan for the future?
The shortage of workers—and resources, in general—is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The days where it is typical to see someone at the same company for 25+ years are coming to a close! Managing the complexities of a FSMS and food safety program is challenging, even when fully staffed. Every regulatory agency and voluntary certification standard calls for companies to fulfill compliance requirements; supply chain and internal requirements create further complications and confusion.
One of the best things food companies can do to manage this challenge and plan for the future is to invest in going digital. Compliance efficiency and tracking tools are becoming essential to allow companies to do more with fewer resources. An integrated compliance management system brings various tools together to create one system that effectively manages compliance requirements, enables staff to carry out daily tasks and manage operations, and supports operational decision making by tracking and trending data that is collected daily by the team charged with implementation.
Get to know our KTL team! This month, we are catching up with KTL Principal and founding partner Joe Tell. In his professional career, Joe has amassed over 25 years of experience providing strategic management systems, subject matter expertise, and technology solutions to help diverse organizations solve their EHS and food safety compliance and sustainability challenges. Joe founded Tellevate LLC in 2011 and was instrumental in the merger of Tellevate LLC with Kestrel Management LLC to form KTL in 2019. He is based in Atlanta, GA.
Tell us a little bit about your background—what are your areas of expertise?
Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, I attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and graduated in 1997 with a B.S. in Civil/Environmental Engineering. I began my career as Project Engineer at Law Engineering and Environmental Services (now part of AMEC) and had the opportunity to work on the National Park Service Cape Hatteras Lighthouse relocation and the Atlantic Station steel mill redevelopment site in downtown Atlanta. In 1999, I transitioned to a small consulting firm in the environmental services industry and served as a Partner in that company from 2002 until 2011.
In May 2011, I founded Tellevate LLC as a small business focused on providing sustainability, risk management, and EHS management consulting services for government and industry clients. At Tellevate, I focused on sustainability, EHS, and quality management systems based on the ISO family of standards and the integration of strong compliance programs. In November 2019, Tellevate joined forces with Kestrel Management to form KTL—the business we are today.
As Principal and Chair of the KTL Executive Committee, I now help manage KTL’s business and direct consulting services in sustainability, EHS, food safety, quality, and information management. I have been able to leverage my passion for sustainability to help KTL’s clients improve their environmental and social stewardship.
What types of clients do you work with?
I work closely with many industrial companies, government agencies, universities, and municipalities to support their operations across the U.S and abroad. Notable projects throughout my career have included environmental management system (EMS) design for the U.S. Air Force and Army National Guard; sustainability program development for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI); environmental management support for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Bureau for Global Health; pesticide risk assessments for the U.S. Forest Service; and many engagements with a wide range of industrial companies to develop EHS, food safety, quality, and sustainability programs.
What would you say is a highlight of your job?
I love working with our exceptional KTL staff and a wide variety of clients across many industries to develop risk-based programs that improve human health and protect the environment. No two days are ever the same! I also enjoy managing a successful, small business—striving to continuously improve our operations and make KTL a great place to work.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I was a musician in high school and college and still enjoy jamming with other local musicians around Atlanta when I get the chance. I live with my wife (also an Environmental Engineer) and two daughters in Decatur, a small city within the metro Atlanta area that has a great neighborhood feel. You might find us at a festival on the Decatur Square or out to dinner at one of the local restaurants.
Read Joe’s full bio.