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How processors can follow social distancing rules

  • 2.5 min read

To understand how to follow “social distancing rules,” it’s important to know what exactly is meant by them. This term covers all the actions taken to limit or control the spread of a contagious disease. It refers to the effort required to avoid physical contact with others.

Analyze risks

Within a food processing operation, it’s particularly important to start with an analysis of the risks present in your operations.  List all the activities performed by your employees in each department and determine whether they pose a health risk to coworkers, suppliers, visitors, customers and those who consume your products.

Think how an outbreak in your company would affect employee absenteeism and your reputation in the eyes of consumers.

Consider the efficiency and profitability of your business, while prioritizing health regulations at all costs. Finding the right balance can be difficult, but just think how an outbreak in your company would affect employee absenteeism and your reputation in the eyes of consumers.

Your analysis should focus on the sequence of your operations, the distribution of shifts and the layout of your facilities and equipment. This whole analysis will certainly have an impact on your organizational processes but, at the end of the day, your decisions will have to be made with the health of your employees and consumers in mind.

Implement social distancing measures

Once the analysis is complete, identify what needs to be implemented in each of your company’s departments. 

  1. Maintain a distance of two or more metres between each individual
    Use tape and protective shields to mark off work areas or visitor waiting areas. Implement entry and exit rules for more restricted areas. Spread out activities over time, whether they be work tasks, shifts, breaks, etc.
  2. Limit access to areas where people are likely to gather
    Whenever possible, limit access to meeting room gatherings. Close lounges and lunchrooms or have individuals take turns using these areas.
  3. Isolate workers
    Whenever possible, opt for teleworking and partition your workstations. Plan actions to ensure the psychological health of your isolated workers.
  4. Find meeting and training alternatives
    Maintaining communication is of paramount importance. Be creative in using technologies that will help you stay connected with your remote employees.
  5. Follow strict hygiene measures
    Establish new standards, alternatives to handshakes and the habit of regular hand-washing and provide employees with access to disinfectant or sinks.  Review and enhance cleaning protocols and procedures.
  6. Wear personal protective equipment
    Provide protective equipment such as masks, visors and clear shields. Consider the potential contamination of products that will be consumed by your customers.

Set new goals

Finally, set new goals, and think about the opportunities that this change brings and how you can take advantage of them. Assess what you need in the short and long-term to implement the above changes and reduce risk. Maybe it’s time to start transitioning to Industry 4.0 (artificial intelligence, augmented reality or other software-based services) and incorporate technology in your daily operations. Can you use your equipment to produce other types of products? Are there new ways to engage with your employees that shows you’re focused on health and safety?

Consider your ability to finance these changes and investigate the government funding available to help food producers. Good strategic planning will help you answer these questions.


Article by: Marie‑Jade Tremblay, HR Consultant and Étienne Claessens, President at Soluflex, optimal HR management for SMEs.