Early audit data suggests hygiene is a key area of non-conformance against Issue 9 of the BRCGS Global Food Safety Standard. In a recent webinar, Foram Mehta, Technical Manager for BRCGS, explored the possible reasons behind this. She discussed staff shortages, increased production demands, and a rise in unannounced audits. She also talked about hard-to-reach areas, suggesting a number of sites are failing to properly investigate their cleaning procedures and get to grips with the out-of-site aspects of their operation.

With this in mind, we have put together a guide to cleaning and maintaining the hard-to-reach areas of your factory. From the best way to conduct an internal inspection to the range of equipment available, this article should empower you to have confidence in your cleaning – inspiring your operatives and impressing even the most meticulous of auditors.

1. Carry Out Internal Inspections

First and foremost, you need to carry out regular inspections of your site, paying particular attention to those hard-to-reach areas. This shouldn’t be an exercise in catching out your operatives or making them feel bad for any oversights. Instead, your inspections should be presented as a learning opportunity for everyone involved. After all, every issue you identify is an issue that can be resolved before your next official audit.

When conducting an inspection, you should remember the following points:

  • Try to find the areas your Hygiene Team may have overlooked. Search for small crevices and awkward spaces that would be time consuming to clean.
  • Get down on your hands and knees. You are not carrying out a thorough inspection unless you are looking in, under, and around your machines and equipment.
  • Instead of carrying out your inspections independently, ask your colleagues to share this responsibility. A fresh pair of eyes could spot something you have missed.
  • You could also ask someone from a sister site to inspect your factory. If they are less familiar with your processes, they are more likely to ask questions.
  • Don't be predictable. If you inspect your site on the same day every time, your operatives will know when to raise their standards.

What equipment do you need to carry out an inspection?

As previously mentioned, you should be looking in, under, and around your machinery. Your inspections should be fairly physical, so you will need to equip yourself with knee pads or a kneeling pad that have been approved by your Technical Team.

You will also need to wear the standard food safety PPE. Remembering to do so will prevent you from contaminating clean areas as you inspect them.

Another important step is to bring an LED hygiene torch. This will make it so much easier for you to investigate small and dark crevices.

When it comes to the stationery you carry around site, it’s important that they are detectable, otherwise you are increasing the risk of a foreign body making its way into your product. You should also embrace the ethos of: prevention before detection, opting for durable equipment that is shatterproof and features the smallest number of pieces possible.

2. Train Your Operatives

The next step is to train your operatives, drawing their attention to the hard-to-reach areas you are trying to tackle. During your training, you will need to stress the importance of cleaning these areas. You should share the early data from BRCGS, explain the consequences of receiving a non-conformity or failing an audit, and bring everything back to the safety of your consumers.

Accountability is key, so another idea is to make individual operatives responsible for specific areas of your site. Whether its the underside of a production belt or the tight gap behind a machine, assigning these spaces to trust-worthy workers will ensure they are a key part of your process. These spaces are even less likely to go overlooked if you celebrate and reward your operatives for their hard work and dedication.

3. Evaluate Your Equipment

In order for your Hygiene Team to carry out an effective clean, it’s essential they are working with the right tools. For every awkward space there is a utensil designed to reach it, so it’s just a case of making yourself aware of the options available.

Listed below are five examples of equipment that has been made with hard-to-reach areas in mind. When you are carrying out your internal inspections, try to keep an eye out for any spaces that could require utensils such as these:

Flexible Pipe Brushes

If your hygiene operatives are currently struggling to navigate the pipework at your factory, the solution could be a Flexible Pipe Brush. Capable of bending to the contours of the surface being cleaned, this brush will simplify the process of cleaning high reach pipes and ledges. Available in a large and medium size, this style of brush is food contact approved and has been hygienically designed to meet the current food safety standards. It also has a temperature tolerance of 134°C, so your hygiene team won’t be slowed down by hot pipes or equipment.

Tank, Tube, and Bottle Brushes

Tank Brushes are made from water-resistant filaments and have a symmetrical profile to ensure effective cleaning in cylindrical vessels. Another useful utensil, Bottle Brushes can tackle spaces with internal diameters ranging from 7-8mm to 60mm. There is also the option of working with a detachable version that can be attached to a long, flexible handle. Finally, Tube Brushes clean tubes with internal diameters ranging from 70mm to 120mm. Some tube brushes feature a universal thread that fits a range of handles, allowing you to select the right length for your application.

Telescopic Handles

If some of the hard-to-reach areas at your site are high off the ground, you could be in need of a Telescopic Handle. This style of handle is extremely durable, yet light enough not to put your operatives at risk of injury or strain. Telescopic handles have a twist-lock fitting that holds them at the desired or maximum extended length. This means they are able to reach further than the standard brush, mop, or squeegee handle. Ideally, your handle should have a universal thread that is interchangeable between utensils as this will allow your team to perform a range of processes.

Long Handled Brushes

Long Handled Brushes allow your operatives to probe deeply into hard-to-reach areas without risk to their arms or hands. Often, these brushes feature a diameter guard that prevents the brush from slipping too far into the space. This eliminates the risk of your worker getting stuck or dropping their utensil into an awkward spot. Flexibility is another popular feature, with a lot of long handled brushes offering a blend of durability and pliability – capable of reaching round corners and into tight spaces. These brushes also tend to be narrow, ideal for squeezing between or behind your machines.

Detail Brushes

Length isn’t always the secret to reaching those tight and narrow spaces. In some cases, you might need a small and thin utensil to squeeze between the mechanisms of your machinery. This is when a Detail Brush comes in handy. With short, extra stiff bristles and a ‘scraper nose’ for added impact, this tool has been designed with stubborn residues in mind. Its handle is short for increased leverage, and has been ergonomically designed for improved grip and comfort. A Short Machine Brush, otherwise known as a ‘Fish Brush’ could also be used for detailed cleans.

4. Update your Cleaning Instruction Cards

If your Hygiene Team is populated with agency staff who are only present for a couple of days at a time, it could be difficult for them to familiarise themselves with the intricacies of your site. Here, you should take preventative measures, highlighting any hard-to-reach areas before they go overlooked. Including these spaces in your Cleaning Instruction Cards is a great way to do this, as even new operatives will have no excuse for ignoring instructions that are clearly documented and accompanied by visual prompts.

When adding these spaces to your Cleaning Instruction Cards, you should include photos of what the area should look like once it has been suitably cleaned. This will boost accountability and give your operatives something to aim for. You will also need to list the specialist equipment that should be used to carry out these cleans, otherwise your Hygiene Team will struggle to achieve the desired results.

Another point to consider is the fact that hard-to-reach areas are often difficult to get to, with operatives often having to reach inside or around machinery. Because of this, health and safety instructions should make up a large portion of your Cleaning Instruction Cards. From a step-by-step guide to locking off the machine to the importance of using a cleaning brush with a diameter guard, it’s impossible to overstate the value of including these details.

So there you have it, a guide to cleaning and maintaining the hard-to-reach areas of your site. Whilst this could be mistaken for an additional responsibility and an increase to your workload, properly managing these spaces should make your life a lot easier.

Say an auditor comes to site and takes a closer look at an out-of-sight area. Instead of feeling a sense of dread, just imagine the pride and confidence you will be filled with if you know this space has been suitably cleaned. Audits will no longer be a worrying prospect. Instead, they will become an opportunity for you and your operatives to show off your collective hard work.

With over 20 years of industry experience, the Klipspringer team would be very happy to provide support as you evaluate the hard-to-reach areas of your site. For further guidance or an introduction to our extensive range of cleaning equipment, you can contact us on 01473 461800 or sales@klipspringer.com. Alternatively, you can fill out the contact form below and one of our friendly team members will be in touch. 

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