The Elements of Risk Management: Identifying Risks vs. Hazards

When it comes to identifying hazards in the workplace some things are more obvious than others. A wet floor or broken handrail on a staircase is an obvious hazard that could lead to injuries, lost time and lawsuits. But when it comes to hazards in food safety the threats are not always as obvious.


Bacteria that can lead to food-borne illnesses such as listeria or E. coli, is odorless, colorless and not always obvious to the naked eye. However, the transmitters of these bacteria are more obvious and can come in the form of pests including rodents, flies and cockroaches.


One of the first items on the Sprague Pest Expert’s risk/hazard checklist is identifying potential risk areas within a facility and determining the probability of a hazard occurring in that area because of the risk.


A grain receiving area of a commercial bakery has the potential for rodents and insect pests to be brought in inside a shipment of raw material. With that knowledge it can be assumed the risk for a pest issue in that area is high.


As a result the pest management program needs to include items such as additional bait/trapping stations in that area, increased inspections, a review of the pest history of the incoming shipments, sanitation protocols and conditions of the source and along the transportation route, etc. – to reduce the risk.


“Knowing what is coming into the facility and where it is coming from is important,” says Jeff Weier, technical director for Sprague Pest Solutions. “Asking why a pest would be in this area of the facility will help you get to the root cause of the infestation and determine your next step.”


Also included in the risk/hazard assessment is taking into consideration the geographic area surrounding the facility. If a facility is located in an urban area vs. a rural area there are different threats or hazards. For example, if there is a large open field next to your facility the threat of increased rodent activity will be higher.


“Risk is temporal and is influenced by time, location and conducive conditions found within and around an account,” says Weier. “Risk is not static, it is variable and this must be considered when designing and implementing a pest management program.”


Distinguishing what is a risk and what is a hazard is also important. A risk could be Indian meal moths infesting a container of wheat and damaging the product by altering its taste and freshness but not posing a health threat to consumers.


On the other hand, if a fly that had recently been in contact with manure in the cow pasture next door to a food processing facility enters and lands on a food preparation surface or gets into a piece of machinery leaving behind bacteria, the risk of a food-borne illnesses suddenly becomes a hazard to consumers.


Weier says the pest management industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation when it comes to assessing risks and hazards in food processing facilities and how it designs pest management programs for these facilities.


“We no longer simply follow a formula when it comes to identifying what is a risk and what is a hazard in a facility,” says Weier. “Our assessment takes into account a much wider view and includes the geographic location of the facility, construction of the facility, what products the facility produces, where they source ingredients and the plant’s management practices.”

Food Processing & Manufacturing