Your Business could be saved by your health inspector
Managers will be shocked to hear the words “Health inspection today.” Even if everything seems perfect, it is possible to feel anxious during an inspection. An inspection by a health inspector can seem daunting. Many people feel as though they are going to fail. Inspections need not be scary!
Both of you share the same goals with health inspectors. Both you and the health inspectors share the same goals: to prevent foodborne illness and keep the public happy and safe. Health inspectors are an invaluable asset for your business. They typically have a degree that is related to food safety, and they have gone through rigorous training. They can help you find areas you can improve on, which can lower food safety risks. They can also assist you in developing and implementing food safety policies.
Vern Johnson, an environment health director in Kalamazoo Michigan has over 20 years’ experience in health inspections. He believes inspectors and managers should collaborate. He stated, “Managers have the retail know-how to get a product to the table from the backdoor.” Inspectors have the food safety hat. Managers are not equipped to handle food safety issues.
Johnson was kind enough to share his thoughts with us about what to expect during an inspection. You can calm your nerves by knowing what you should expect during an inspection. Although inspections may be handled by different departments of the health department, there are many similarities.
Johnson explained to us how his inspectors conduct their inspections.
1) Your operator will be seated with the inspector when they arrive. The inspector will first meet with your operator to discuss the establishment’s menu and its processes. This will help to establish a shared understanding, and the inspector will learn more about your establishment and its operations.
2) After that, they will take you on a tour through the facility. It is important to treat the inspector as a new employee to give them a better understanding of how your establishment operates. Vern tells managers often, “Treat them like we’re a brand new employee, and you’re explaining this thing called food safety service.” This will help them learn how to do things. There may be safety violations and gaps as you move through the facility. However, inspectors are not entrusted with the badge of honor for violating safety regulations. They are there to help you!
3) The inspector will inspect your establishment and point out potential problems. Your programs might be great, but your staff may have missed some important points. Your inspector will help you discover those things and then work with you to solve them. Working with an inspector can help you improve your business and protect your customers.
Inspectors aren’t perfect, but they understand foodservice. The most important thing they want to find out is if your programs work. Are you ensuring that your food is safe? An inspection isn’t a test. This inspection is to check that all is well. You don’t have to fail if you find something that needs improvement. It’s a chance to improve your food safety and make your customers happy.
Help you to help yourself
Inspections are not the end or beginning of food safety. Johnson states, “What we do when we’re away is more important than what we do when we are present.” An inspector’s goal should be to help you and your team. Good inspectors will allow you to explore the issue on your own before suggesting solutions. Try to find solutions to the problems your inspector points out during your next inspection before they give you answers. Your inspector can improve the safety of your establishment.
Johnson speaks about his one-time experience helping a team. Johnson offered to come to their staff meeting to discuss some problems and offer solutions. Johnson offered to attend their staff meetings, but insisted that they find their own solutions. Johnson states that Johnson “points out some issues and lets them solve their own problems within their own systems.” He believes it is more productive for people to work together to find solutions to their problems. You are the best at understanding your processes and systems. It’s more likely that new solutions will work if you and your team collaborate.
They can help you manage your resources. They are able to answer your questions about starting a business, or opening a new one. Many health departments welcome operators and owners to come into their offices and ask questions. You may find that they can help you navigate the various forms and documents required to run a food business. Although it’s not their main job, they may be able guide you to approved suppliers and certain locations. Inspectors want to see you succeed!
Johnson said this to workers and food managers: “Our goal does not include closing down restaurants. Our goal is not to fix things. Our common goal is lower food risks. We all win when we accomplish that.”