Sanitation Workers: The Unsung Heroes of Food Safety

We simply could not have a safe food system without qualified food professionals working on the front lines and keeping processing plants clean. Sanitation workers ensure that Canadians have access to good and safe food products.

Processing food with clean machinery means reducing the risk of microbe, pest, and allergen issues.

What are the responsibilities of a sanitation worker?

Sanitation workers complete the sanitation department’s responsibilities by working as part of a sanitation team. They clean all equipment and utensils using proper cleaning methods (in accordance with Good Manufacturing Standards) (e.g., pails, containers, machine parts). Roofs, fans, ceilings, walls, and floors are some of the other fixtures that sanitation workers may have to clean. Manufacturing plants are cleaned in accordance with government regulations, the public health code, and generally accepted food industry sanitation standards.

Throughout the cleaning process, sanitation workers complete forms as directed by the sanitation and quality departments. It helps them to keep track of sanitation procedures and show proof that equipment has been thoroughly cleaned.

Finally, workers clean and sanitize production equipment based on a cleaning schedule. Schedules provide workers with information of what tasks are to be performed on their shift.

The number of people a sanitation worker works with varies depending on the size of the company. Sanitation workers might need to work independently and be required to complete specific tasks by the end of their shift. When working on cleaning large pieces of machinery, these professionals may need to work as a team.

Sanitation workers are constantly on the move. They usually stand for the duration of their shifts and, in many cases, climb ladders.

Having good mobility is essential for reaching high to clean places like roofs, fans, ceilings, and walls.

Throughout the day, sanitation workers come into contact with a wide range of chemicals. So, for their own safety, they need to understand what they are using. They look to a Material Safety Data Sheet for information on chemicals, which is a document that has information on the potential hazards (health, fire, reactivity, and environmental) of a chemical product. As a result, sanitation workers must have a basic level of writing and reading comprehension. Workers must understand what each chemical does and how to use them correctly.

What makes a good sanitization worker?

Good memory
Although sanitation workers have written Standard Operating Procedures, these take time to read every day. Over time, sanitation workers develop a good working memory by watching other people perform. Having a good memory ensures faster times and better muscle memory as well.

Task planning and organizing
Sanitation workers must be adaptable and ready to change their tasks at any time. For example, a plant may receive an unexpected order requiring them to clean a machine right away. They should have a good idea of how long each task will take so that they can plan their day more effectively.

Many sanitation workers work independently. As a result, they must be able to make decisions when is the best time to perform a task, use proper equipment, and deal with a problem efficiently.

A sanitation worker position is ideal for students, recent graduates, and young professionals entering the job market. You can start with no formal education and work your way up the ranks and pay levels. You could begin as a sanitation worker and work your way up to a sanitation lead, and in some cases, you could even begin working in the quality or production departments.

Get ready for your future in food!

Over the next several months, Food and Beverage Ontario will be providing free career mentorship and virtual career fairs through our partners, FoodGrads and Food Processing Skills Canada. Tell us you’re interested by filling in the form.

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