Food Safety Leader Roles, Responsibility & Authority

14 Jun 2024

Navigate Food Safety Solutions

Food Safety Leader Roles, Responsibility & Authority

High-performance teams have a process to manage food safety. The key to that process is figuring out exactly who should be doing what in the plant. Sounds simple right? Well, add to that, they also align responsibility with authority and align responsibility along natural roles. Let's look at what the Food Safety Leader is typically doing and then explore what they really should be doing when everybody is working as a team.

First, let's get the title out of the way. The Food Safety Leader is the person who holds the ball on food safety. They often feel like a babysitter and not well supported by everyone in the plant. Typically, they are in charge of Quality or Sanitation. They hold the glorified title of Food Safety Team Leader, but there isn’t much teamwork happening, so there's not much leading going on. More like coercing and nagging...

Sound familiar? Read on...

Food Safety Leader Roles, Responsibility & Authority

Consider the two imperatives of the high-performance team:

Aligning Responsibility With Authority: The food safety leader typically doesn't have a team working below them in the chain of command. It stands to reason that they don't have the authority to make anyone do anything. Hence, the coercing and nagging. It's not their job to convince anyone to do anything when it comes to food safety.

Align Responsibilities Along Natural Roles: If we look at who naturally leads others in the plant, it's often Program Owners and Middle Managers. The best person to lead the maintenance crew and communicate and enforce food safety imperatives is the Maintenance Manager. That's a natural fit. Assigning this role to the Food Safety Leader is not a natural fit.

What is the Natural Role of the Food Safety Leader?

Their natural role is as a specialist. They best support the rest of the team by being the source of knowledge in food safety. At the very least, they should be able to either answer questions or find the answers to questions to support their team.

Their natural function is to monitor and report. What does that mean? It means they monitor the status of the overall food safety program and report that to Upper Management. Is the program working as a whole, or is it not? And if it is or isn't, what parts of the program are good and what parts need work?

They can also support the team by coordinating work around food safety: facilitating meetings, compiling reports, and planning activities. They may even handle some of the programs: document control, HACCP, verification and validation, and regulatory review, for example.

One of the biggest roadblocks to being ready every day is expecting the Food Safety Leader to make the whole plant perform. That's an impossible task. Aligning responsibility with authority and along natural lines should be applied across the entire team at the plant. That will lighten the load of the Food Safety Leader and enable them to work in the way they can be most effective as part of the team.

If you want to learn more about the role of the Food Safety Leader, and how to work better as a team, check out our Teamwork Training.