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The One Minute Audit

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

A risk with many food safety audits is that they contain so much detail only the food safety specialists in an organisation take any notice of the reports. The usual way to counter this 'audit fatigue' is to produce management summaries of the audits to show the main findings and trends. These summary reports can help to drive improvements, especially when linked to performance management systems, but a valuable addition can be to involve senior managers in the audit process.

Busy managers are not going to do the full 'walls-floors-ceilings' routine, but if the aim is only to provide a personal snap-shot of the standards in a unit, then we can use a few 'key indicators' to highlight the way food safety is being managed in a unit. The benefit of this approach is to engage the operational hierarchy by encouraging them to apply their management skills to food safety.

This is similar to the way experienced leaders manage financial performance in their operations. When regional managers are visiting a unit they will ask the site manager about certain key indicators of performance, such as like-for-like sales, staff turnover and waste - then they'll use their experience to coach the manager in areas needing improvement.

The idea of the One Minute Audit is is to apply this technique to food safety. If we could develop an efficient way for senior management to spot the key 'food safety management' issues in a unit, then they could coach to the site manager in ways to improve performance. The success of this management intervention can then be measured using the formal audit reports, in the same way the company P&L measures the financial success of business.

All experienced auditors will have develop ways of assessing standards using some key indicators of performance, and in practice the balance of the audit is just to gather supporting evidence. The secret of the One Minute Audit is to distil these key indicators into a simple checklist, then train managers in basic audit skills plus give them the knowledge to coach their teams. Common indicators will include specific pieces of equipment that often get overlooked if managers fail to implement effective cleaning schedules - the head of the post mix drinks dispenser, the interior of the ice maker, the blade of the table mounted can-open.

Then there's the indicators of how the site manager maintains hygienic practices - do the training records cover the current staff team, are the temperature records 'real', did the manager wash his/her hands on entering the food preparation room.

If we equip senior managers with the capability to assess standards and drive improvements, we can move the accountability for food safety management from the technical specialist into the hands of the line management.

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