workforceIt’s one thing to tell employees how much they’re valued. Then again, actions speak louder than words. And action can begin during facility design and construction.

Want to woo your workforce? Why not “wow” them? An employer’s attention to the smallest details can make a tangi­ble difference in employee attitudes. And employees who feel cared for are more likely to care for their workplace and the foods they produce and handle. Of course there are basic standards and parameters for new building work environments, welfare facilities, work­place safety features and housekeeping areas. Away from the food plant floor (or distribution center floor), these are im­portant day-to-day spaces: locker rooms and changing areas, lunchrooms, break rooms, training classrooms, rest­rooms and more.

Here are a few important health and welfare area topics to consider during any design-build phase.

For starters, senior managers may not realize that certain health and welfare area standards are prescribed under the Safe Quality Food (SQF) 2000 Code as well as guidelines established by British Retail Consortium and Global Food Safety Initiatives. Any company seeking certifica­tion from these boards must address these related guidelines.

Meanwhile, improvements can transform the ordinary into the awe-inspiring. Here are a few examples involving:

Sizing:

Employers are allocating more space to locker rooms, which are trend-ing larger with full-height lockers so em­ployees can change and store street cloth­ing and personal items. Many plants with heavy processing environments are adding employee showers. Larger break rooms also offer a chance for all shift employees to eat and rest. More new buildings also feature training classrooms to address food safety training requirements. New sites also pro­vide separate changing facilities for visitors who need plant production access.

Security is one of the most overlooked health and welfare area issues.

Furnishings:

Welfare area design and construction materials are specified for ease of cleaning. This includes walls made of ground face masonry; phenolic or plas­tic lockers; solid surface countertops; built­in break room tables and seating; and hard surface flooring or architectural resinous flooring. Many new break rooms offer a full canteen area, ice machines, drinking water and multiple microwaves. Some also offer free Wi-Fi access. New training class­rooms often are equipped with built-in au­dio/visual equipment.

Lighting:

Consider windows or sky­lights for more natural lighting. Otherwise, high efficiency fluorescent T-5 or T-8 light­ing fixtures are commonly now used. Before you build, also consider these re­lated topics where some companies make mistakes.

Conduct a thorough facility programming study or prepare a master plan for future growth. If production grows, your health and welfare area needs will too. Document all possible future space requirements.

One of the most overlooked health and welfare area issues involves security matters. New building owners can design common spaces, hallways and other areas to prevent certain employees or visitors from entering restricted areas. These areas are most often off limits because of food safety or security concerns and need to be taken into consid­eration during a project’s planning phase.

By Jack Michler

Jack Michler has more than 30 years construction experience with an emphasis on food processing, food safety, and low temperature facilities.