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We write articles mainly about visitor management, which helps you to know who is (or has been) in your facility. It is just part of an organization’s physical security processes that protect people and property within and around a building or campus.

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Visitor management questions for Security Directors in food processing facilities

by Paul Kazlauskas

Visitor management in food processing facilities, food security

Visitor management systems (VMS) are an electronic version of the visitor sign-in sheet (or visitor log book) and are being implemented more frequently in businesses of all kinds. While more expensive than a traditional log book, the VMS offers a more efficient and fool-proof sign-in process. It is the most secure way to sign-in visitors, thus improving building security.

Visitor management, and the concept of knowing who is in your building at all times, is a good idea for any type of business. It is important to document the individuals that enter your building to help protect the people and things inside the building. Some companies are more at-risk than other companies due to the nature of their business. One such business is food processing facilities.

Food processing facilities are a particularly vulnerable industry because of the potential for deliberate contamination of its products. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires all foreign and domestic food-processing facilities to have a written food defense plan. That plan must address the preventive measures put in place to prevent malicious acts that could cause “large-scale” public harm. The question you must evaluate is, “Do I have a system that will prevent intentionally harmful acts"? The law was prompted after many reported incidents of foodborne illnesses during the first decade of the 2000s and was largely crafted by members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Tainted food has cost the food industry billions of dollars in recalls, lost sales, and legal expenses.

So what should your facility do?

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A visitor management system documents all visitors passing through your plant’s doors every day. In addition to documenting visitors, there should be visitor policy security protocols in place that will help prevent incidents and detail how to react if an incident occurs. Here are some high-level questions that security directors of food processing facilities should be asking themselves:

Building questions

  • What areas of the building should be off-limits to non-employees?
  • Are there areas of the building that should only be accessed by thoroughly investigated employees?
  • Who is responsible for granting access to each sensitive area?
  • Who is responsible for monitoring each sensitive area?
  • Should visitors, vendors, and contractors be escorted into all areas or just certain areas?
  • Has your facility implemented principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)?

Policy questions

System questions

  • Do you require your visitors to wear a visitor badge while on company property?
  • How do you record visitors, vendors, and contactors that enter the facility?
  • Do you distinguish between different kinds of visitors in the visitor management system and on the badge itself?
  • How do you report visitor incidents and accidents?
  • How do you know when a visitor has left the facility?

These questions are meant as thought-starters for how to deal with visitors at a food-processing plant. A visitor management system will streamline your sign-in and sign-out procedures and help identify people that visit such a vulnerable facility.

No one wants to think that people would intentionally contaminate a product to cause wide-spread illness and/or death. However, it can happen to any facility. Unfortunately, in these times, we have to consider the real possibility that contaminating a food supply could be utilized as a terrorist act. The best defense is to proactively consider facility/building vulnerabilities and put tools or procedures in place to help mitigate the risk.

What other visitor management procedures and policies should security directors of food processing plants consider to ensure their buildings are as secure as possible? Please join the conversation and add your thoughts below in the “Comments” are below.


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Posted on 10/7/2019


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