Keeping it clean – and safe

Keeping it clean – and safe

Although there are certain regulations that industries should adhere to when it comes to health, safety and hygiene in the workplace, many companies are surprisingly lax. PETA LEE investigates a food retailer – and comes away hugely impressed.

If any business sector should employ five-star standards, it should be supermarkets and those stores trading in food and fresh produce. The consequences of shoddy standards are varied and can be severe.

Lax rules can equate to dire consequences for the consumer and negative impacts for the retailer. These could include bad publicity resulting in a drop in the profit margin. So it stands to reason that it is in a store’s best interests to safeguard meticulous and stringent standards at all times.

One company which takes the issue very seriously is Oxford Freshmarket, in KwaZulu-Natal. Owner Brett Latimer, who recently opened a new Oxford Freshmarket in Hillcrest, launched his first Oxford Freshmarket on the Durban Bluff in 2012, and turned over a remarkable R400 million in his first year.

His trademark is impressive, state-of-the-art shop layouts, with exceptionally well-priced products. An Oxford store encompasses a fully-fledged butchery, bakery and fruit and vegetable section, as well as one selling general household goods. To attract customers, his prices have to be competitive, offerings have to be super fresh and the shop has to be ultra clean and attractive. “We have 700 staff in total who must also reflect the standards of Oxford,” he says.

Gavin Gons, butchery operations manager at Oxford Freshmarket, says he doesn’t believe the industry is doing enough to maintain good standards. “By the same token, I believe that government should be more vigilant and penalties should be imposed on those who don’t abide by the regulations.”

With Oxford Freshmarket, Brett Latimer aims to provide top-quality products in a five-star environment.Dirty bakeries, grease-stained cookers, cockroaches, spoilt food, contaminated fresh produce and old bacteria-ridden, spoiled stock, can be an off-putting signature in many a supermarket or food-vending business. They are traits which the more reputable and top-line businesses avoid at all costs – and the results are reflected in their profit margins.

“We pride ourselves on our superior and immaculate stores,” says Gons. “If you’re serious about the industry and about being the best there is, you just can’t afford to slip up in any area – be it in slovenly hygiene, old stock, dirty equipment or even customer safety.”

Another national issue often under the spotlight and hugely relevant to retailers is occupational health and safety, which appears to be receiving increasing attention in many industries. Risks are varied, but can include anything from workplace violence to slipping and falling, or being struck by an object. Cases like these don’t only affect employees but can also have far-reaching consequences for an organisation. For instance, media reports of shoppers slipping and injuring themselves in stores, and subsequently suing retailers, are frequent.

“With regard to safety and hygiene, at Oxford we go all out to ensure our customers and staff are protected. This includes having two security officers, who have first aid training, in each of our stores. Each officer has a first aid kit and we are contracted to an ambulance service in case of emergencies.”

Gons stresses that Oxford’s rules are very stringent and the staff and management place great emphasis on ensuring their stores are as clean as possible.

“The company adheres to all the health and safety regulations applicable to the food industry,” he adds. “We set extremely high standards. GeoChem provides hands-on training for all new staff and we have exceptionally vigorous cleaning schedules.

“We abide by the ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System, which is SABS approved, and we use only SABS-approved chemicals.”

Oxford stores also have an area through which all employees must pass to get into the buildings. “This checks, cleans and sanitises them, from under their boots to under their fingernails. It also checks whether they are wearing gloves and hair nets,” explains Gons. “The checks are carried out as the staff clock in each day. They scan their finger and at the same time they are checked for hygiene.”

Oxford owner Latimer concludes: “We’re here to do business in a big way, but also in the right way. We want to provide people with a really enjoyable shopping experience. And that means providing top-quality products in a five-star environment.”

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