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5S Color-Coding Tips for Avoiding
Cross-Contamination in the Workplace

 5S Store-Board kits in the industry ensure cleaning equipment and tools are not shared in different areas to help prevent cross-contamination.

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Cross-contamination is a big concern in any facility that produces, manufactures, or handles food beverages and more.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans get sick and 3,000 die from contaminated foods or beverages each year. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that foodborne illnesses cost more than $15.6 billion each year. 

Suppose a company uses the same cleaning supplies to clean both the areas where raw foods are handled and where finished products are stored. In that case, they risk transferring allergens and microorganisms from the raw food area to the finished product area. And that can result in recalls, considerable costs to the company, and even human loss.  

However, color-coded cleaning supplies, 5S Store-Board™ kits, and the 5S system can help your team avoid cross-contamination and ensure designed tools are used in specific locations. It will also go a long way in promoting health and safety, meeting local and national compliance standards, and getting your workplace aligned and organized.

Learn More About Stock Store-Boards Here 

What is the 5S system? 

5S is a continuous improvement methodology for organizing a workplace for greater efficiency. It was started in Japan after World War II and famously mastered by Toyota. The five S’s translate to sorting, setting in order, shining, standardizing, and sustaining the discipline. Color-coding comes into play in the second phase—setting in order. It essentially gives each tool a permanent place to reside and establishes an orderly system that aligns employees quickly. 

How 5S color-coding helps avoid cross-contamination 

Establishing a 5S color-coding system for your cleaning supplies helps your team quickly and easily understand which tools and cleaning supplies should be used in each area of your facility. Start by segmenting the locations of your facility and assigning a color to each zone. Then grab 5S Store-Board™ kits for each site. Clean & Sweep Store-Boards™ are ideal for non-food contact or general maintenance. These store-boards identify which tools should be stored and used in any given area of the facility. The boards are a solid color— one that matches the cleaning supplies—, list the cleaning supplies, and the “shadows” of those supplies that go in the designated area. Once hung, cleaning supplies should never leave their zone or be used in another area of your facility. The most significant advantage of this system is that it can help facilities avoid cross-contamination. Here’s how: 

  • Speak a common language: Because 5S Store-Board™ kits rely on colors to designate tools for specific areas of your facility, your staff will be clear on which agencies to use where even if they speak different languages. 
  • Promotes a culture of food safety: The brightly colored designated Store-Boards™ show your employees and auditors that you’ve invested in food safety. And when you’re invested, your team will be invested too. 
  • Meet compliance standards: The FDA, FSSC, IFS, and SQF all have means for avoiding cross-contamination. Using different, clearly identifiable cleaning supplies for other areas of your facility, you can rest assured you’re meeting those standards.  

Beyond avoiding cross-contamination, Wet Zone Store-Boards ™  color-coded Store-Boards™ are designed for wet environments and for color-coding cleaning tools for distinct purposes. These store-boards provide visual cues, so your teams can quickly locate the appropriate cleaning equipment. They also eliminate the time spent looking for lost supplies. Additionally, with Clean & Mop Store-Boards™ there’s no confusion over where to put cleaning supplies when you’re finished. So supplies go back to their assigned location every time. 

Tips for implementing a color-coded cleaning system 

Implementing a color-coded cleaning system is easy, especially when you have store-boards that do most of the work for you. But here are a few tips to keep in mind to make the transition as smooth as possible. 

  1. Keep it simple: To ensure everyone can remember your color-coded system try to limit the colors to three to five per area. And be sure that each board and tool is only one color. If the handle and brush of a broom are two different colors, that might cause some confusion. Make sure the tool is one color from top to bottom. 
  2. Use contrasting colors: You might think it’s helpful to use colors that match the food prepared in each area, like using green supplies in areas where vegetables are prepared. However, if a green bristle falls off your brush and is left on the counter, it won’t be easy to spot during food prep. So you should use tools with colors that contrast the food being prepared in that area.  
  3. Roll out the system in one go: You might be tempted to phase in one color at a time, that will cause a lot of confusion if some of your old tools match the new system colors. For the most successful launch, roll out the new system all at once. 
  4. Choose color-blind-friendly combinations: Though the color-coded system works for people speaking any language, one group could be left out. And that’s people who are colorblind. However, that challenge can be overcome by avoiding color combinations that are often problematic for people with color blindness, such as red and green. 

Ready to keep your frequently used tools and cleaning equipment color-coded? Get organized and create efficiencies in the workplace with color-coded 5S Store-Board™ Kits. 

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