With a major retailer blaming load shedding as a factor in their predicted 15-20% drop in headline earnings this month, it is clear that power uncertainties are a huge business risk.

While it is difficult to run a retail outlet when the lights are out, running a food facility in this scenario poses several food safety implications that should not be overlooked. And this is not the only risk you should consider.

As Eskom has announced that we are likely to continue with load shedding in 2020, let’s take a look at what you should be doing to mitigate this risk.

How to prepare for load shedding

  1. Control the surge

    Safeguards against power surges and electrical power fluctuations should be installed for equipment and machinery. It is likely your insurance company has asked you to install these by now, if you haven’t already, then make sure you install the approved type to avoid having a claim repudiated. Where possible, all electrical appliances should be disconnected when load shedding occurs, or when leaving the premises to avoid damages when the power is restored.

  2. Watch out for security vulnerability

    Alarm systems should also be fitted with a back-up battery, and businesses should ensure that the system is regularly tested to ensure a sufficient power source as due to the number of rolling blackouts, a battery’s lifespan will be reduced. Should the back-up battery not work, thereby resulting in the alarm not activating and a burglary taking place, your insurance company are not obliged to pay if there is an alarm warranty on the policy.

  3. When business is interrupted

    Power outages will impact on your ability to trade and fulfil orders. You need to consider whether you are covered for this kind of business interruption and you should review your risk management policies to ensure you are adequately covered for possible risks arising from loss of power – both from a damages and liabilities standpoint.

  4. Back it up

    Although the cost of a generator is a factor, 2020 may be the time to look at it. The ability to continue with essential activities and avoid product wastage may tip the scales. If you cannot afford this, them at least consider using technology in remote monitoring of essential services like refrigeration. Keeping chillers closed in power outages is critical but this kind of device can warn you if there are weekend disruptions and give you an accurate picture of what is happening in the fridge/ freezer.

  5. Include this on your HACCP plan

    While some insurance companies are suggesting you discard all food undergoing preparation in a power cut, we both know this is not going to happen. So, if you analyze the risk at each process step and understand what can go wrong and what can be done to prevent the hazard from increasing, you will have a more scientific approach to load shedding. You should include detailed measures to be implemented in your emergency plans and these should be implemented rigorously. Review all your procedures for what should be done during load shedding.

  6. Don’t forget about the people

    Be aware of emergency lighting requirements – your staff do need to be able to see what they are doing to implement those additional controls. Test this and ensure there is sufficient lighting to adequately perform tasks. There may be a tendency to “slack off” when the lights are out – staff should be trained that this is the time that we become more vigilant. Food safety and health and safety training should incorporate procedures for load shedding.

While the power situation in our country is far from optimal, we have been warned. As the food industry let’s arm ourselves with this knowledge and do what we can to ensure we can still supply the country with safe food.