Do You Know Your Team's Handwashing Habits? by Barry Parsons



It’s known that poor personal hygiene is one of the Top CDC Risk Factors. Although handwashing may appear to be a simplistic task, it is a major problem. The USDA 2018 Study and the FDA Bad Bug Book emphasize the importance of proper handwashing. The USDA study reports that the most common reason for unsuccessful handwashing was not rubbing hands with soap long enough.
 
Secondly, people were not initially wetting their hands with water. The 2017 CDC Surveillance Report demonstrates Norovirus was the number one foodborne illness. The Bad Bug Book, under Norovirus, mentions the importance of handwashing in order to reduce the transference of this explosive virus. Anyone in food safety should have seen all of the recent webinars and articles regarding the ongoing Norovirus illnesses. It is still sad to read that one-third of people leaving a bathroom fail to wash their hands.
 
Although not required, I believe it is useful to utilize Form 1-A and Form 1-B Conditional Employee and Food Employee forms within the FDA Model Food Code. It is important the employees report various symptoms and illnesses to the Person-in-Charge (PIC) in order to protect public health. This is just one method to engage in conversations about symptoms and illnesses with employees or you may want to have a pre-shift wellness check with your staff as a daily reminder. Either way, once the PIC is alerted to a potential issue it is their responsibility to decide or ask for assistance to figure out if someone is to be restricted or excluded from working with food and food contact surfaces.
 
Some of the basic personal hygiene Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) the company should have are a written policy on wearing jewelry, aprons, hair and beard restraint, clean clothing, daily bathing, coughing and sneezing, eating and drinking along with the use of tobacco and donning and doffing of gloves.
 
These items sound trivial, but each protects the food that we serve to our customers. I am sorry to say that these items do become trivialized in some operations and can cause cross-contamination and/or cross-contact. Take 60 seconds and truly observe your staff. Stand afar and watch employees with gloves on and see all that they touch between washing their hands and changing gloves. Performing observations are simple, easy, and very informative.
 
Remember jewelry is considered anything on the wrist or hands and if in your policy, an employee can wear a plain metal band. The newer silicone rings can have slices/cuts or crevices that can harbor bacteria and are not appropriate.
All of these personal hygiene issues should be written down and then taught to the staff. It is not good enough to just teach these policies during onboarding. Teaching food safety is not a once and done task. Food safety training should be provided on an ongoing basis to reinforce and build long-lasting habits.
 
Feeding too much information to someone at one time cannot be digested, but feeding them continually will build a strong and healthy food safety program.
 
Happy Holidays!
 
 This blog is not intended to be a substitute for the user's judgement and common sense. Any errors are unintentional.


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