A lack of food safety is a major problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 48 million Americans get sick every year as a result of food-borne illness. For some, these consequences are massive: 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 die on an annual basis as a result of food-borne illness.
There is good news, however: With proper training and awareness, food safety risks can be significantly minimized. How can this be done? Here are some thoughts.
Employees must, unquestionably, be made aware of the various rules that they need to follow when they are conducting business. This means that regular education is key. In today’s age, this education can occur in a variety of different ways, and generally speaking, it is better to educate your employees by using a multitude of different methods. These include:
- e-Learning, which can be done at work or at home. This e-Learning can incorporate a variety of different educational methods, including tests, animations, lectures, interactive components, and more.
- Periodic, interactive in-person training, which can give employees the opportunity to ask questions and review the latest available information.
As an employer, it is not enough to just train your employees by giving them knowledge. You must make sure they fully understand the stakes and know why food safety is so important. You must make sure that your employees not only fully comprehend what the rules are, but why those rules are so necessary. You must make sure they know that failure to comply with those rules can have consequences not only for their careers but for the health and safety of those who consume the products they are involved in producing.
This means that you have to not only train your employees but create a culture that values safety above all else. Management should lead by example, emphasizing safety above profits. Your manufacturing facility should have ample signage, explaining what employees should be doing, what the rules are, where to go for questions, and how to report safety violations.
It’s also important to recognize that employee education and safety isn’t a “once and done” sort of thing. You must do whatever you can to regularly update your education and safety procedures, making sure to incorporate the latest practices, information, and laws.
The COVID-19 outbreak is a great example of why this is so important. There is no doubt, of course, that COVID has had a massive impact on the food manufacturing industries, forcing an even more stringent emphasis on training for employees on proper safety and sanitation procedures. For many employers, this can be expensive and time-consuming.
However, if your organization has already established procedures for how to update educational materials and get that information to your staff, this process becomes much easier, as new information can simply be plugged into already existing platforms. e-Learning has also been critical during the COVID pandemic, as it has allowed employees to engage in education in the comfort and safety of their own homes, minimizing their risks.
Last, it is important that employees regularly refresh their educational materials, even if there is not an active global pandemic. Rules, manufacturing processes, and technology regularly change, and your company must ensure that your employee’s knowledge changes as well. It is only by regularly updating educational and safety procedures that a company can truly ensure the safety and health of the products they produce.