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Food Safety Training for Employees: It’s Pretty Important

Matthew Passannante
June 13, 2019

eBook: Food Safety Audit Handbook

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eBook: “The Food Safety Audit Handbook”

Taken from a food safety auditor's perspective, this handbook highlights the top reasons for non-conformities with the two most popular GFSI schemes: BRC and SQF to help shed light on some of the reasons companies fail audits and to help prevent future failure.

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If you can answer "yes" to the question "does your company have a good culture?" - you most likely are at a company where each employee is doing their part to participate in that shared positive experience. Your organization most likely has some oversight in place to hold those employees accountable for their contribution. The same approach applies to FSMA compliance. For organizations mandated by FSMA, training is a crucial component of FSMA and GFSI audits. Let's ensure you're building a "culture of compliance."

We've all gone through disappointing training courses before. You come prepared with a tremendous attitude, but soon find yourself spending days on end in a cold, stale room sitting through "presentation hell" as you listen to the trainer drone on and on about topic after topic. The problem with this training approach is that it doesn't allow for open collaboration and isn't very useful.

For FSMA audits, companies must ensure all employees are adequately educated and enabled to provide an auditor with the correct information.  

Interviews

Employees may feel intimidated when a group of people in white lab coats walk through their plant. The only way to help employees feel more comfortable is to prep them with comprehensive training.

Interviews can occur with anyone, including key office positions, auditors expect all employees in the facility to know essential information regarding food safety and your audit code. No one is exempt from these interviews, and the auditors choose their interviewees.  

What Can Employees Expect From an Audit Interview?

Prepare employees for what they can expect. Let them know trained auditors are professional, ethical, and courteous when conducting audits and interviews. Interview questions will focus on the following topics:

  • The implementation of proper employee training

  • Management's commitment to supporting the food safety program through appropriate resource allocation

  • Adequate information has been made available to all employees in the facility

  • Key positions have completed additional training topics related to their job skills or requirements

Common Interview Questions

For an interview, it's a good idea to investigate possible interview questions. We've taken the liberty of listing some of the most common audit interview questions for you. Now go practice, practice, practice!

  • Where is the Food Safety Manual stored?

  • What do you do if you see a mouse?

  • What allergens are in your facility?

  • Give me three examples of "personal hygiene."

  • Give me examples of when you wash your hands.

  • How often should you change your company shirt/smock?

  • How long do you wash your hands?

  • Why is nail polish not allowed?

  • Why do you not wear perfume or cologne?

  • What are your company's critical control points (CCPs)?

  • What does the acronym SQF stand for?

How Do You Prepare Employees?

There is only one way to prepare an employee to pass an audit interview properly. You must train them. There is no substitute for a comprehensive, documented employee training program. Auditors will look at your training topics, whether or not you training all employees, or only a subset, and examples of how you handle training for temporary employees as well.

But training doesn't have to be boring. Try to vary the format and remember to include creativity, humor, and images and discussions of real-life situations to help emphasize key points.

Here are some of our favorite ways to liven up your training sessions:

Have a Quiz

Nothing prepares you for the final exam, quite like a quiz! Quizzes help put the information in front of your audience, forcing them to think through the different options. To make things even more "exciting," try holding a quiz at the beginning of the training session to see how well their knowledge improves throughout the course. Another bonus would be to award prizes for those with the highest scores or those who saw the most improvement.

Game Shows

A game show format might deliver a unique and valuable experience when a particular topic offers a wide variety of categories and questions. The fun part about using a game show-style approach is it allows your trainees to be part of a team and discuss the potential answers among their teammates, encouraging collaboration. Click here to incorporate cGMP Jeopardy into your training.

Group Challenges

In addition to the game show challenges listed above, it might be a suitable break in instruction to put together various group challenges based on what was just covered. For example, if you're covering proper uniform attire, have a problem for teams to see who can put on their hairnets, beard nets, smocks, aprons, and gloves the fastest. Remember, a little humor goes a long way.

Role-playing Interviews

Ask your trainees to role-play an interview with another coworker. Foster collaboration and ensure the material covered resonates with employees. The interview questions can include questions specific to job roles but should consist of questions they might not hear regularly. 

Real-world Scenarios

During individual sessions of training, engage your audience by asking them to provide you with scenarios they might encounter while on the job. Make the information presented stick and allows you to walk through real-life examples.

Deliver Engaging Training Materials

The materials used during training don't have to be printed presentation slides. Try switching it up by handing out more visually stimulating elements like infographics, photos of examples, and checklists. If people know you've put time and effort into something, they'll likely appreciate it more. Additionally, if you can, try to include some videos of your company's employees following specific procedures covered in training.

Training is key to passing audits, and it must be ongoing and well-documented to ensure evidence is available for auditors. Auditors will know how well training is done simply by the interview results.

Avoiding these common non-conformities is just the beginning. Our eBook, "The Food Safety Audit Handbook," offers guidance to prevent future failure and sail through certification. Download the eBook here