Hands-on food safety training gains results

By Andrew Thomson*
Monday, 12 February, 2018

Adobestock 103521013

When it comes to managing food safety-related risks, taking a practical approach will provide the best results.

High-quality, customised food safety training is no longer a question of learning information by rote then testing your employees to see what they can recall. It involves demonstrating, in a quite specific way, that they can perform tasks to a standard of performance.

Examples of dated training practices include:

  • prioritising food safety training that targets washing hands and measuring food temperatures while overlooking risk (analysis), food products and process;
  • adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to employee training (eg, through e-learning);
  • minimal employee consultation or buy-in;
  • no post training review;
  • training that doesn’t reflect workplace requirements or provide practical, hands-on activities and skills that are immediately applicable for a job;
  • lack of organisational or management support for older employees, culturally and linguistically diverse employees, employees with poor computer skills;
  • no follow-up (ie, action planning, ‘check ins’ to see how it is going).

E-learning risks

While e-learning can have many benefits in the right setting, there are some disadvantages for food safety training:

  • Employees can memorise the information by rote without asking why it is important or seeing the bigger picture; once the test is completed, employees tend to forget the information.
  • It can be difficult to prove the employee didn’t have help or have someone else complete the test on their behalf.
  • Processes involved in producing safe food are invariably left to the employee to fill in the gaps.
  • Managers believe that once the employee has completed the training they now have the necessary skills to do the job on their own.

The way forward

Progress can start with changes made by the chief executive and senior management. Start by:

  • ensuring management and employee commitment and accountability;
  • considering your organisation’s priorities, policies and methods for allocating resources for delivering performance and learning and incorporating these into your training program;
  • ensuring training is aimed at the employees’ level of understanding and education;
  • incorporating hands-on training, so the individual can see what needs to be done and then do it themselves.

Learning is viewed positively when it translates into practical skills on the job. When people develop confidence, they automatically become proactive, solutions focused, and this has a positive flow-on effect on all employees across the team.

Risk monitoring and reporting

An effective monitoring and reporting process is essential for adequately managing operational risk. There should be timely reporting of key information on food safety training outcomes to senior management and the board of directors to support proactive management of risks.

As a chief executive you should consider:

  • Have you received internal management reports on the effectiveness or return on investment with food safety training?
  • What reporting processes are in place to inform you of the results (and actions taken) from internal and external audits and comprehensive senior management reviews to ensure the food safety training is fit for purpose?

At board level, the board must be able to satisfy itself that food handling employees and managers in the organisation are competent and adequately trained in their food safety responsibilities and accountabilities.

Business success relies on a skilled workforce. Training in food safety needs to develop a food handler’s critical thinking which enables them to react and make appropriate decisions to critical food safety issues and executing corrective measures when necessary. Food safety matters. So does the health of your customers and managing your risks.

Image caption: Andrew Thomson.

*Andrew Thomson is Director of Think ST Solutions, a training and consultancy business offering practical solutions to the food industry, specialising in aged-care and healthcare facilities. Visit www.thinkstsolutions.com.au.

Top image caption: Face-to-face, hands-on training provides optimal results for food safety. Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/auremar

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