Personnel hygiene

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Your company must have a documented system outlined for ensuring hygiene requirements are met for all personnel entering your premises where dairy products are manufactured or handled.

Procedures and practices should ensure that:

  1. There is no risk from contamination from personnel practices.
  2. Appropriate hand washing is performed and suitably located hand wash stations available.
  3. Reporting and recording process is in place for any notifiable illness.
  4. Effective training has been given for all relevant personnel and records maintained.

For the relevant legislative references in the Export Control (Milk and Milk Products) Rules 2021, please refer to the department’s, Approved Arrangement Checklist.

The personnel hygiene requirement is all about keeping your staff and their clothing clean and tidy, whilst ensuring they behave in a hygienic manner so as not to become a potential source of contamination to the dairy food product. It is expected that personnel working in dairy manufacturing areas exhibit a high degree of personal hygiene.

When considering what personnel hygiene practices are required for your site, please consider the below;

  • Use and maintenance of uniforms and protective clothing (including gloves, hairnets, jewellery)
  • Identifying behaviours that are not permitted in food handling areas (e.g. spitting, chewing)
  • Restricting certain activities to certain areas (e.g. eating, drinking, and smoking)
  • How and when to wash and sanitise hands
  • Educating your staff on food-borne illnesses and the requirement to report such incidents to management.

Handwashing stations should be located at the entry, or adjacent to the entry of food manufacturing areas. These handwashing stations should be separate to the toilets and must operate hands free, and be supplied with warm water, soap, and paper towels. Handwashing should be conducted by rinsing the hands with water, followed by vigorous lathering with soap, rinsed with water and thoroughly dried with paper towel or air hand drier (or similar). Sanitiser should only be applied after hands have been dried.

Where the hand washing water temperature is not regulated, mixer taps are preferred, which allow the employees to adjust the temperature of the water and encourage proper hand washing, as opposed to separate hot and cold-water outlets.

A person’s behaviour can also have the potential to cause contamination, so you need to define which behaviours are unacceptable in certain parts of your premises. For example, spitting and smoking around food can cause contamination of products. You should clarify in your procedure where staff are permitted to eat, drink, smoke or chew gum. When considering these factors, you also need to consider if any uniform changes are required before and after these activities.

Staff should report certain illnesses to their supervisors and may be asked not to handle food until they have fully recovered, with no symptoms for 48 hours. If a worker is suffering from vomiting, diarrhoea, gastro (gastroenteritis including viral gastroenteritis such as norovirus or rotavirus), hepatitis A and hepatitis E, sore throat with fever, and fever with jaundice, they should not work in the food handling areas as these are illnesses likely to be transmitted through food. This could indicate that they may have a food-borne illness and could spread it to the products they handle.

Any cuts or wounds must be cleaned and covered with an appropriate dressing (e.g. food industry adhesive plasters that are water proof, metal detectable and of a contrasting distinctive colour) to prevent contamination from both the wound and the dressing.

All staff (including contractors, visitors) must be advised of personnel hygiene requirements before entering premises. Training records should be kept to verify that all personnel are trained and refresher training was provided at appropriate intervals.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) standard 3.2.2 - Technical fact sheet for food handlers and The Department of Health - personal hygiene tips for food handlers both summarise the personnel hygiene expectations and is a useful guidance document for the industry.

You must conduct regular internal audits which assess if personnel are adhering to hygiene policies. Hand swabs or contact plates may be taken at random from food handlers to verify your sites hand washing is thorough and effective.

When documenting your personnel hygiene procedures and reviewing your site’s current practice for compliance, please consider the following;

  • Are hand washing stations available at key areas (such as production entry points, near staff amenities) to ensure proper hand washing practices can be followed?
  • Do all hand washing stations have warm water, soap, hand drying and sanitising readily available?
  • Do staff wash their hands after eating, using the toilet, coughing or sneezing, touching their face or nose, smoking or handling unsuitable materials?
  • Does your company have a designated area for smoking and do personnel only smoke in this area?
  • Are handkerchiefs allowed in production?
  • Are your staff aware of your jewellery policy? Do you provide storage areas for personal items which are not allowed into your plant (example, medications or hazardous materials)?
  • Are staff aware that they must report any suspected or diagnosed notifiable communicable disease to their supervisor and must not work in food handling areas until advised?
  • Do you have a corrective action process and escalation process to manage any non-compliance sighted on site? Do you keep records of corrective actions taken, including any re-training, if personnel are not complying?
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Self Assessment

How much do you know about Personnel Hygiene?

Take this short assessment to find out.

Question 1

Elizabeth is a cheese-maker at a small cheese company.

Halfway through her shift, she starts to feel unwell with a fever and nausea.

What actions should Elizabeth take to ensure the site manufactured dairy products are not compromised?

Click all that apply.

Question 2

Shelley was recently employed by a dairy processing facility as the new Quality coordinator. Her new manager Graham has told her that staff working in the plant need to be reminded to adhere to the company’s Personnel Hygiene policies. Graham has important visitors he is about to show around the facility. Shelley notices that Graham has not asked the visitors to read the Hygiene policy induction, wash their hands or wear any personal protective equipment, and the group is about to enter the production area.

As the new Quality coordinator, what actions can Shelley take to rectify the issue?

(Click correct response)

Question 3

SuYen is a new operator on night shift. She has been given her induction training and has been placed with a mentor, Gus, who has been with the company for a long time. After her meal break, SuYen returns to the production entry area and finds the soap dispenser to be empty. SuYen remembers reading in the Hygiene Policy that additional hand wash soap is kept in storage cabinet below the hand wash station and that employees are allowed to replace these as required. 

SuYen asks Gus, the senior operator, about refilling the dispensers as she is not sure how to remove the canister. Gus instructs SuYen to ignore it as it is not their job and there is no supervisor present during their shift.

Is Gus correct in his instructions to SuYen?