Training Principles for Improved Foreign Material Detection

Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2018 by Global Food Safety Resource

By Beth Driscoll

One of the most common customer complaints manufacturers receive relates to foreign material – physical objects that the consumer doesn’t expect to be in their food – and most companies have equipment in place to detect and remove contaminated products. But having this equipment isn’t enough: your employees need training to understand how to keep your consumers safe. Here are three simple principles to ensure your employees are well-trained in using foreign material detection equipment.

man and woman looking at coffee beans for foreign detection

Principle 1: No One Does Something Well if They Haven’t Been Given Proper Training.
When training your employees to correctly use foreign material detection equipment, start with a detailed explanation of the hazard it’s controlling and what it does to control that hazard. For example, instead of saying “this is a metal detector, and it removes metal,” explain what types of metal it detects, how it works and where the metal might come from in your facility. People should be told why removing metal is important and given examples of customer complaints about foreign objects your facility, or your industry receives.

Principle 2: Training Should Have Two Components: Information and Practice.
Many food safety standards today require that training take place in the appropriate language, but this is difficult for a facility to do if their supervisors or managers aren’t fluent in the primary language spoken by the production-floor employees. In this case, try to use a trusted production-floor employee, someone who is a natural leader, to do the translation.

A good training program uses both instruction and practice to ensure the employee has a good grasp of the information. In a quiet space off the production floor, review the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in detail with your employee, preferably one-on-one or in small groups, and use a trusted supervisor to translate, if necessary. Then go out to the machine. Begin by showing the employee how to do the procedure, do it together, then have them do it on their own. Explain at each step what’s being done and why, tying the practical training to the instruction. Have the employee repeat the action several times, until they are confident they can do it on their own.

Principle 3: You Can Never Train Too Often.
At the end of a successful training session, the employee should be able to perform the activity themselves, describing what they are doing, and why. This may take several sessions for initial training and then the training should be repeated several times a year, if possible. You’ll know your employee is well-trained when they can correctly perform their task without the SOP in front of them and can describe what they are doing. Reinforce the procedure often. This not only makes the employee more competent, but also prepares them for questions from the auditor.

Remember: the more information your employees have, the better they can do their job, which helps keep your customers safe.


About the Author
Beth Driscoll, CPHI(C), CHA, PMP is an independent food safety professional with Driscoll Food Safety Inc. and has experience in a variety of sectors, including grocery, food service, manufacturing, and distribution. She is a Public Health Inspector with the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors, a Certified HACCP Auditor with the American Society for Quality, and a Project Management Professional with the Project Management Institute. Beth does training, auditing, consulting, and project management in all sectors of the food industry.

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