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Stand-Up Training: How to Prevent a Physical Hazard in Food

A chef removes a physical hazard, bone, from fish.

Empower Employees Through Food Safety Training

A physical hazard is any item in food that can choke, gag, or injure a customer. Food workers need to know when to remove naturally occurring physical hazards during food preparation. They also need to know how to prevent other physical hazards from contaminating food.

Learning Objectives

You may choose to read these learning objectives with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

After this training, employees will be able to:

  • Identify the potential physical food hazards that can occur in your establishment
  • Recognize and remove natural physical hazards from food
  • Properly inspect equipment for potential food hazard risks
  • Communicate with the manager when potential hazards have been discovered

The Facts

You may choose to read these facts with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

  • A physical hazard is any item in food that can choke, gag, cut, or otherwise injure a customer.
  • Physical hazards can occur naturally in food, like fruit pits and animal bones.
  • Other physical hazards get into food accidentally, like pieces of plastic or metal from machinery and strands of hair.
  • Unless a food item is normally expected to contain physical hazards, don’t assume that your customers will safely discover and remove physical hazards on their own.
  • Remove naturally occurring physical hazards and avoid introducing other physical hazards while preparing and serving food.

Training Activities

Choose the activities that will be most beneficial for your employees. Modify them as needed to fit the training needs of your establishment.

What Are Physical Hazards?

Discuss: What are some physical hazards that might occur in our establishment? How do these hazards get in food? Ask for a volunteer to write a list of physical hazards based on the discussion.

Removing and Avoiding Physical Hazards

Explain: It’s okay to leave physical hazards in food items that are normally expected to have them. But in other cases, we need to remove physical hazards. We also need to keep our equipment in good condition so it’s less likely to break down and contaminate food.

Challenge: Give a list of two or three food items on your menu that naturally contain a physical hazard. Also share a few scenarios where food could become contaminated with a physical hazard. Challenge food workers to shout out what they should do for each food item or scenario.

For example:

  • When someone orders fried chicken, do we need to remove the bones in the chicken? (Answer: no)
  • An order comes in for salmon. Do we need to remove the bones in the fish? (Answer: yes)
  • A customer orders a cherry chocolate milkshake. Should we pit the cherries before blending them? (Answer: yes)
  • What can we do to help keep hair from getting in food? (Answer: tie back long hair and wear a hat or hairnet)
  • What should you do if you notice a problem with our equipment? (Answer: tell the manager)

Demonstrate (optional): Ask an experienced employee to demonstrate how to remove common physical hazards, or do the demonstration yourself.

Following Up

When health inspectors come to your establishment, they look for any way your food could become contaminated and what steps you and your employees are taking to help prevent contamination.

When it comes to preventing physical hazards, the FDA Food Code recommends inspectors check that employees are practicing good personal hygiene, including:

  • Tying back long hair
  • Wearing a hat or hairnet
  • Keeping fingernails trimmed and unpolished (workers with fingernail polish should use gloves)
  • Covering wounds on the hands or arms with a double barrier (bandage and gloves)

Inspectors may watch to see if employees remove physical hazards during food preparation or ask employees to describe the process they use to remove physical hazards.

In addition, inspectors may also look for broken or faulty equipment and check to make sure your facility is in good condition. Make sure all light fixtures are covered just in case a bulb breaks.

Hold practice inspections with your employees to help them prepare for a health inspection. Observe them as they work and offer specific feedback on how they can help prevent physical hazards. As needed, review this training with your employees.

Training Resources

The Food Hazards Chart will help managers review the different types of food hazards and how to prevent them.

Did you use this stand-up training in your establishment? We’d love to get your feedback! Take a minute to do our feedback survey.

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— Jessica Pettit

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