Personal illness, employee's responsibilities

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Anyone working in a food business who is likely to come into contact with food must report to their manager immediately if they have an illness that is likely to be passed on through food or if they have certain medical conditions that could lead to this. They should also report if they are using any creams on their skin as these could pass into the food. They should immediately seek to exclude themselves from food handling duties and areas if they develop such symptoms at work.

It is also a legal requirement for every person working in a food handling area to maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness and to wear suitable, clean and, where necessary, protective clothing. 

The key action is to:

  • Ensure you wash (and dry) your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before working with or around food, especially after using the toilet. Your hands can also come into contact with bacteria and viruses from other sources, such as from other people, raw foods or even yourself. Therefore, it is also very important to wash your hands after
  • Handling raw food, such as meat
  • Changing a dressing or touching open wounds
  • Any contact with other people’s faeces or vomit, e.g. changing nappies
  • Touching animals or pets
  • Handling waste and touching bins
  • Cleaning and after breaks.

It also helps to wash your hands regularly throughout the day, especially after cleaning or touching your nose, mouth, face, ears and hair. Avoiding such contact is best.

Other ways to reduce the risks of contamination include minimising the amount you touch ready to eat foods and food contact surfaces. Drying hands thoroughly is important because wet hands spread bacteria more easily. Try to avoid using anything that will re-contaminate hands. Also, remember that when washing the most commonly missed parts are the back of the hand and tops of the fingertips around the nails. Nails should be kept short to make hand washing easier. Liquid soap is better at removing dirt from under long nails.

Gloves can be used to cover damaged skin or protect hands from the risk of developing skin conditions such as dermatitis, which can be caused by prolonged food handling and wet work such as dishwashing.

Many people also believe that gloves are safer than using clean hands – this is not necessarily true. Gloves are not a substitute for good personal hygiene and handwashing as they can become contaminated with bacteria in much the same way as hands can, even when they are new.