Food Safety and Protection

Would you like hair with that?

Using a food handler hairnet is one of the easiest methods to implement to control head hair from contaminating food products. But if they are not worn correctly, they are little more than a decoration on a food handler’s head. Welcome to Week 36 of the #FSHChallenge. This week you are challenged to complete a mini audit on the correct wearing of food handler hairnets.

How to complete this Challenge

Step 1: The first thing to look at is if you have any documented procedures on the wearing of a food handler hairnet.  You can also take this opportunity to see if you have considered contamination by food handler hair as a potential hazard in your HACCP hazard analysis tables.

Step 2: Take a walk around your food production areas and observed how food handlers are wearing their hairnets. Is all the hair covered adequately? If not, take corrective action. This may include re-training staff in the correct wearing of food handler hairnets.

Optional: For those who like an additional challenge, you can check and answer the following:

Is there adequate signage in place instructing staff on the correct method for wearing food handler hairnets?

  • Have staff be trained in wearing hairnets?
  • Do you have an adequate supply of hairnets?
  • Do your procedures include the correct method for dress-up / dress-down with respect to hairnets? For example, hands should always be washed after hairnets have been applied.

The correct way to wear a food handler hairnet

The purpose of wearing a food handler hairnet is to prevent head hair from falling into and contaminating food. So with this in mind, it makes sense to ensure that the food handler hairnet is doing the job. All hair should be covered including the fringe, side areas and back of head. Make sure that there is no hair visible outside of the food handler hairnet.

Risk Assessment

When assessing the risk of hair contamination in your finished product there are two factors that you need to consider when determining the overall food safety risk.

  1. The likelihood that hair from your food handler will end up in the food product.
  2. The consequence that hair will have on the customer should they consume a product that contains the hair.

The consequence will always be fixed but the likelihood will depend on your individual food business and controls that are in place.

The likelihood would only be classified as low if there were no exposed or uncovered raw material, work-in-progress or finished product within your food business. To work out the consequence you can check out my severity risk assessment table.

Body hair needs to be considered

It is not only food handler head hair that needs to be considered. Hair coming from arms, legs and the face can also be a source of physical contamination. Adequate control measures need to be implemented and can include long sleeves, sleeve gloves, beard nets and a no beard / moustache policy. Which ever control method you choose, just make sure that you check compliance regularly.

No exceptions

There seems to be an attitude or behaviour in some food businesses that management, sales reps, office staff or visitors are exempt from wearing a hairnet. This should not be the case. Management should be setting the example to all staff on correctly wearing food handler hairnets.

Share your Success

Is the wearing of food handler hairnets an issue in your food business? If you have strategies to help with compliance, share them with the HACCP Mentor community by leaving a comment below.

2 thoughts on “Would you like hair with that?”

  1. In a plant I worked in years ago, the gentleman I worked with didn’t want to wear white hairnets, so, I accommodated them by purchasing hairnets that matched the color of their hair. No future issues and they were worn correctly.

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