Is protective clothing a risk to your food product?

The purpose of protective clothing is to not only protect the food handler from injury but to also protect the food from contamination. Protective clothing may also serve to distinguish employees working in different production areas or be required by law.  Welcome to the HACCP Mentor series on Food Safety HACCP Compliance 101: How do I comply with that?  In this session, get the compliance low-down on the use of protective clothing in your food business.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this topic it is good to get an understanding of some of the different types of protective clothing used in the food industry. Although this list is not definitive, it at least gives us some guidance and a place to start.

  • Hairnets and other head coverings
  • Gloves e.g. disposable, non-disposable rubber or cloth, metal mesh
  • Aprons
  • Smocks, Coats or pants
  • Jackets e.g. freezer, coolroom
  • Overalls
  • Footwear e.g. steel-cap boots, gum-boots / wellington-boots

The Risks of Protective Clothing

Protective clothing can become a risk to your food product through both microbiological contamination and physical contamination. Because of this, your risk assessment (or hazard analysis) should document associated hazards at each step in your process where this type of clothing may come into contact with food protect. Here are some examples of hazards (and their causes) that I would expect to see when I review risk assessments during an audit:

  • Physical contamination due to damaged or torn plastic gloves
  • Physical contamination due to loose threads falling from cloth aprons
  • Microbiological contamination from gloves not changed between raw and ready-to-eat foods
  • Metal contamination due to damaged metal mesh gloves
  • Microbiological contamination due to boots not cleaned between low-risk and high-risk production areas.
  • Microbiological contamination due to food production overalls not removed prior to visiting the toilets or rest rooms.
  • Hair contamination (physical) in food product due to head coverings not effectively restraining hair.

HACCP Mentor has plenty of templates to help with your food business compliance. Click here for details.

Basic Control or Preventive Measures

To help you control the likelihood of protective clothing becoming a hazard to your food, you will need to implement suitable preventive measures. Control or preventive measures can include only using gloves that are undamaged and in-tact, not allowing staff uniforms to contain pockets or buttons, ensuring only clean clothing is worn in production rooms, ensuring that all hair is fully covered, implementing correct laundering practices or implementing footwear sanitation prior to entry of high-risk production areas.

Mapping to key standards

Although the following list is not exhaustive, it provides guidance on the requirement for protective clothing in common customer standards. As you can see, requirements for protective clothing are covered in several areas.

  • SQF (Edition 7.2) – Clauses 3.2.12, 4.2.12, 5.3.3, 6.3.3, 7.3.3, 7H.2.1, 8.3.3, 9.2.13, 10.2.12, 11.2.12, 12.2.10, 13.2.10, 14.2.11
  • BRC (Issue 7) – Clause 7.4 Protective Clothing: Employees or visitors to protection areas. Requirements for protective clothing can also be found in 4.8.4, 4.8.5,,
  • Codex – General Principles of Food Hygiene – 5.2.4 Microbiological cross-contamination, 7.3 Personal Cleanliness, 7.5 Visitors
  • WQA (Issue 8 Manufacturing) – 10.3 Protective Clothing
  • PrimusGFS (V2.1-2) – 2.12 Harvesting Worker Activities and Sanitary Facilities
  • AIB International (Consolidated Standards for Inspection, Jan 2013) – 1.30 Work cloths, Changing Facilities, and Personal Areas; 1.31 High-Risk Clothing Management

Share your thoughts

Protective clothing requirements apply to the majority of people working in the food industry. Share your tips and feedback by leaving a comment below.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get free HACCP advice and updates

Find out how to better implement and manage your HACCP, legal and food safety compliance requirements by joining the HACCP Mentor newsletter.

Scroll to Top