If you’re having difficulty finding credible safety training geared towards the industrial food processing industry, you’re not alone. We’ve compiled a summary of some of the best resources for comprehensive and industry-standard safety training for the food processing industry.
1. Food Industry Associations
The first place to look for safety training resources are food industry associations. These organizations connect food sector stakeholders with each other and serve as their public advocates. Many associations are non-profit and provide educational materials that are free and readily available to the general public. Since most publish on their websites frequently, industry associations are a good resource for trending industry updates and safety guidelines.
Changes as a Result of the Global Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for safety measures at US food processing facilities and has been a driving force behind the growth in the volume of available food sector safety training resources. Food industry associations are responding with increased website publishing.
FMI, a major food industry association, has put forth many great recommendations for how to continue to ensure food safety during the COVID-19 crisis that take into consideration the needs of corporate stakeholders and the safety of employees working on the frontlines.
In their online resource, “Guidance for the Food Industry: Coronavirus Outbreak,” the Food Industry Association (FMI) analyzes the guidance set forth in the “White House Guidelines for Opening Up America Again” and breaks it into small, easy to consume informational tidbits. The guide is the fourth installment of their series on COVID-19 best practices for food manufacturers.
2. National Environmental Health Association
If you are serious about getting yourself or your team industry-standard credentials in food processing safety, then there is no better resource than the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA). They have been adding safety educational resources and increasing the availability of their safety coursework in response to the pandemic.
The NEHA is a national environmental health credentialing body dedicated to the promotion of environmental health protection initiatives. The organization is also known as the publisher of the highly regarded Journal of Environmental Health. Go to their website and you are sure to find a treasure trove of quality safety resources and training information. These resources are offered free of charge to the public. A membership to the site provides access to several online courses, including classes for preparing for the prestigious Certified Professional – Food Safety (CP-FS) credential. NEHA courses are HACCP certified and meet the standards of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NEHA offered free access for members and non-members to all of their online training through June 30, 2020.
3. Government Resources
The US government offers some of the best free food safety training resources on the internet. Both the websites of the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Labor offer a variety of highly informative and easy to access food processing safety training educational guidelines.
The Occupational, Safety, and Health Administration (OSHA), the governing body that enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, is housed within the United States Department of Labor. As the organization that defines the national standards for workplace safety, it is no surprise that the organization’s website is the storehouse of all of the most current US occupational safety laws and regulations. Do not miss their publications section, where you can download an A thru Z listing of hundreds of safety guidelines, e-books, and other free informational materials.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is well known as an international authority on public health standards and certifications for food and water resources in food safety, water, consumer products, and the environment. What is not as well known is the variety of virtual, instructor-led safety training courses they offer through their website, many of which are completely cost-free. Course topics range in everything from allergen management to food plant sanitation. As an added benefit, the courses are IACET accredited, meaning that they count towards continuing education requirements.
OSHA Website: www.osha.gov
OSHA Publications: https://www.osha.gov/pls/publications/publication.html
NSF Website: www.nsf.org
4. University Professional Training Programs
Well-Designed Food Safety & Sanitation Training Programs
Many production facilities have stringent sanitation and hygiene standards. If you are looking for approved food safety training education programs taught by food safety professionals that specialize in cGMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), then consider taking (or, if you have a staff, enrolling them in) a professional training certification course.
Universities offer online and in-person coursework on food safety training and preventative controls for hygienic industrial environments. As centers of research, universities also offer plenty of information packed conventions, expositions, and summits that are open to the general public.
NC State University, for example, offers certification programs, workshops, individual courses, and even custom training on a variety of food safety topics that cater to working professionals who are food producers or work in the foodservice and food manufacturing industries.
According to their online syllabus, a typical cGMP course touches on issues ranging from security awareness and food defense, to plant construction and design, warehousing, waste and sewage disposal, and cross-contamination prevention.
NC State University Food Safety Professional Training Program: https://foodsafety.ncsu.edu/professional-training/
Through their Office of Continuing Professional Education, Rutgers University offers tailored food safety certificate programs that they provide online or at their client’s location. In addition to traditional food safety training coursework, such as HACCP planning or coursework on popular food handling certifications SafeMark® and ServSafe®, they also allow clients to pick from an extensive catalog of services, ranging from project management to business development and leadership. This range of options has enabled corporate clients to provide their staff with unique safety training experiences that help to improve both their food safety know-how and leadership and management acumen.
Rutgers Employee Training & Development Customized Certificate Programs: http://www.cpe.rutgers.edu/employee-training-and-development/customized-certificate-programs.html
5. Professional Safety Consultants
Hire a Professional Food Safety Consultant
Companies that want a professional food safety program but do not have the time, resources, or ability to implement a safety program internally should consider outsourcing their program to professional food safety consultants. These highly trained professionals ensure that OSHA guidelines and other government food safety standards are always met, that standards for safety are implemented consistently, and that employees are well-trained and can continue to implement the standards once the period of engagement ends. Turning your safety program over to a third party does not mean you have to let go of your vision or relinquish oversight of your program. A good consulting partner is one that is willing to work hand-in-hand alongside your team to help you meet your project objectives.
Some consultants embed their staff directly into your facility, working hand-in-hand alongside your team to help you meet your objectives. As a “boots-on-the-ground” extension of your facility staff, these professionals are able to locate bottlenecks in your current processes and procedures and provide suggestions on how to solve them. Expert safety consultants understand that your problems can rarely be solved with a quick fix, so they look for the technical or organizational barriers that prevent the resolution of your issue. Under your direction, they use this knowledge to tailor your safety program to fit the unique needs and requirements of your organization. Consultants may even take the extra step to provide recommendations on how to solve safety issues or improve the efficiency of internal processes — even those your team may have never before considered.
Another reason many companies outsource their safety programs to a third party is to transfer potential risks and liabilities. A poorly implemented safety program can easily lead to employee injuries, costly government audits, and lawsuits. The potential of these liabilities alone is often a reason companies find the upfront costs of hiring an experienced consultant well worth the investment.
While hiring a consultant is arguably the easiest and most reliable way to ensure that your facility is safe and your staff well trained, finding the right consultant can be a challenge. Qualified consultants typically need to have years of industry experience and professional credentialing. They must also be licensed to do business at their client’s location.
Omaha, Nebraska based EAD (Engineering, Automation, and Design), is an example of a consultancy that offers these types of safety training services. The company is an engineering and project management services firm that specializes in industrial safety. Classified as an essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm has served as a resource for Fortune 100 to 500 clients in the food, pharmaceutical, logistics / packaging, and other critical industries. Since 2014 they have been recognized as one of the safest companies in the US by the National Safety Council. In large part due to their work history of over 10,000 projects and zero safety incidents, they were also named a “Top 10 Process Safety Consulting / Service Company” by Enterprise Technology Review Magazine.
EAD embeds staff directly in clients’ facilities in part to learn the culture and business practices that make each unique. Once on-site, they make recommendations for improvements and efficiencies tailored to each client’s specific requirements.
The firm’s food processing safety training programs are customized for their clients. They can take place on-line or in the classroom and combine simulation-based with hands-on training. Since many of the systems and processes designed by the firm are complex, the company also provides clients with safety training as part of the typical project implementation period.
Contact EAD at 402.905.3221 or send us an email.
So, there you have it! The best food processing safety training resources all in one place! Remember that quality safety training is a long-term investment that may save dividends and lives. Carefully research your options and choose the program or consultant that will help you meet your internal company requirements as well as those of your clients. Your staff and clients will thank you!