Protecting Pig Barn Workers from Infection
The Importance of Personal and Personnel Hygiene
The typical production facility employee is covered with more bacteria than there are people in the United States. Even if you maintain a shower-in, shower-out protocol, workers are likely sharing facilities and are at risk for passing illness and infection. Facility employees should be following all biosecurity protocol instructions to a “T” in terms of food preparation, food and trash disposal, proper hygiene and wound care, etc.
Healthy and clean facility workers are much less likely to introduce infections. Attention to even the smallest detail of an employee’s on-site experience—from the soap they use to treating the nick on their finger—can help limit exposure. Establishing a clean environment and expecting all employees to maintain strict adherence to personal hygiene biosecurity protocols can make a difference.
What is Hygiene?
Though most have an idea of what hygiene is, the word can be defined as conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially through cleanliness. The goal of handwashing and general cleaning is to break the transmission route of microorganisms from employee hands to anywhere else.
In production facilities, a good biosecurity plan emphasizes the practice, or the act, of staying clean. All employees should have total buy-in to the notion that they must vigilantly and vigorously clean themselves repeatedly throughout the day. Similarly, producers and management should make expectations clear with ample, appropriate signage and reinforce the message with regular reminders.
General Personnel Hygiene Protocols
Good hygiene begins with clean hands. All employees should wash their hands often with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds at a time. This is particularly important before food preparation and after eating. If soap and water are not easily available, some sort of alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be an adequate substitute—but only if the employee’s hands are not visibly dirty.
A break room should be provided for food preparation and meals. Employees should not wash their hands in the same sink as the one where they wash and clean eating utensils. Additionally, employees should not eat or bring food to areas where animals are housed.
Cuts and Scrapes
Cuts and scrapes are common annoyances most people deal with regularly. For production facility workers, however, they represent a biosecurity threat. Cuts and scrapes should be treated immediately and should remain covered with clean dressing until the wound is completely healed. Producers should post the proper protocols and make sure all employees understand that the smallest abrasion must be treated seriously.
Additionally, local healthcare provider contact information should be made readily available if employees have questions.
If an employee is diagnosed with a skin infection, the healthcare provider should be immediately consulted about proper care to prevent spreading it among employees.
For shower-in, shower-out protocols, make sure all employees use their own soap, washcloth, towels, flip-flops or shower shoes, and after-shower clothing.
In the shower, a liquid soap dispenser will reduce the chance for any infection that might be passed on by handling and using the same bar soap. After showering, all used clothing and towels should be washed in hot water with laundry detergent and bleach.
In office and living areas—like the break room or shower/bathroom—cleaning procedures should be posted and all employees should understand and follow the protocols. For example, floors, counters, eating utensils, desktops, and shared facility phones should be cleaned daily and the trash should be emptied at least at once per day.
For showers, an EPA-approved disinfectant or a solution consisting of one-quarter cup bleach in a gallon of water should be used. This solution should be newly mixed every morning.
Facility employee hygiene is of utmost importance. All employees should understand the need to maintain good hygiene off-hours and follow all protocols while on-site, observing that:
- Physical health must be maintained through cleanliness.
- Sick or diseased employees must be treated immediately.
- Hygienic habits should be developed at work to prevent possible contamination.
- Hands should be washed after going to the bathroom, after handling trash and/or dirty laundry/clothing, and after smoking, coughing, or sneezing.
- Off-site, employees should maintain personal hygiene by showering or bathing daily, by regularly washing their hair, by using deodorant, by maintaining clean fingernails, and by wearing clean underclothes.
Successful biosecurity is the responsibility of everyone.
Did we miss any important biosecurity hygiene practices? What do you require employees to do in your facility? Tell us in the comments section!