IKE Non-Technical Scenario 1-04: Professionalism
You are a Consumer Safety Inspector assigned to a chicken slaughter plant. You are one of two Consumer Safety Inspectors assigned to this plant, which also has a SVMO and four slaughter line inspectors on each shift. Your assigned plant both slaughters chickens and processes them into various cuts in a further processing department. You rotate on a bi-weekly basis with the other CSI, and it is your turn to cover the processing assignment. The processing assignment starts approximately 1 hour later than the slaughter assignment starts, so you arrive for pre-operational sanitation inspector approximately 1 hour after slaughter operations have started.
On Friday afternoon before you leave for the day, you find that after the issuance of a NOIE earlier in the week, the establishment has outlined and implemented corrective actions. The verification plan you worked on with the SVMO and other CSI for ensuring that the establishment has complied with the conditions of the NOIE is also completed. You had a meeting with your Frontline Supervisor, the SVMO, and the other CSI, in which they complimented you on a ‘job well done.’ The four of you discussed how plant management’s commitment to effective environmental sanitation or cleanliness coupled with sanitary maintenance of equipment and utensils, good personal hygiene, and proper food handling practices has substantially reduced the risk of direct product contamination and adulteration in this establishment. You feel confident and comfortable about the professional job you have performed this week.
Monday morning, you arrive at your duty station still feeling cheerful and optimistic. As you walk through the evisceration department, all the slaughter employees are laughing. Then, a piece of fat thrown by one of the slaughter line FSIS employees hits a plant slaughter line employee square in the chest, splattering her apron. She laughs out loud. Even though everyone seems to be having a good time, you know this is not acceptable behavior from FSIS employees. You notify the in-plant FSIS supervisor (SVMO) immediately. You are a little disturbed by the interaction between the line inspectors and the plant employees. None of them are acting in a manner which you feel is appropriate. You start to feel frustrated with plant management. You thought last week, that they had committed to effective sanitation by their response to the NOIE they received, but now you are having second thoughts.
You are scheduled to perform hands-on pre op inspection (01B02) in the further processing department. Right away, you spot two inoperable sets of lights over two blenders ready for use in the north corner of the sausage kitchen that make the lighting inadequate for you to verify that food-contact surfaces are sanitary during pre-op sanitation inspection. At this point, you don’t know if there is an insanitary condition, but there is noncompliance with the requirements of 416.2(c). You take official control of the blenders by placing a U.S. Reject tag on them; complete pre-operational sanitation and then you immediately document noncompliance with the sanitation performance standards (416.2(c)) on a Noncompliance Record. At this point you have lost sight of the ‘kudos’ you received from your supervisors last week. You feel yourself becoming aggravated by the repetitive nature of the sanitation performance standards issues. It was management’s inability or unwillingness to maintain the establishment in the first place that led to the production of adulterated product, and the NOIE. The NOIE has meant a lot of extra work for you. You know your face is getting red. As you document this new NR, your mind begins to race. Thinking to yourself you play out what might be the presentation of this new NR to plant management. You might say, “Here, now you have trouble, again” or, “Here, this might set you straight.” Or, even better, “Now, maybe you will finally get this right.”
What would you do? What is the correct action to take? How can the inspector shift his/her frustrated attitude to one of a more professional posture? The question becomes, what must an inspector do, individually, to maintain his composure, disengage from the emotion of the moment and after having done that, make the presentation of an NR to plant management without entangling his own negative emotions to the NR. Any of these remarks the inspector is thinking about, may present an aggressive stance versus what may be desired, i.e., a collaborative encounter, with both FSIS and plant management focused on Public Health. How does a Professional Consumer Safety Inspector handle the expected confrontation?
Here are some thoughts for consideration.
Take a deep breath. Sit down and spend a few moments time relaxing yourself. Think, then, think again, before you actually begin to take action or speak. Remember, you want to create non-adversarial, but professional, relationships.
Realize that the plant’s actions and/or insanitary conditions were not done to personally disturb you, the inspector. Don’t take the situation as a personal affront.
Maintain open, honest communication.
State the facts calmly without making accusations or drawing conclusions.
Anticipate possible reactions from plant management.
Tell your side of the story. What is that?
Ask for their side of the story. What might that be?
Inform plant management in a cordial manner about the noncompliances observed and explain that you are taking regulatory action (if required) in response to the non-compliances observed.
If management chooses to answer the NR in writing, sign off after you have verified corrective and preventive measures. If management declines to answer the NR in writing, but proposes oral corrective and preventive measures, then document this discussion and sign the verification block on the NR after you have verified corrective and preventive measures are implemented.
The word ‘professionalism’ can mean different things to different people. Here is the definition of an FSIS professional, developed by the FSIS Professionalism Workgroup.
An FSIS professional is someone who:
• Displays personal integrity and honesty;
• Is committed to excellence;
• Has respect for others; and
• Takes pride in public service and in
• Protecting the public’s health.
The following are some questions to ask yourself and the responses developed by the Professionalism Workgroup when considering Horseplay in the FSIS workplace.
Consider the flinging of inedible fat by an FSIS employee hitting an establishment employee.
Is this professional behavior? Why or why not?
• No, this behavior interferes with work, may jeopardize employee safety (FSIS and plant) and may result in workplace violence.
• This behavior constitutes employee misconduct by the FSIS employee that threw the
How would a professional respond?
• Refrain from throwing something back.
• Tell the person, “I would appreciate it if you would not do that again.”
• Inform either your supervisor, or the supervisor of the plant person throwing the object (if you both don’t share the same supervisor.)
·Consumer safety inspectors generally do not occupy supervisory positions. It would be inappropriate them to supervise slaughter line inspectors or plant employees. Contacting the appropriate supervisor would be the most professional response for a Consumer Safety Inspector.
How does this behavior compare to the definition of Professionalism?
• The inspector throwing the object displays a lack of commitment to excellence, pride in public service, and lack of respect for others. It detracts from the inspector’s authority.
What is the potential impact for employee safety/food safety/bio-security?
• The employee throwing objects and the person hit by the object are not fullfilling their inspection duties or paying attention to food safety.
• The person hit by the object may also be distracted/irritated/angered. Horseplay may
result in verbal or physical altercation.
• Horseplay may result in personal injury to the person being hit or others, and cause
other safety hazards (object may cause slip and fall, eye injury, etc.)
• May result in spreading microbial contamination. Airborne particles may land on food
products and people, thereby increasing chances for adulteration of food products and
What impact does it have on the Agency’s credibility?
• The perception by plant personnel may be that FSIS employees are not serious about their jobs. Thus, a message may be sent that FSIS employees do not have to be taken seriously by plant personnel.
What might be the outcome of this incident?
• The incident may result in disciplinary action for the person throwing the object.
How should this be handled if a plant employee threw the object?
• Refrain from throwing something back.
• Tell the person, “Please stop throwing (the object). It may result in product contamination or personal injury. Protecting the public health is why we are here.” Try to make this as non-confrontational as possible.
• Inform the person’s supervisor of the incident. The person’s supervisor should bring the incident to the attention of the plant management.
• You also have the option of filling out an FSIS Form 4791-27, Report of Alleged Safety or Health Hazard. This form is a good tool to use in addressing these types of issues. It presents the supervisor with an ‘organized approach’ to effectively resolving issues and provides the employee an effective tool as well as provides documentation for other supervisors in the chain of command to verify if on-target action was taken and if a problem was addressed/resolved.
How could this behavior be prevented or avoided (by supervisor or employees)?
•FSIS supervisor being a positive role model, as well as leader and coach of FSIS employees on positive behaviors
• Employees refraining from horseplay.
• Work unit discussions; that horseplay is not acceptable behavior, and may result in product contamination, personal injury, or workplace violence.
• On August 31, 2001, a memorandum was issued to all FSIS Field Employees on conduct and Workplace Safety calling attention to the need to avoid horseplay.
How would you demonstrate your professionalism in this situation?
• Refuse to engage in horseplay; deal with horseplay when it occurs to discourage it from happening.
• Support the Agency’s policy for treating employees and customers with dignity and respect.
Do you have anything you would like to add to this discussion?