“If you should have known, you did know.”
Constructive Knowledge is a legal principle often invoked in cases of foodborne illness. The law views an operator responsible not just for what he or she actually knows, but what they should have known, discovered or perceived. In other words, ignorance is no defense. If you should have known, the law will assume that you did know.
For instance, if an employee spent a vacation in an area where hepatitis A is endemic, the operator can be liable under constructive knowledge if the employee causes an outbreak of the Hepatitis A Viris, HAV. The operator should know the health risks posed by his/her employees at all times.
Handwashing is again a primary intervention as hep A infected workers often exhibit no symptoms. In children younger than 6 years of age, 70% of infections are asymptomatic as are 30% of the adults (CDC).
HAV can be stable in the environment for months, making this very virulent virus very difficult to erradicate. HAV is acquired by mouth through fecal-hand-oral transmission and replicates in the liver.
Employee Screening Checklist:
- Have all employees vaccinated for Hepatitis A.
- Establish procedures that identify daily:
- Allergies & skin conditions
- Personal hygiene standards (nails, hands, hair, skin)
- Establish hand wash regime that fits with employee workstation and personal profile.
- Observe employees at work and note personal habits of risk. Adjust hand wash regime accordingly
- Be diligent when employee has been absent from work
- If ill, is recovery complete?
- If traveling, to what areas (Hep A)?