Top 5 Hospitality COVID-19 Pitfalls
Here at STS, we’re so pleased to see our hardworking colleagues in the food service industry opening their doors to the public once again and are just as delighted that our STS Consultants are now back doing what they do best, supporting food businesses to achieve the highest standards of both food safety and health & safety.
Just like you, we’ve had to adapt the way that we work, so our safety visits are looking a little different compared to earlier this year. Not only are we now offering our services in different formats (such as virtual support visits and training courses, if preferred) but we are now also assessing additional safety considerations to help you ensure your business is COVID Compliant.
Getting your business COVID Compliant can seem overwhelming at first. However, we are seeing some really interesting and innovative ways of meeting the Government guidance requirements during our visits and a real commitment from food businesses to getting things right.
Nevertheless, we’ve noticed some key areas where businesses are unsure how to comply with the guidance, what we are calling our ‘Top 5 COVID pitfalls’.
1.Covid-19 Risk Assessments
Every business must complete a risk assessment for COVID-19 that is specific to their business and adequately identifies the hazards presented by the virus, as well as suitable controls. We are finding that the vast majority of food businesses are aware of this requirement, but are not making their risk assessment specific enough, either to Coronavirus or their business.
A general risk assessment is not sufficient in this instance. A COVID-19 risk assessment needs to outline the specific risks that employees, visitors, contractors and members of the public may face when visiting your premises.
It’s also worth remembering that things change and therefore your COVID-19 risk assessment must change too. It’s what’s known as a ‘living’ document and should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis, so the controls stay relevant and up to date.
2. Handwashing & Surface Disinfection
Number two on our list of COVID pitfalls is a two-pronged entry: poor hand washing and a lack of understanding of chemicals used to disinfect surfaces, e.g. sanitisers.
It is very well publicised that one of the most effective controls in preventing the spread of the virus is hand washing for at least 20 seconds. However, we have been finding that staff have not been washing their hands for long enough, leaving the business exposed to an increased risk of virus transmission which could, potentially, lead to an outbreak and the business having to close again.
Thorough hand washing practices need to be enforced throughout your food business and training can be supported via signage and posters.
We’ve also noticed that staff are often unsure of what chemical disinfectant they should be using to clean and disinfect surfaces and what amount of time the product needs to be left on surfaces for to be effective.
Sanitisers to BS EN 1276 are effective against enveloped viruses and are therefore suitable to disinfect surfaces with. However, they
be left on the surface (which has been visibly cleaned) for the correct contact time, otherwise their effectiveness cannot be guaranteed. What the correct contact time is varies from product to product and you will need to check with your manufacturer or supplier. must
Remember, hand contact points must be disinfected thoroughly and regularly at a greater frequency than usual. If hands are not being washed thoroughly, there is an increased risk of transmission as hand touch points are more likely to be infected.
3. Social Distancing Amongst Back Of House Staff
We’re finding that social distancing is being well managed for customers and front of house, however, this isn’t always the case in back of house areas.
We all know that areas back of house are often small and shared by lots of people. This means that the required 2m social distance might not be viable, in which case a distance of 1m between people is acceptable, but
if other control measures are in place, such as further increased frequency of hand washing, separation via screens or barriers, working back-to-back or side-to-side, or fixed teams and partnering. only
If neither 2m or 1m is viable, you’ll need to consider whether the activity involved should even go ahead.
Don’t forget, it’s not just the kitchen where social distancing needs to be implemented. Other back of house areas (such as break rooms, outside smoking areas and bathrooms) all need to be reorganised so social distancing can take place. This means you might need to stagger people’s break times or even the times they arrive and leave work.
4. Face Coverings
Another thing we have noticed is confusion about the wearing of face coverings and other protective equipment, such as disposable gloves and visors.
The Government is quite clear on this topic: there is no need for those working in hospitality to wear any personal protective equipment additional to what they usually wear as part of their job.
Therefore, employees do not have to wear face coverings, disposable gloves or visors while at work. However, if employees wish to wear any of these items, you should allow them to without issue. After all, there is growing evidence that wearing face coverings in an enclosed space helps protect the individual wearing the mask and those around them from the virus, so much so that the Government has now made it mandatory to wear face coverings in shops, supermarkets and when collecting or purchasing food to takeaway.
Remember, some people are exempt from wearing face coverings due to health, age or equality reasons and they can’t be denied entry if not wearing one.
It’s unlikely that you’ll get any issues with people refusing to wear face masks. However, if you do, the Police have powers to assist and to issue a £100 fine.
It is important to remember that face masks do not offer complete protection from COVID-19 and good personal hygiene measures (such as social distancing, hand washing/sanitising and avoiding touching your face) should still be frequently carried out. 5. How Many People Can Eat Together
Last on our list of COVID weak spots is confusion around how many people are able to gather together when visiting a food business. We’ve found business owners and staff confused about whether or not they can take bookings for more than 6 people and what the rules on gatherings are.
When it comes to meeting up indoors, you should only meet up with one other household if meeting in an indoor space. This means there is no cap on how many people can eat together in a restaurant provided the entire party is made up of people from only 2 households.
Things are a little different when gathering together outside. The rule about no cap on numbers if gathering together from two different households still applies, however, if you are meeting up outdoors, up to 6 people from different households can all gather together.
In both cases, social distancing should still be followed with people you do not live with.
As a food business operator, you’ll need to remind your customers of the rules around social gatherings.
If you need any help identifying your own COVID weakspots, please let us know – we’re here to help you get things right. We have recently launched our Covid Compliant audit which takes into account all of the above and more! One of our consultants will cross check your existing controls with the Government guidance and should there be any controls where you fall short, we will work with you to improve such controls. Upon successful completion of our Covid Compliant audit, you will be awarded our ‘Covid Compliant’ window certificate that not only demonstrates you have appropriate controls in place, it also provides re-assurance to visitors that your premises is safe. For more information, complete the contact form to the right and a member of our team will be in touch! Let’s Connect! Follow us on Linkedin below: