With many high-touch surfaces and the constant flow of visitors, “cafeteria” can often mean “bacteria.” The importance of cleaning and sanitizing is compounded when it comes to health care facilities, due to the nature of the environment. Whether at a hospital, clinic or another setting, the following tips can help ensure your dining hall minimizes the spread of pathogens that cause infectious diseases like the cold or flu.
Create a Plan The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends establishing a cleaning program with a written procedure for infection control. This is step one. To develop a clear protocol, be sure to outline the standards, timing and roles for routine cleaning, sanitizing and targeted disinfecting. If your hospital has infection prevention experts, work with them to develop an actionable plan that fits your facility’s needs.
Invest in Training Once a plan is in place, educating cafeteria workers and cleaning staff is key. As a standard, staff should attend training at new hire orientation and participate in refreshers as needed. They’ll encounter drills and lessons unique to your facility and operations. But beyond that, consider creating cleaning champions. To do this, designate one or more leaders and “train the trainer.” Enroll them in a third party custodial technician training program or set aside time for them to dig deeper into food safety and sanitation. They can share these key learnings with other staff on the job.
Protect Food Once food has left the kitchen, it is susceptible to germs from cafeteria patrons, including patients, visitors and staff. Don’t forget about the tried and true precautions. Sneeze guards, for example, are a vital way to keep food sanitary while on buffet-style lines. Keep utensils in check, too. Tongs and ladles should be within reach and replaced if the handles come into contact with food. In addition, make sure to implement a process so that customers use clean dishes for every trip for second helpings, in order to prevent the transfer of germs. In many places, these are health code regulations. Don’t forget to regularly clean and sanitize tables, especially during peak hours. Disposable wipes can make cleaning more effective and hygienic.
Provide Helpful Reminders and Tools A helpful nudge can encourage customers and staff to play a role in cafeteria hygiene. Consider setting up hand sanitizer stations and offering face masks at the cafeteria entrance, for example. In addition, signage placed near food, utensils, cleaning products and storage can address proper food temperatures, hand washing instructions, sanitizing procedures and tips for health, including:
- Get the flu vaccine
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- Wash your hands often and wear gloves
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
And finally, ensure there is a proper process and resources in place to ensure that ill foodservice workers stay home if needed.
In all, hospital cafeterias come with many considerations for health – from the staff, to the patrons, to the equipment and food – but a proper plan and process will help you ensure a quality experience.