Exercising proper hand-washing isn’t optional in the food service industry. Here are some tips to keep your customers safe from contamination.
Exercising proper hand-washing is never optional in the food service industry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand-washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. We’ve all seen signs stating that all employees need to wash their hands before returning to work; however, there’s a difference between washing hands and proper hand-washing. Fortunately, there are proven processes to proper hand-washing. In its Employee Hand Hygiene Manual, the Handwashing Leadership Forum presents this easy-to-follow six-step process:
1. Wet your hands with warm water.
Wetting your hands prior to adding soap helps create a lather that can initiate the cleaning process.
2. Apply a dollop (1/2 oz.) of liquid hand soap or foam to your hands.
Fortunately, most commercial soap dispensers are set to dispense the proper amount of cleaner. Soap is an important component to a successful hand-washing program. Always be sure that soap dispensers are full to avoid the possibility of decreasing one’s ability to wash hands.
3. Lather and rub your hands, fingers and wrists thoroughly.
Pay particular attention to finger tips and nails, the sides of thumbs and index fingers, wrists and forearms, and the palms of hands. This scrubbing process should take 20 seconds to complete thoroughly — singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice is a good guideline.
4. Rinse thoroughly in fast flowing water.
The water temperature should be as hot as you can tolerate.
5. Dry thoroughly with paper towels.
Air dryers can reintroduce bacteria and germs onto your hands. Single use paper towels add friction and help to eliminate any remaining contaminates.
6. Turn off faucets with paper towel to prevent recontamination.
This is important because most bathrooms available to workers are also public bathrooms, and not everyone will follow the proper processes.
Beyond understanding the process, it’s equally important to know when to wash hands. For instance, anyone working within the kitchen should not only wash their hands before leaving the restroom but also after entering the kitchen. After all, touching door handles on the way out of the restroom could result in contamination.
Employees also need to better understand the role gloves play in hand hygiene. Unfortunately, gloves are often considered a safety net, when in reality they present a false sense of security. If your hands aren’t properly washed and dried, they can transfer germs to the gloves while putting them on. Also, workers may cross-contaminate when they’re wearing gloves, such as handling raw meat and then cutting up vegetables. This creates an environment of contamination. Remember, gloves serve as a supplement —they’re not a replacement to proper hand-washing. Also, the gloves are intended to protect the food, not the food handler.
When employees fail to follow the proper processes, the potential for foodborne illness intensifies. While only a small percentage of customers visit a doctor or report illnesses to health departments, many will avoid frequenting your establishment in the future. When proper hygiene is incorporated into the business culture and daily processes, it aids in avoiding transferring foodborne illnesses.