Published 10 March 2020
With the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, ripple effects are being strongly felt across the world. This is particularly true for the food industry, which is experiencing dramatic declines in customer sales, barriers to food deliveries and food supply shortages.
Some food businesses, like restaurants and bars in some Canadian provinces, are being required to shutdown completely after state of emergencies have been declared. The same is occurring in the United States, with almost all of the states declaring a state of emergency and effectively closing local bars and restaurants. If your food business is still allowed to operate, now more than ever, it is vital for you to take the appropriate measures to maintain health and safety standards within the premises. Taking these measures can help your business ensure effective crisis management.
Eating at a food business is one of the main ways people congregate and socialize while enjoying food. This means that a food business premises can serve hundreds if not thousands of customers in a given week. In many countries around the world — including the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia — your business is required by law to uphold stringent standards for food safety. During the COVID-19 pandemic, proper food safety standards have never been more important. Many people, especially those in high-risk groups such as the elderly, need to be protected at all costs. Training can help your staff ensure that food safety standards are being met and exceeded so that your customers are protected.
The current crisis also means that personal hygiene and cleaning and sanitizing standards need to be increased in order to keep your customers safe and healthy. The coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is extremely contagious and can live on surfaces for up to nine days. All staff on the premises, whether they work directly with food or not need to be re-trained on proper hygiene such as hand washing procedures and the proper coughing and sneezing etiquette. Also, management needs to be trained on the new cleaning and sanitizing standards for COVID-19, which includes updating the cleaning and sanitizing schedules. The new standards include increased frequency of cleaning and sanitizing and sanitizing items that are not normally sanitized (such as menus, credit card machines, salt and pepper shakers, etc.). All of these trained behaviors will protect your customers from contracting and spreading COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic is directly affecting all staff in the food industry. Being trained on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in a food business is vital for maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. In food businesses that remain open, food workers need to continue their work while protecting themselves from potential exposure to COVID-19. Since the biggest risk of contracting COVID-19 is through direct contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, all staff need to be extremely cautious when working on the premises. The virus can spread from one staff member to others extremely easily.
Training gives staff the knowledge to identify symptoms of COVID-19 and what to do if a they, a staff member or a customer is displaying symptoms. Everyone must be trained on the new protocols for reporting a suspected case of COVID-19 at work. Training your staff to follow these new procedures will help to prevent COVID-19 from spreading among your staff and throughout the food business.
Contamination of food surfaces such as food preparation areas, cutting boards or utensils can easily occur as your business continues to work during the pandemic. This is why it is absolutely essential that all of your staff are trained on increased personal hygiene standards and learn practical actions to take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work. Along with training your staff, signage should be put up to remind staff of the proper hand washing technique and the etiquette for coughing and sneezing.
Along with training your staff on the new standards, you must communicate to the public that you are taking significant measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Informative and noticeable signage should be displayed throughout your business to inform customers of the specific training your staff has taken on COVID-19. Informing your customers and the public that you are taking the outbreak seriously encourages customers to continue to purchase from your business.
The training that your staff receives from COVID-19 specific training also helps to protect your business by reducing the possibility of your business contributing to the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are fortunate enough to continue operating during the pandemic — as some businesses continue to do in the United States — a case of COVID-19 being linked to your business could be extremely damaging to your reputation. Training can provide you with practical solutions for crisis management during the outbreak so that you can keep your business thriving, even in the midst of a crisis.
If your food business has been forced to close its doors due to a state of emergency declaration, investigate into whether you are able to provide take-out and home deliveries. If you do not currently provide that service, training can provide you with the information you need to switch to a take-out or home delivery model, or both. While it might seem daunting to make the switch, with the right training you can continue to operate your food business and make a profit during the pandemic.
As a business that serves the public, you have a responsibility to keep not only your staff and customers safe, but the community as a whole. If a member of your staff is infected with COVID-19, they can potentially infect other staff members and customers, who can in turn infect other members of the community. There are far-reaching effects from the standards you enact in your business and how you conduct your operations during the pandemic. Protect the community and help stop the spread of COVID-19 by training your staff.
Businesses in the food industry can do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. RespondFirst’s COVIDSafe™ Professional program is the first training program of its kind that addresses the specific needs of food businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provides online lessons, tools and physical resources to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Enrol your staff in the program today.