COVID-19 Safety in Staff Canteens

Extra precautions need to be taken in staff canteens to prevent the spread of COVID-19
Extra precautions need to be taken in staff canteens to prevent the spread of COVID-19

April 16, 2020 — While much of the global workforce is laid off or working from home, essential workers in food retail, food processing and health and community services are still travelling to the workplace each day. When no food alternatives are available, staff canteens are necessary for these workers. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released guidance on how to prevent transmission in such facilities.

Personal hygiene is key in minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through staff canteens. High standards for hand washing and coughing and sneezing etiquette must be observed, both by staff working in the canteen and diners eating there. The WHO recommends hand washing posters be displayed in the canteen to enforce this.

The WHO further recommends the display of posters and notices about physical distancing. Operators of staff canteens should take all measures necessary to enforce physical distancing of at least one meter (3 feet) between diners and all other people in the canteen, including staff canteen workers and other diners. Measures may include rearranging the seating arrangements in the canteen, using tape to mark out areas where diners stand in line, and the construction of physical barriers between canteen workers and diners.

Another recommendation by the WHO is for businesses to stagger staff shift and break times. The goal of this is to minimize the number of people in the canteen at any one time. This would also give canteen workers opportunity to thoroughly clean and sanitize between dining sessions.

Cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting is even more important than normal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures should be put in place for equipment and contact surfaces, particularly items that are touched frequently such as counter tops, tongs, service utensils, self-service displays and door handles. The normal sanitizing and disinfecting agents used by food businesses are effective in destroying the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Protecting essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic is critical to ensuring continued healthcare services and the safe and adequate supply of food to consumers. Providing a safe dining environment for these workers is a small but necessary step to take in the fight against the coronavirus.