People getting sick in food service areas is a fact of life. When this happens, facility cleaning professionals must assume that the ill person has norovirus, prompting proper cleaning actions that will help prevent the spread of bacteria.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that roughly 75 percent of norovirus cases are spread not through food, but because of norovirus-infected droplets becoming airborne and covering as much as 25 feet from the incident. These droplets can land on high-touch surfaces, chairs and tables, ledges, doorknobs, walls, counters, and so on. Making matters worse, norovirus pathogens can live up to two weeks-far longer than other types of pathogens.
So, what steps should cleaning professionals in food service areas take to help protect the health of patrons and staff? According to DayMark Safety Systems, manufacturers of food safety, personal safety, and facility safety products, when a contamination event occurs, the most important thing is to plan for it:
• Have a written spill-control program in place and make sure all employees are trained and understand it. A spill control program should be in writing, so there is no confusion as to how to handle such situations.
• Have one person designated to oversee emergency cleanup operations.
• Have the proper spill cleanup kits in stock. In a large restaurant, have several. The kit should include such things as gowns, aprons, gloves, a mask/face shield to protect workers, towels, trash bags, and, most important, an absorbent spill pad.
• The absorbent spill pad should be approximately 21 inches by 25 inches, large enough to cover the affected area of most vomiting incidents. The absorbency of these pads can vary, with some pads designed to be as much as 8.5 times more absorbent than other brands, making product selection due diligence a must.
• Have an EPA-registered disinfectant effective against norovirus included in the cleanup supplies.
“Finally, store supplies together, so time isn’t lost searching for them,” says Edward Sharek, Category Manager of Facility-Employee Safety at DayMark Safety Systems. “There is no time to search for supplies when a vomiting incident occurs, and it will just add to the confusion.”