A brush-up on workplace safety and sanitation practices

COVID-19: Guidance for Workplace Safety and Sanitation


f you are keeping your kitchen open for delivery and take-out only, the CDC, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The National Restaurant Association, the World Health Organization and other agencies and organizations have released some guidance for workplace safety for businesses specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have compiled them for you here, but click on any of the above hyperlinks for the full reports. This can guidance can be applied to commercial kitchens and all segments of the foodservice industry, but here is a list of specific workplace sectors from the CDC.  

Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. 

Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.

Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.

Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.

Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.

Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.

Send home visibly sick employees. 

CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).

Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees. 

Place posters that encourage staying home when sickcough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.

Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.

Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.

Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.

Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage for more information.

Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.

Perform routine environmental cleaning.

Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.

Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.

Follow food safety and workplace guidelines ServSafe and contact your local state and local health departments for the latest advisories/information about coronavirus in their community. Here is a fact sheet in English and Spanish with information specific to the industry.

Place all used disposable gloves, facemasks, and other contaminated items in a lined container before disposing of them with other waste. 

Wash laundry with normal laundry soap and dry on a hot setting. Keep dirty laundry away from your face and body. Wash your hands right after touching dirty laundry. 

On March 3, the EPA released a list of registered disinfectant products that have qualified under its emerging viral pathogen program for use against SARS-CoV-2 and can be used for COVID-19. 

stop-the-spread-of-germs copy

Stagger shifts and practice social distancing. 

Plan ways to increase the space between people or limit face-to-face contact between people. 

Follow federal and state, local, tribal, and/or territorial (SLTT) recommendations regarding development of contingency plans for situations that may arise as a result of outbreaks, such as increased rates of worker absenteeism; the need for social distancing, staggered work shifts, downsizing operations, delivering services remotely, and other exposure-reducing measures. 

If you are a restaurant, partner with a third-party delivery service or set up curbside delivery (with social distancing) for off-premise meals. 

For K-12 school, higher education, senior living and possibly country club (if customers are isolating), establish a “food delivery” approach for sick and isolating customers. Create an online menu to allow these customers to order food without leaving their dorm room or residences. Arrange for food to be delivered directly to them by cafeteria staff, roommates, or other students. Leave packages outside doors, do not have delivery aids personally hand over the food. 

Plan to conduct essential operations with a reduced workforce, including cross-training workers across different jobs in order to continue operations or deliver surge services. 

Plan for potential interruptions to supply chains or delayed deliveries. 

Update your existing emergency operations plan. 

If you have one, meet with your emergency operations coordinator or planning team to develop or update your emergency operations plan. Review all aspects of your school, such as personnel, systems, services, and other resources. Make preparations for key prevention strategies. 

Establish relationships with key community partners and stakeholders. Clearly define each partner’s role, responsibilities, and decision-making authority. 

Promote the daily practice of everyday preventive actions at all times. Use health messages and materials developed by credible public health sources, such as your local public health department or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Provide respiratory illness prevention supplies in your facility. Have supplies on hand for staff and students, such as soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, tissues, and trash baskets. 

Update your emergency communication plan for distributing timely and accurate information. Identify everyone in your chain of communication (for example, staff, students, suppliers, and key community partners and stakeholders) and establish systems for sharing information with them. Maintain up-to-date contact information for everyone in the communication chain. Identify platforms, such as a hotline, automated text messaging, and a website to help disseminate information to those inside and outside your facility. 

Identify and address potential language, cultural, and disability barriers associated with communicating information to staff and students. 

Fight stigma and fear by supporting people who are coming back to school or work after completing their quarantine or isolation period for COVID-19 exposure or illness. 

 Someone who has completed their quarantine or met the requirements to discontinue infection control measures does not pose a risk of spreading COVID-19. 

People who have not been in contact with a person who is a confirmed or suspected case are not at greater risk of acquiring and spreading this new virus than others. 

People who returned more than 14 days ago from areas where COVID-19 is active and do not have symptoms of coronavirus do not put others at risk. 

Help fight fear by letting people know that being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19. 

Viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities, or racial backgrounds. 

People of Asian descent, including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get coronavirus than anyone else. 

Other Resources

ACF list of COVID-19 resources: 

From the CDC: Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations 

From OSHA: COVID-19 Control and Prevention

For the state of California: Cal/OSHA Guidance on Coronavirus 

Handwashing infographics: https://foodsafetyfocus.com/FoodSafetyFocus/media/Library/pdfs/Handwashing_infographic.pdf