staff safety

How food businesses can ensure staff safety as they reopen

With the end of lockdown getting closer, a new survey has revealed that only 39% of hospitality employees working during the pandemic think their employers take social distancing rules seriously. Additionally, despite the efficient distribution of PPE, 61% believe their employer could be doing more to tackle COVID-19. 

The survey raises the question of staff safety on the reopening of venues. How can employers ensure that their staff feel safe and are safe when on-site? The first step should be to read and absorb guidelines set out by the government in: Keeping workers and customers safe during COVID-19 in restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services (they are lengthy but split into digestible chapters).

In summary, and at the minimum, businesses are told to:

  • Stagger arrival and departure times at work to reduce crowding into and out of the venue, taking account of the impact on those with protected characteristics.
  • Provide additional parking or facilities such as bike racks to help people walk, run, or cycle to work where possible.
  • Reduce congestion, for example, by having more entry points to the venue. If you have more than one door, consider having one for entering the building and one for exiting.
  • Use markings to guide staff coming into or leaving the building.
  • Provide handwashing facilities (or hand sanitiser where not possible) at entry and exit points and not using touch-based security devices such as keypads where possible.
  • Provide storage for staff clothes and bags.
  • Request staff change into work uniforms on site using appropriate facilities/changing areas, where social distancing and hygiene guidelines can be met.
  • Wash uniforms on site, where appropriate, or requesting workers to regularly wash uniforms at home.

Where 2m is not viable they are asked to keep the activities involved as short as possible and to reduce the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others).

Naturally, the more time a staff member spends interacting with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. Dissecting it in this way, you might suggest brands with the lowest risk would be those where food service is limited to drive-through, delivery, take-out, and curb-side pick-up.

More risk is generated by adding on-site dining but this can be mitigated by seating as many customers outside as possible and spacing tables at least 6 feet apart.

The government guidelines put forward a number of business objectives for maintain safety and technology can be used to help businesses achieve these:

Objective: To maintain social distancing and reduce contact where possible in kitchens and other food preparation areas.

Response: Kitchen automation software allows orders to be identified by staff at a glance; the information it provides can be delivered to different areas of the kitchen automatically. Its pacing features reduce guess work, limiting unnecessary movement around a kitchen; the software improves team communication and helps with load balancing, preventing any area from becoming overloaded.

Objective: To maintain social distancing wherever possible, while people travel through the venue.

Response: The goal is to limit the number of people moving around the dining space and to set out clear paths for movement when they do. A one-way walking system can help the flow of traffic, while digital table orders and payment prevent customers from leaving their table for anything other than entering and leaving the building or toilet breaks. With digital ordering to table, staff don’t have to enter the dining space unless needed flagged by customers to deal with direct questions – or to deliver to and retrieve plates from tables.

Objective: To maintain social distancing between individuals when they are at their working areas.

Response: Two-way radios, staff pagers and communication systems can be used by staff to maintain staff safety by improving on-site communication while keeping social distancing intact. They can be used by managers to send instant messages, helping team members respond to customer requests and issues swiftly or even sending instructions between the front and back of house.

If you’re planning staff safety solutions in preparation for reopening, contact Theravada for a consultation today.