The restaurant industry has long supplied workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect both their employees’ safety and the public’s health. Providing PPE has taken on new urgency during the COVID-19 outbreak. Restaurant owners now must find additional ways to keep restaurant staff safe with PPE.
Traditional PPE in Restaurants
Hazards to restaurant staff range from sharp tools like knives and slicers to heat from ovens, ranges, hot water for dishwashing, and hot foods and beverages. Cleaning solutions present chemical hazards if improperly used. Slippery floors create the danger of falls. Restaurants have long addressed these kinds of hazards with the following:
- Gloves – specialized gloves exist for different types of tasks. Cut-resistant gloves help prevent bleeding injuries from injured fingers due to improper use of an electric meat cutter—while this is a handy and safe tool, it’s always important to use the utmost caution. For staff who must sort, carry, and store frozen items, freezer gloves provide insulation and enhanced grip. Dishwashing gloves protect against burns from hot water and skin damage from detergents and sanitizers. Oven mitts are the best-known type of hand protection worn in the restaurant kitchen, and in addition to taking hot dishes and pans out of ovens, these mitts protect hands from heated plates and warming dishes. Disposable gloves are another good option for employees who handle raw items or come in contact with surfaces they can’t be sure are sanitized.
- Aprons – these protect from spills and splatters while cooking or handling foods, especially those cooked in oils and sauces. Staff who work with fryers and other equipment that uses a constant supply of very hot liquid need specialized aprons that protect from burns and spills.
- Non-slip shoes and slip-resistant mats – floors in the back of the house suffer spills, and workers wash kitchen floors frequently. Non-slip shoes and mats, coupled with “wet floor” or other cautionary signs and periodic training refreshers remind staff to beware of slippery surfaces.
- Eye protection- some workers, especially cleaners, may require safety goggles to protect eyes from chemicals and debris during cleaning operations.
New PPE for Restaurant Staff
Because some individuals can carry the new coronavirus without having symptoms, public health advisors recommend that everyone wear a non-medical face mask in any situation where would be difficult to maintain social distancing from others. These masks don’t protect against disease, but they do provide some barrier to prevent an asymptomatic person from transmitting the virus unwittingly through exhalation. Restaurants now can consider providing masks to their employees.
The restaurant industry is showing creativity and resilience adapting to stay-at-home orders put in place to protect the public from the rampant transmission of COVID-19. Customers will remember restaurants that show they care about keeping staff safe with PPE.