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Spotlight on Employee Health | Ecolab Food Safety
Covid and employee health in foodservice operations

Spotlight on Employee Health

By Cindy Rice, RS

The spotlight has turned on to personal hygiene all over the country like never before. Maintaining health and good habits has always been important in the foodservice industry, but the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the criticality of preventing pathogen transmission in a most personal way. It now and forever affects our daily operations in the foodservice industry, not just for survival of people, but our businesses, as well.

In the wake of COVID-19 and bringing back thousands of furloughed food workers across the country, many companies are strengthening their illness policies, placing a greater emphasis on employee health measures and social distancing. Many are conducting “wellness checks” before allowing staff in the workplace, incorporating new illness protocols that address the specific risks of COVID-19, while including traditional pathogens too. Some companies are assigning these screening activities to a manager using a manual checklist at the beginning of a shift, while others are adopting a digital system to monitor employee symptoms. Here are some good wellness practices to address in food establishments.

COVID-19 specific, based on CDC guidance:

Do not allow food workers on premises if they...

  • Have symptoms of cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Have traveled to high risk areas for COVID-19
  • Have been exposed to someone that has COVID-19
  • Have at least two of these symptoms: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell

Traditional illness prevention practices for food establishments, based on FDA 2017 Food Code:

  • Exclude workers with symptoms of Vomiting, Diarrhea or Jaundice
  • Exclude workers with diagnosis of Salmonella, Shigella, E.coli 0157:H7, Norovirus, Hepatitis A (and report to regulatory authority)
  • Have traveled to high risk areas for COVID-19
  • Restrict workers with fever, to non-food-related tasks
Covid-19 specific CDC guidance

If someone meets any of the above criteria, suggest medical attention for the individual, and do not allow back to work until cleared by the medical or regulatory authority, following local and state requirements.

Train emloyees on illness policy in food establishments

Being proactive is the key to having a safe food operation:

  • Temperature checks for staff using a Non-Contact Forehead Thermometer, an infrared thermometer intended for intermittent measuring of human body temperature in people of all ages. Some companies are also considering temperature checks for customers to screen for potential illness
  • Have a clearly written Illness policy for your food establishment
  • Review yours today and strengthen where needed
  • Have a written Food Employee Reporting Agreement for every employee, to encourage reporting of symptoms to management
  • Train employees on your illness policy, and make sure they understand the importance of maintaining personal hygiene protocols at work, not working while sick or with symptoms, washing hands and changing gloves often

While many are looking for a silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be the illumination of the importance of good personal hygiene and a strong illness policy in the workplace. Renew your illness prevention efforts today, and reap the benefits for your business as well as public health.

Spotlight on Employee Health in Foodservice Operations

Employee health and safety has always been important in the foodservice industry, but now it’s critical to have a solid employee illness policy in place and strong personal hygiene training.