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When was the last time you reviewed your establishment’s sanitation plan? Sanitation plans act as a clear guide and reference for your employees on how exactly they carry out their cleaning and sanitation duties. An updated sanitation plan, however, might be necessary to responsibly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, just as many companies are adjusting their employee illness policies. We have gathered recommendations made by health departments for workplaces on preventing COVID-19 transmission considering the epidemiology of the novel-2019 coronavirus.

Sanitation plans in essence outline the items/areas that are to be cleaned and sanitized, including the specific method(s), frequency and supplies to be used. The schedule set for an establishment but be closely monitored by management to ensure it’s being followed. As we mentioned when covering cleaning and sanitizing methods to prevent coronavirus transmission, the core elements of food safety practices are largely applicable as appropriate responses to COVID-19. Your employees should already been cleaning food and non-food contact surfaces, and other areas of the food establishment. Once your employees master the methods mentioned in our food handler course, they merely have to make a few adjustments.

Along with reviewing the current sanitation plan with all your employees, the BC Centre for Disease Control recommends you increase the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing. Make sure to review – demonstrating if needed – the proper procedures. Multi-service articles in particular, should be washed and sanitized by a mechanical dishwasher or a 3 compartment sink. Don’t forget the dish-washing area should be cleaned as well! Large equipment such as sinks, ovens, griddles, and mixers, should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

It is especially important to increase the cleaning and sanitizing frequency for high-contact surfaces and items in public areas that do not have direct contact with food – such as doorknobs, menus, condiments, or payment terminals/touch pads. Although they may typically be cleaned daily, the novel-2019 coronavirus has been found in studies to remain on surfaces if an infected person coughs or sneezes on the area for up to a couple hours. Thus, the best practice would be to sanitize these high-contact areas multiple times a day, depending on the degree of usage. You may decide to have these areas sanitized after staff shift changes, for instance.

While reviewing the sanitation plan, a key component are the materials used for cleaning and sanitizing. Verify the concentrations of the sanitizers you are using are appropriate according to your province, and follow the recommendations of the manufacturers for the contact time of each sanitizer for it to be effective. Typical sanitizers in food-establishments, such as quaternary ammonia, chlorine or bleach solutions, are appropriate for disabling microorganisms such as the novel-coronavirus. Health Canada has also published a list of approved sanitizers and disinfectants for use against the coronavirus, but keep in mind that you must verify these other solutions are not toxic and are approved for use in a food establishment.

A part of your updated sanitation plan is considering the steps needed if you come to know a person potentially – or is confirmed to be – infected has been at your establishment. Health departments have highly emphasized the need to close off all areas the person has come into contact with immediately. All food surfaces and high-contact surfaces must then be cleaned and sanitized. If materials cannot be sanitized, consider disposing of them if possible. You should also disclose the potential exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace to your employees, but follow appropriate confidentiality in accordance with your employee illness policy.

Food-establishments that already implement the best practices for sanitation plans covered in our course will not have to adjust enormously to appropriately counter the COVID-19 pandemic. By reviewing your current plan and considering how to extend these food safety practices to high-contact areas, you can ensure you and your employees are doing their part in exercising the proper preventive measures against COVID-19.