2020 has to be one of the hardest years hospitality businesses have had to face. Though many experienced a surge in footfall after re-opening their doors to consumers, they have also had to open at limited capacity and have had to respond, almost weekly, to changing regional and national restrictions.
It has been a time of immense challenge and managers have had to show real versatility and leadership. In particular, the issue of infection prevention and control has moved from the edges of business strategy and planning to the centre. Working effectively and safely in light of COVID-19 has become everyone’s number one concern and a huge responsibility for employers in the industry. It’s likely that concerns around hygiene and infection control will become even more pertinent, with the media landscape and social conversations dominated by the second wave and consumers’ caution around socialising outside their homes rising.
The infection prevention and control landscape can be a confusing one - especially as both recommendations and laws are changing on such a regular basis, both nationally and locally. As a result, HIT Training created the e-guide, ‘Keeping your customers safe throughout COVID-19: Infection control and safe working’. This pulls together best practice on safe working and controlling the spread of infection based on the successes of other countries and sectors who are successfully tackling the Coronavirus.
From speaking with industry professionals, it is clear that many processes that initially felt strange, have now become normal. For example, back in the spring, it would have been rare to serve a customer with a face mask on, now it is the law. Similarly, customers do not even notice that their server is behind a screen or if they are asked to sign-in on arrival. This is simply our new way of life.
In all aspects of the hospitality industry, we need to continue excelling at the basics. For example, it’s important to keep reeducating staff members on the correct method of handwashing and encouraging a regular routine – this could be after every customer interaction, after handling chemicals or food, or at timed intervals. The messaging around handwashing has been around for some time now and there could be a risk of this slipping off the radar, so regular communication to staff and customers is key.
Similarly, staff need to remember to clean and disinfect hard surfaces after each use/contact as COVID-19 can live for up to 72 hours on these surfaces. The area should first be cleaned using soap and water, followed by a disinfectant. These measures may sound tedious, but they’re some of the most important. Regular training for team members on the best cleaning techniques is essential in reassuring customers and helping to ensure your premise is safe.
One way to fight against infection control fatigue is to encourage staff to approach the business’ infection control policy as if everyone within the premise has COVID-19. Around 80 per cent of people who have the virus display minor or no symptoms. This will help everyone to maintain high and cautious standards of infection control.
Dress to impress
After all the issues with getting hold of personal protective equipment (PPE), it is essential that your staff have access to the correct PPE for their role and that it is changed after each individual use to provide an effective barrier against the virus. Consider using fresh gloves, face masks and/or aprons in between each customer and disposing of PPE by double-bagging and keeping it separate from all other waste. This helps to contain potentially infected items.
Ideally, all staff should be ‘bare below the elbow’. This is an infection prevention strategy used in the healthcare industry to reduce the transmission of infection due to contact with an employee’s contaminated clothing. It also allows for regular hand, wrist and forehand washing and avoiding contamination with sleeves or cuffs.
You may consider introducing different coloured PPE aprons for different tasks within the business to limit the spread of bacteria and contamination. For example, blue for preparing food, white for serving customers, yellow for collection services.
Show you care
In the past, cleaning and disinfecting your premise used to be something that was hidden from the customers’ view, something done between customers, at quiet times or after closing. Now, people want to see it going on and will feel safer walking into a building if they see comprehensive cleaning taking place. You may want to have clear signage showing your cleaning routine and a timetable so customers can see that you are keeping on top of infection control at all times.
One danger could be pandemic-fatigue. It is hard to keep a workforce on a high state of alert permanently, but with COVID-19, there is no room for complacency. A key way to combat this is to provide your teams, no matter how experienced, with bespoke and regular training on infection control. While you can do this in-house, it can often be helpful to use the expertise of an external training provider. Sometimes teams listen more attentively to someone they do not know and have no history with. An outsider can provide a fresh voice and perspective, as well as training expertise.
It is important that teams understand the different types of pathogens, the modes of transmission and how everyone can help limit, control and prevent the spread of infection in the workplace. All of these aspects should be covered within your infection control training.
As the pandemic continues to dominate everyday life and, with that, change the way in which the hospitality industry operates, in the sector we must do all that we can to keep our workforce and customers safe - and keep them coming back to our establishments.
For more information on HIT Training’s Infection Control training courses, including The Principles of Infection Control and Safe Working, and Level 2 Award in Prevention and Control of Infection, please visit: https://hittraining.co.uk/courses