Hospitality is Coming Back - Make Sure We Come Back Safely

Gloved restaurant worker handing food to patrons

Stopping the spread of harmful pathogens has long been a workplace safety issue. The OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen (BBP) standard and the Hazard Communication standard are certainly examples of prevention strategies that have been around for a long time. But as business starts to return to operation, we all have to face the realities of coronavirus and the resultant illness, COVID-19. Although these standards can be applied to the prevention of spreading this new virus through contacting it on surfaces as well as airborne transmission, control measures must be taken to a new level.

Consider where the potential for contamination arises in the hospitality industries. Restaurants and hotels with all the associated public spaces provide almost unlimited opportunity for exposure to any number of pathogens. Broken glass and needle sticks are still a common exposure to BBP. But now we have to consider simply talking to another person may lead to virus transmission. Add to that the surfaces that are high touch areas that may harbor the coronavirus for up to several hours- silverware, glassware, sheets, bathrooms, television remotes, door handles, and telephones. These are the hotspots for the hospitality industry.

MEMIC has created resources to help our policyholders deal with the virus and associated safety issues. These include a guide to the prevention of cross-contamination. Remember, no matter what PPE is used, always start and end with good ‘ol soap and warm water. Personal hygiene is a fundamental in stopping the spread of this, and all, viruses. Wearing gloves will not be helpful if those gloves come in contact with the virus and are not disposed of properly. Additional tips: 

  • Sharps containers should be readily available along with a handling and disposal plan.
  • Hands should not be placed into areas that cannot be viewed with the eyes. Use puncture resistant gloves for times this is not possible and for handling any broken glass.
  • Treat all bodily fluids as infectious material. 

To assist hospitality organizations, MEMIC has also created a series of assessment checklists designed for the primary departments facing this exposure- Food and Beverage, Housekeeping, and Front Desk. Additionally, a cleaning/disinfecting schedule and job exposure checklist are included. These resources were created using CDC recommendations, however, refer to your state and local requirements for additional guidance. These documents are editable for individual businesses and are available on MEMIC’s COVID-19 Safety Resources page.

 Maintaining physical distancing is still the primary control method to prevent airborne transmission of this virus. In addition, most employees will be required to wear face coverings and gloves, but it is critical to have protocols in place to ensure these controls are effective. Employees must understand how to properly don/doff gloves and other PPE, and when and how to change or decontaminate these items during their shifts. Accomplishing these tasks properly is not simple- employees must be trained and well-practiced in order to be an effective control. It is also important for leadership to hold both employees and patrons accountable for these policies in order to keep everyone safe.

As businesses begin to open up an updated Recovery Safety Plan should be implemented. It would include the training needed for all employees, building entry procedures, and protective measures for traveling employees. MEMIC has additional resources on the Safety Director and in the Video Lending Library specifically for hospitality industries.

No one is sure what the “new normal” will look like. But the hope is we will all get back to our favorite hospitality sites soon. In the meantime, work on putting these control measures in place with your staff. The fast-paced days and bustling crowds might be a little different this year, but no matter what the state of business turns out to be everyone has to be ready to conduct business safely.