When I ask foodservice employees what food safety topics they have been trained on, they often mention topics like knife safety, how to keep from slipping and tripping and avoiding burns.
While those are essential foodservice training topics, when I’m asking about food safety, I’m really looking for answers closer to topics like temperature control, hand hygiene, avoiding cross contamination and how to properly clean and sanitize. I have a feeling that many foodservice employees get a larger dose of workplace safety training than food safety training because of the more frequent employer out-of-pocket costs associated with injured employees. It’s more rare and more difficult to trace back the potentially much more costly foodborne illness outbreak.
Because of this situation, I hesitated to write anything that includes both occupational safety and food safety, but I will add to the muddy waters anyway.
Recently, I dined with my family at a newly opened foodservice establishment. There was a long line to place our order. I was enjoying the time to observe the restaurant décor and the employees’ behavior. An employee came from the kitchen area to clean tables in the dining area. He had a rag in hand and seemed ready to make quick work of it, so I was pretty sure I was not going to see the three-step process — wash, rinse and sanitize. That didn’t surprise me, but what he did next did.
As he started to wash the first table, he realized his metal safety glove was still on his left hand. The glove was slinky and so cool, looking like an accessory for a medieval suit of armor — a stainless steel mesh glove. It’s the type of safety glove that has the highest cut resistant rating. Also, it’s the type of safety glove most foodservice operations aren’t willing to spring for. The gloves cost around $140 each versus the composite yarn type, which cost closer to $16.
This employee unsnapped the glove and slid it into his back jeans pocket in one quick motion, and continued working. I’d never seen one of these gloves in use in any foodservice operation I’d managed or those I had observed in. It made me wonder why this particular operation was willing to give their employees a $140 item to slip into their back pockets.
Here comes the food safety part: Besides being the best protection against employee cuts and perforations, I bet stainless steel mesh gloves are also washable and able to be sanitized in the dish machine. It is not recommended to put composite yarn safety gloves in the dish machine because of their porous nature. But the stainless steel gloves wouldn’t have that issue. An employee could quickly slide it out of his back pocket, send it through the dish machine (waiting a minute for it to cool and dry), slide it back on his clean vinyl gloved hand and start cutting up ingredients for my order. I’m hoping that is what happened on this busy Friday night.
Interested in more information about glove use in retail foodservice establishments? Find it here, https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=13084