Beware COVID controls in shared kitchens – transmission hot spots

As part of our work in advising client schools on their COVID control measures and risk assessments, one control measure in particular relating to kitchens has been flagged by a local Public Health team as a common cause of transmission in schools currently (this also applies to all offices with kitchens). Of course this will be of relevance to others too…

The risk is that school and office kitchens present many shared touch-points that are simply not being managed properly and the virus is being passed from person to person while making a simple cuppa!  If you have a shared kitchen, perhaps it is worth checking your own COVID risk assessment and also check for compliance to it.  You should be looking for the following or similarly effective control measures:

  • Crockery & cutlery – Ideally all staff should use their own crockery/cutlery, keep this in their possession and take home to wash. Any items that might be shared by others should be washed in a dishwasher at 60 degrees min. Washing shared items by hand is not sufficient.
  • Cleaning rota – ensure your heightened cleaning rota for regular touch points around the building includes the touchpoints in kitchens – handles of kettles, fridges, cupboard handles etc.
  • Milk bottles – Replace shared milk bottles with individual disposable (recyclable) milk sachets to avoid transmission via the bottle handle.
  • Making drinks – only make drinks/food for yourself, do not make drinks for others to avoid transmission via the mugs
  • Sanitisation – Ensure proper handwashing/sanitising before and after use of any touch points and compliance to rigorous wipedown procedures of common touchpoints before and after use.
  • Distance – Schedule staggered breaks to enable staff to maintain a 2m distance in the kitchen area at all times and agree a maximum number of people in the kitchen at any one time depending on room size and facilities available.
  • Ventilation – As with all other shared rooms, ensure windows are left open so the room is well ventilated, even when it is cold outside (see previous post on ventilation).
  • Lunch boxes – these can be stored safely in fridges but should be named and not touched by any other people.