You may have exercised due diligence in implementing COVID-19 health and safety measures in your workplace. But the slightest oversight in managing lunch breaks could lead to an outbreak in your office.
Lunchrooms are high-risk areas as employees come into close contact with each other. They also share furniture and kitchen equipment, such as microwaves, coffee machines, etc.
It is also a space where employees must remove their face mask to eat and drink. It then becomes crucial that health and safety measures be strictly observed in lunchrooms.
How can I limit the risk of virus transmission during meal breaks?
You must stagger coffee/lunch breaks to limit the number of employees in the lunchroom at any given time. We’d recommend that you:
- Ensure common spaces such as breakrooms, lunchrooms, changing rooms are well-ventilated. They should be large enough to allow your employees to keep at least 2 metres of physical distance.
- The tables, chairs and other furniture in your lunchroom should also be repositioned to allow for physical distancing.
- If the available shared spaces are not enough, designate more areas for eating, changing, and taking breaks.
- Ensure the HVAC systems in your workplace are properly maintained.
- Set up an inflow plan for lunchrooms as well. Designate doors for entry and exit. Provide visual markings on the floor for physical distancing and to prevent staff from crossing each other.
- Develop and communicate clear policies on use of lunchrooms, changing rooms and break rooms.
- Make sure the lunchrooms and kitchen have handwashing stations, hand sanitizers, and cleaning and disinfectant materials.
- Put up posters in the lunch and break areas on capacity and time limits, physical distancing, and removing masks only when eating or drinking. Post signs to remind staff to wash or disinfect their hands before and after eating.
- Make sure such common areas are frequently and rigorously cleaned and disinfected. Also, remember to frequently disinfect high-touch points such as door handles, table surfaces, microwaves, coffee machines. You may want to provide paper towels in the kitchen to avoid skin contact with such high-touch points.
- Allow staff to take off their face masks indoors ONLY for eating and drinking and not while waiting for the microwave.
- If you have a multicultural workplace, make sure you put up the signage in all the languages spoken by your staff.
- Be stringent about the implementation of these measures. Call out workers who don’t follow the rules. You should lead by example and ensure that supervisors do the same.
Do you need help creating health and safety policies for the pandemic?
Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety, or employment advice you may need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.