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Eliminate Health and Injury Hazards in Your Cafeteria

When most people picture school employees, they likely think of teachers, coaches and administrators. However, there are many other employees that are important to a school's safe learning environment. Cafeteria employees and janitorial staff have to work together on a daily basis to create a healthy, hazard-free environment for kids to eat lunch and for themselves to work in. 

No matter how long people have worked in schools, either as cafeteria workers, janitors or supervising administrators, it's a good idea to look at some of the most common dangers and hazards in an average school cafeteria to prevent them from affecting students or employees in the future. 


Use a Multi-prong Attack to Eliminate Germs 

Whether washing a pot in the kitchen or wiping down the tables after lunch, getting rid of germs should be a top priority for cafeteria workers and janitors. One of the biggest dangers in a school cafeteria is spreading illness. Although cooks are very cautious of cooking and baking food for the safest amounts of time at the right temperatures, there are diseases other than salmonella that can be passed through food. In 2005, more than 50 students got sick in North Dakota when a cafeteria worker who had the common cold cut lettuce without gloves on, according to USA Today. 

In addition to following proper cafeteria safety protocols such as wearing gloves or hair nets, cafeteria employees and janitors can work to virtually eliminate germs by cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces and containers. 

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised school cafeterias to create specific cafeteria safety rules about when to clean, sanitize or disinfect and what each means. Cafeteria cleaning is getting rid of germs and impurities with soap and water through wiping or washing. Sanitization uses chemicals to reduce the number of germs and their effectiveness, while disinfecting is the elimination of all germs through chemical cleaner – both lessen the likelihood of infection. It's critical that any chemicals are used as advised and meet EPA and CDC requires for cleaning near food or children. 

Frequent hand washing for children and employees can also go a long way in getting areas germ-free and reducing the spread of disease. 


Get Rid of Slippery Floors 

Cafeteria floors get dirty. Kids can be messy, and they'll spill food, crumbs or milk. As a results, cafeteria floors are generally slick flat surfaces for the sake of being easy to clean. But that type of flooring increases the risk of slip and a fall accidents. Slips and falls in a school can be a real danger for children, janitors, cafeteria workers and anyone else who walks through the school. In order to prevent these potentially costly and painful falls, a prevention plan should be put in place that involves promptly cleaning spills. 

Janitors and cafeteria workers spend the most time on these surfaces and would benefit from slip-resistant footwear. Whether mopping a post-lunch cafeteria floor or preparing Friday's pizza in the kitchen, nonslip work shoes can help employees stay on their feet regardless of the floor's conditions. Nonslip mats can also be invaluable to kitchen workers who spend their time on floors that get slippery with spills or moisture. Kids may also benefit from slip-resistant mats in high-traffic areas like the lunch line. 


Take Advantage of Inspections 

Local news organizations frequently go into school cafeterias to see if schools are as clean as they claim to be. If you're a cafeteria worker who keeps a clean, healthy space, use inspections to your advantage. Rather than having parents in your district worry about the dangers they've heard on the news, your school will be able to point to the passed inspection as proof the cafeteria is safe. Your school can proudly tout your success and promote children's safety at the same time.