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Damage control step by step

Cleaning up spills—bodily fluids or otherwise—should be safe, effective and streamlined. Sponsored by DayMark.

Accidents happen usually at the most inconvenient times in the most inconvenient locations. A kindergartener gets sick in the middle of the cafeteria or an employee drops a 16 oz. cup of cola right by the grill station. How foodservice professionals respond to these mishaps is critical—especially when it comes to bodily fluid spills in a foodservice setting.

Having a response program in place that guides employees through a standardized set of steps can help contain both the mess and any infectious germs, says Dr. Hal King, President and CEO of Public Health Innovations (PHI). Dr. King has worked in the investigation of foodborne and other diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), performed funded research on causation of diseases as a professor at Emory School of Medicine, worked in the prevention of intentional adulteration of foods with the United States Army, and worked in the design and implementation of preventative controls for food safety hazards in the food industry as the director of food and product safety for Chick-fil-A Inc.

In partnership with Dr. King and PHI, DayMark Safety Systems has introduced a new spill control program that makes cleaning up spills of any type simple, streamlined and safe for employees and customers.

Q: What are the biggest risks associated with spills in a foodservice setting?

King: There are two. First, you have to worry about customers and employees slipping and falling on the spill. Second, if it’s a bodily fluid spill, you need to contain it immediately so that you don’t risk spreading any infectious germs or causing anyone else to get reactively sick.

Q: Should each type of spill be treated differently?

King: No, with one exception. I suggest employees use the same procedures for any type of spill, but always be ready to disinfect the spill and kill germs in a bodily fluid event.    Any bodily fluid spill (such as vomiting) might have norovirus or other infectious germs in it, but how can you tell in that very moment? You can’t. By following the same procedure each time to contain spills, it becomes second nature to your staff to also be ready to contain bodily fluids.  

Q: How did PHI and DayMark develop the SafetyAppliedTM Spill Control Program?

King: When I was at Chick-fil-A Inc., the spill kits available to us to prevent slips and falls or clean up bodily fluid spills were not very effective. The majority of the pads available on the market for regular spill control were also small, not highly absorbent and, therefore, expensive to use. And they didn’t properly contain bodily fluid spills. Most restaurants have to buy one-time use kits or build their own kits, piecemeal, which leads to inappropriate use. For example, those absorbent beads or small rock-like particles you remember from your school days don’t work well; the beads often roll away and become a trip hazard and spread germs when being poured on a bodily fluid spill.  When I led a research laboratory at Emory University School of Medicine, I used a spill pad and disinfectant system to contain germs that might be spilled in our laboratories; that experience is where I got the idea for this new spill kit for retail food service and sales establishments.

Later, when DayMark asked me if there was a problem I faced or a solution they could help me with, I knew they’d be the right partner to develop this program because they make safety products that work. They’re forward thinking and innovative. And we’ve created a kit that is truly effective and unique.

Q: What is the recommended procedure for the spill control program?

King: There are 11 critical steps:

  1. Take immediate action to contain bodily fluids and prevent spread of contamination by covering spill with absorbent pad.
  2. Spray or pour disinfectant over the pad and surrounding area; allow chemical to sit for the appropriate time defined on the disinfectant product label to complete disinfecting process.
  3. Place one set of yellow trash bags (double-bagged) next to area that needs to be cleaned.
  4. Put on disposable apron and three pairs of gloves;  then wipe up as much fluid as possible using disinfectant-soaked spill pads.
  5. Place soiled pads into the trash bag.
  6. Remove one outer pair of gloves carefully and place them in trash bag.
  7. Spray disinfectant over area and wipe with a clean disposable towel
  8. Place disposable towel and second pair of gloves in trash bag. Close bag with a tie.
  9. Spray disinfectant over area again; allow chemical to sit for the appropriate time defined on the disinfectant product label to complete disinfecting process.
  10. Place all materials in third yellow bag; tie trash bag, and discard in dumpster.
  11. Wash and sanitize hands after discarding trash bag, before touching any food

contact surfaces or guest contact surfaces.

Q: Why are the pads better than paper towels or a mop?

King: They’re designed to be more absorbent and better contain the mess than a paper towel. Mops and buckets take a long time to get ready and they can be ineffective at suppressing a spill. They can, in some cases, actually make it worse by spreading around germs from a bodily fluid spill.   

The really cool thing about the pads is that you can pour the disinfectant right on them so that they kill the germs while suppressing and containing the mess.

When you use them on all types of spills, employees already know to how to use them on bodily fluid spills and even customers begin to know to stay away from contaminated areas when they see the yellow pads. The preparedness becomes second nature when the employee uses the pads for any spill.

Q: What type of disinfectants help prevent the spread of stubborn viruses, like norovirus?

King: Most foodservice operations use food-grade sanitizers and cleaning products. Those solutions will not prevent the spread of norovirus. You must use disinfectants that are EPA approved and certified effective against norovirus. (Interestingly, those same disinfectants are effective against Ebola, too.). Of course, if a disinfectant has to be used on a food contact surface, the surface must then be cleaned and sanitized before food prep.

Q: What types of training programs are critical to the success of a spill control program?

King: My philosophy has always been that you learn more by teaching and by doing.  New surgeons are likely skilled at performing surgery right out of medical school, but they get better by doing surgery. They learn by studying and repetition. The same applies to a foodservice environment. As a staff member cleans up a spill, that’s the time to train and make it an education piece on how to also contain bodily fluids that can contaminate food. If they’re using the spill pads all the time, you can reinforce your health policy every time there is a spill. That said, formal training should be done first and then regularly,  based on changes in menu prep and procedures. 

Q: Where does hand washing fit into the equation?

King: It’s critical. It’s the most important thing staff members can do. We required staff to wash their hands in the bathroom and again when they entered the kitchen. Requiring a double wash is the best way to prevent the spread of germs from employees.  Hand washing plus proper glove use before handling food is one of the most effective means to prevent foodborne disease outbreaks, most importantly after cleaning and disinfecting a bodily fluid spill.

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