Social Distancing Isn’t Always Possible for Food Service Workers. IoT Devices Can Help with Safety

Social Distancing Isn’t Always Possible for Food Service Workers. IoT Devices Can Help with Safety

The U.S. food service industry and its workers have been hit hard by the Covid-19 outbreak and the shutdown of dining rooms that followed. Now, as some areas slowly reopen for business, restaurant owners and other food service managers face a new challenge: protecting employee health in settings where staying 6 feet apart is often physically impossible.

To bring employees back to work safely, these businesses need more tools to ensure that employees follow best practices for hand hygiene, sanitation and as much distancing as possible. A system of IoT restaurant sensors and devices that installs quickly at low cost can help restaurants and other food service businesses operate as safely as possible under new health and safety rules.

New food service safety requirements

In its Covid-19 food service guidelines, the Food and Drug Administration acknowledges that workers may not be able to distance themselves in food service settings (such as busy commercial kitchens). Still, the FDA recommends that employees give each other as much space as they can.

In Texas, where Swift Sensors is based, a new restaurant safety checklist from the governor’s office guides food businesses that want to operate at limited capacity as part of the state’s phased reopening. Like the FDA guidelines, the Texas checklist focuses on hand hygiene, face coverings and cleaning.

These steps are especially important in crowded work areas. But they can be a challenge to implement, maintain and enforce. For example, think about how you’d allocate your staff’s time and attention to follow Texas’ checklist, which includes:

  • a hand sanitizer station at the restaurant entrance.
  • consistent employee access to hand sanitizer, wipes, soap and paper towels.
  • handwashing breaks for workers on arrival and between customer interactions.
  • wearing cloth face masks that cover the nose and mouth.
  • frequently cleaning door handles, restrooms and other high-touch areas.
  • cleaning and disinfecting tables and chairs after each group of customers leaves.

In Texas, there’s also a recommendation to assign one worker to enforcing these safety guidelines when there are 10 or more workers on-site. However, smaller restaurants have to operate within these guidelines, too. And on busy days or when workers are out sick, even restaurants with lots of staff on-site may need help maintaining safety best practices.

That’s where IoT tools like wireless temperature sensors, cameras, door sensors and motion detectors can help.

Real-time temperature monitoring supports food, employee and guest safety

Before the pandemic, wireless temperature sensors were already helping many restaurants monitor and document walk-in cooler temperatures around the clock, without the need for employees to manually record readings.

Real-time, IoT-based temperature monitoring saves time on food-safety compliance documentation. It also improves compliance by flagging problems so managers can act quickly.

For example, if cooler temperatures rise overnight, maybe someone’s forgetting to close the cooler before they leave. And if temperatures suddenly rise during the day, an alert can let managers know the equipment needs service right away.

Now, this remote temperature monitoring can also limit the need for workers to enter the cooler, which could bring them into close contact with co-workers. Automatic data collection also gives workers more time for safety practices like extended handwashing and sanitizing tables, chairs and high-touch surfaces.

Real-time video monitoring supports cleaning and hygiene practices, protects safety supplies

An in-house IoT system can also include inexpensive cameras that fulfill multiple health and safety roles.

For example, real-time monitoring can help managers ensure that employees are following safety guidelines such as wearing face masks, washing their hands and disinfecting surfaces even when the manager isn’t present.

Because handwashing and cleaning requirements have increased, restaurants need a reliable supply of soap, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and cleaning solutions on-site. Video monitoring can help prevent shrinkage of these essential but hard-to-find safety supplies as well as paper goods like hand towels and toilet tissue.

Motion and door sensors can prevent safety supply shrinkage and manage access

Another way to ensure that your employees have the hygiene and cleaning supplies they need is to install inexpensive remote door sensors and motion detectors in your supply storage areas.

Combining real-time alerts from these sensors with video footage from cameras on the system gives managers the ability to see what’s going on with their essential supplies at all times. It also shows you who’s on-site and which areas they visit.

More resources for safer operations

To reopen as safely as possible, restaurants and other food service businesses need the compliance data, automation and real-time visibility into operations that remote restaurant sensors can provide.

An entire system can be up and running in your business in 30 minutes or less, and it doesn’t need ongoing software maintenance. Contact us to learn more about protecting your business with a wireless sensor system tailored for food-service requirements.

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