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Health and Safety – Friend or foe

Written by  Staff
| in Toerisme
| June 2, 2015

When opening a guesthouse with a dream of welcoming guests from far and wide to your thoughtfully outfitted establishment, cockroaches, or a guest breaking a leg in the shower are most often not part of the idyllic picture.

Issues such as hygiene and safety often seem so obvious that it is hard to imagine that unfavourable incidents – or accidents – could force you to close your doors. Susina Jooste, director of the Private Hotel School in Stellenbosch shares her expertise with Plaastoe! readers concerning the high cost related to health and safety incidents at your establishment and the importance of basic staff training.

A happy customer tells a friend; an unhappy customer tells the world.

New health trends are putting restaurant and guesthouse owners as well as food operators in the hot seat. No more secrets. Any incident of foodborne illness or unhygienic practice has the potential to shut you down.

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Ten years ago, a happy customer told 8 others and an unhappy one told 22. Today, be they happy or unhappy, the average customer is connected to 230 people through Facebook alone. And if a customer whips out a cell phone to tweet about an experience at your establishment, statistics tells us s/he is reaching approximately 126 people right there in the middle of your breakfast room. In this shrinking world, the power of your guests has unparalleled potential for either instant positive marketing or your worst nightmare: a negative report by an unsatisfied customer goes viral after an experience of food poisoning in your establishment.

The price that you will have to pay for not taking care of hygiene and cleanliness in your establishment is very expensive. To minimise risks in this regard, Susina shares a few basic pro-active actions:

“Yet hand washing, when done properly, is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick or transferring germs to food or customers.”

The first priority is to focus on a good hand-washing regime in your business. Hand washing is a simple habit, something most people do without thinking. Yet hand washing, when done properly, is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick or transferring germs to food or customers. This simple habit requires only soap, warm water and a disposable towel to dry your hands afterwards.

Despite the proven health benefits of hand washing, many people don’t practice this habit as often as they should — even after using the toilet. Throughout the day you accumulate germs on your hands from a variety of sources, such as direct contact with people, contaminated surfaces, foods and even animals. If you don’t wash your hands frequently enough, you can infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose or mouth. And you can spread these germs to others by touching them or by touching surfaces that they also touch, such as doorknobs.

“Mops and cloths can contribute to spreading germs onto other surfaces.”

Infectious diseases that are commonly spread through hand-to-hand contact include the common cold, flu and several gastrointestinal disorders, such as infectious diarrhoea. While most people will get over a cold, the flu can be much more serious. Inadequate hand hygiene also contributes to food-related illnesses, such as salmonella and E. coli infection. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 76 million Americans get a food-borne illness each year. Of these, about 5,000 die as a result of their illness, while others experience the discomfort of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

“The next action to take is to have regular and comprehensive health and safety audits at your establishment – this is also a legal requirement from governmental food control authorities. “

The next action to take is to have regular and comprehensive health and safety audits at your establishment – this is also a legal requirement from governmental food control authorities. Display your certificate of compliance at the entrance of your establishment as a first commitment to your customer. Each municipal area is allowed to create specific by-laws for governing health and hygiene in its area. These are usually developed to address a particular issue (such as waste removal management), and will further assist you in the management of safety risks in your establishment. It is your responsibility to contact the local health authorities to ascertain which special provisions and by-laws are specific to the area.

Eliminate any presence of pests such as cockroaches, flies, rats and other scavengers, as these are sure signs of an unhealthy environment. Eliminate them immediately and effectively by making use of professional pest control providers.

All materials and equipment used for cleaning purposes of the guesthouse should be kept clean at all times. Especially mops and cloths can contribute to spreading germs onto other surfaces, assisting in the process of cross-contamination. All chemicals and cleaning agents should be stored in a separate store away from food areas. Never use the same cloths and mops for bathrooms and kitchens. Never clean mops and cleaning equipment in the same sinks that are used for food.

The ‘Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points’ system (HACCP) was first developed in the 1960’s by NASA to ensure food safety for astronauts in space, since the risk of food related issues could not be allowed. This system was first applied in South Africa by South African Airlines to ensure safety of food served on aeroplanes, but is now widely applied by most food production and food service establishments. HACCP is a programme of monitoring and adjusting procedures to continuously protect the end-user, and it combines principles of food microbiology, quality control and risk assessment to achieve as close to a fail-safe system, as possible. Approach a consultant to analyse your business and to develop a dedicated HACCP plan to suit your unique needs.

Finally, a combination of adhering to the regulations as set out by authorities, practicing good and effective health and safety measurements, maintaining environmental and personal hygiene will all contribute to customer satisfaction and minimise risks. However, the ultimate long-term key to success in the food service industry is education and training. The motivation and involvement of employees in the implementation and control of health and safety issues is vital to the success of your business.