Hand Washing Techniques for Restaurant Food Handlers

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Hand Washing Techniques for Restaurant Food Handlers

by on July 01, 2018
Hand Washing Techniques for Restaurant Food Handlers

Hand washing is an important practice for everyone, especially after visiting the store, shaking hands with people, touching hair, etc. This is especially true with restaurant employees who must also wash their hands after handling dirty dishes, raw meats, using the restroom and changing gloves. According to the CDC, proper hand washing is the #1 way to prevent the spread of bacteria and disease. This is important given that approximately 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch.

Recent research by the USDA demonstrated that if people received training on a specific food-handling technique, they were most likely to use it. During this study, however, training on hand washing wasn’t provided to participants, and results showed that the majority of people didn’t know how or when to wash their hands. Think about this: something as basic as hand washing wasn’t done properly—both knowing when to wash and the proper way to wash. The truth is that people just don’t realize how easy it is for their hands to be contaminated.

Hand washing in a restaurant is extremely important. When servers bus dirty dishes, they can come into contact with customers’ diseases such as Hepatitis A and Nororvirus. Cooks are exposed to E. coli and Salmonella when they handle raw meats. And all restaurant employees are exposed to any virus or bacteria a sick employee brings to the workplace. When done properly, hand washing lessens the potential for any bacteria or diseases to move to other people.

Hand Washing How-To: When Restaurant Employees Should Wash Their Hands

The following are specific times when restaurant employees should wash their hands:

  • After handling or taking out trash
  • After clearing tables or busing dirty dishes
  • After touching soiled aprons or clothing
  • After sneezing, coughing or using a tissue
  • After smoking, eating or drinking
  • After using chemicals
  • Two times after using the restroom
  • Before and after handling raw meats
  • After touching hair, face or body

Despite all these potential instances for illness to spread, germs can be stopped by proper, repeated and extensive hand washing. The act of hand washing alone is adequate. All of the necessary steps should be followed every time, or it won’t work.

Hand Washing Steps

According to the CDC, these steps should be followed when washing hands:

  1. Wet hands with clean, running, hot water and apply soap.
  2. Lather hands by rubbing them together with soap. Be sure to lather all areas such as the backs of hands, between fingers and under nails.
  3. Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry hands using a clean towel or air dryer (damp hands are 1,000X more likely to spread bacteria than dry hands).

Recent studies have shown that hand washing training programs do work. A study in Detroit found that kids who washed their hands had 51% fewer sick days. In China, when soap was passed out at primary schools, there was a 54% reduction in sick days. Even though there are many resources available highlighting the importance of hand washing, clearly more awareness needs to be created.

Before starting work in a restaurant, employees should attend food handler training, which includes learning about hand washing. But it’s good practice for restaurants to have hand washing as a regular topic of discussion and coaching every day. Pointing out when to wash hands, incorporating hand wash signs, having enough hand wash facilities, and properly stocking them with supplies are all necessary to ensure your employees are washing their hands regularly.

You never know when an employee will come to work sick or when a customer with Norovirus or Hepatitis A will come to eat at the restaurant or when an employee will come into direct contact with E. coli or Salmonella. These events happen every day. Restaurants that have an effective hand hygiene program will continue operating without an outbreak resulting from one of these diseases spreading to employees and customers.


Hand washing is one of the most important practices for restaurant food safety. Develop, implement and train your staff on a comprehensive hand washing program. It’s crucial to protect your customers, employees and brand reputation. It’s also one of the key things the health department looks for during a restaurant health inspection. Check out what else you should do to learn how to pass a restaurant health inspection. And remember, making hand washing a regular part of coaching for your employees will keep it top of mind while at work.

Food Safety Nation
Food Safety Nation is a news media site that publishes essential news, best practices, information and resources focused on restaurant food safety, sustainability, technology, sanitation, training and more. It’s made up of restaurant professionals and contributors who are dedicated to providing the Food Safety Nation community with fresh and relevant content in order to improve professional knowledge and restaurant businesses.

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