Washing your hands correctly and when you’re supposed to is one of the best actions you can take to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses.
However, it also matters where you wash your hands since doing so in the wrong sinks can spread foodborne illnesses and make people sick.
This article explains where you’re allowed to wash your hands as a food handler.
Where you can and can’t wash your hands
You can only wash your hands in a designated handwashing sink.
A designated handwashing sink supplies all the necessary things you need to properly wash your hands, including soap and a drying disposable towel or device.
Your kitchen should have designated handwashing sinks conveniently located in food preparation and serving areas as well as the dishwashing area.
The bathroom sink is also classified as a designated handwashing sink.
A handwashing sink is designed for handwashing only — never use them to store items, wash or thaw food, or any other use.
Using them for other purposes can contaminate them and increase the spread of pathogens — or disease-causing organisms — that lead to foodborne illnesses.
Also, maintain a clear path to and from the handwashing sink to allow easy access.
Never use a sink used for food preparation, washing dishes, or disposing of mop water or other waste to wash your hands.
These sinks may don’t have the necessary things to properly wash your hands and they can contaminate your hands.
The only place you can wash your hands is in a designated handwashing sink, which will be equipped with soap and a disposable towel or device for hand drying. Never wash your hands in a sink used to prepare food, wash dishes, or dispose of mop water or other waste.
When to wash your hands
To keep yourself, your coworkers, and those whom you serve safe, you must wash your hands every time they become contaminated.
- when entering a food preparation area
- before putting on food-safe gloves and between glove changes
- before preparing a special order for someone with a food allergy
- before beginning food preparation
- before handling clean equipment and utensils
- when switching from handling raw or time-temperature control for safety foods (TCS) to working with ready-to-eat foods
- after handling soiled dishes or utensils
- after touching your face or other parts of your body
- after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, or eating or drinking
- after handling service animals or aquatic animals such as shellfish in display tanks
- after using the restroom
Failing to wash your hands when they become contaminated can transfer bacteria and other contaminants from your hands to food and food-contact surfaces like clean dishware.
Wash your hands every time they become contaminated, such as after handling dirty dishes, touching your face or other body parts, or using the restroom.
How to wash your hands
Washing your hands seems like a simple task — and it can be.
Unfortunately, most food handlers don’t do so the right way.
Improperly washing your hands allows bacteria, dirt, and other contaminates to remain, which even in trace amounts, can still make people sick.
As such, how you wash your hands is just as important as where and when you wash your hands.
Here are the proper handwashing steps:
- Wet your hands with clean, running warm water.
- Apply soap and rub all surfaces of your hands and fingers together vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
- Don’t forget to scrub under your fingernails and between your fingers, thumbs, and palms.
- Rinse your hands well.
- Dry your hands with a single-use paper towel.
- Use a single-use paper towel to turn off the faucet.
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From start to finish, the entire handwashing process should take at least 20 seconds.
The last step is crucial to prevent recontaminating your hands.
However, many handwashing sinks are foot-operated, eliminating the need to turn off the faucet by hand.
If you’re washing your hands in a sink located behind a closed door like a restroom, use your elbow to push the door open or a single-use paper towel to pull the door open.
Washing your hands properly is just as important as when and where you wash them to effectively remove bacteria to contaminate food and food-contact surfaces.
The bottom line
The only place you can wash your hands is in a designated handwashing sink, which should be equipped with soap and single-use towels or a hand-drying device.
Never wash your hands in a sink you use to prepare food, wash dishes, or dispose of mop water or other waste.
Wash your hands every time they become contaminated and wash them thoroughly to effectively remove bacteria and other contaminants that can get into food.
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