Posted on: April 11, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

Tourism supports economic development, but raises exposure of hospitality workers and visitors to health, safety, hygiene and liability risks, like Noro virus.

Gareth Lloyd-Jones of Ecowize hygiene and sanitation provider warns that hygiene levels impact on worker health and safety, while viral infections of outbreaks could lead to liability, large losses, and even closure.

South Africa recorded an exceptional 15.1% increase in tourist arrivals to the country last year, outperforming the global market by more than 8%. As more and more visitors flock to South Africa post the 2010 FIFA World Cup, tourism venues must ensure that they meet international standards of hospitality health and safety in order to avoid costly law suits caused by viral outbreaks.

Noro virus case

At a Hilton Hotel in Glasgow, Scotland, an outbreak of highly contagious Noro virus caused illness to 75 people. Hotel staff and guests infected claimed thousands of pounds in compensation on the basis of required hygiene standards not being maintained at the hotel.

Compliance to hygiene legislation, standards and procedures like health and safety systems and audits, are important to hospitality business, and wherever high volumes of people gather in contained areas.

A viral outbreak in a hotel could infect hundreds of people within days and could lead to long term financial and legal liability if operators are found to be negligent, says Lloyd-Jones.

Tour operators should commission regular facility hygiene audits and maintain strict health and safety risk management processes. “It is vitally important that these processes are adopted by hotel staff from top management down to catering staff and cleaners.”

Viruses can spread rapidly from person to person in crowded, closed places and could cause gastro enteritis in restaurants and catered meal settings where contaminated food, drinks or vessels are used.

“There is no sure way to eradicate the threat of a virus like Noro virus, but outbreaks can be contained and limited,” says Lloyd-Jones.

Hospitality hygiene checklist

Measures that hospitality providers could include in their health and safety risk and liability programme include;

• Encourage guests to disinfect their hands before entering food and drink areas.
• Place hand wash dispensers at entrance and exit points of canteens, restaurants and bars.
• Raise awareness of high risk foods, like raw fruit, vegetables , fish, sushi.
• Avoid high risk foods.
• Cook food as specified.
• Inform workers, contractors and guests of hygiene risks and infection prevention.
• Screen and test workers for symptoms of a viral infection, and bar infected workers from the work site up to three days after recovery.
• Screen and test delivery and contract workers for symptoms.
• Observe guests, offer testing to apparently infected guests, and isolate infected guests off site.
• Remove and wash furnishing and bedding that may be contaminated, using soap, hot water, airing and sunshine.
• Quarantine the infected area, since viral particles can survive for 14 days on some surfaces.
• Commission hygiene audits regularly.
• Schedule industrial cleaning of kitchen facilities, equipment, utensils.
• Maintain aircon and ventilation equipment as specified.
• Inspect and maintain waste handling areas.
• Prevent infection vectors and injurous pests like rats, mice, bees, insects.
• Prevent injuries by replacing plate glass windows, display cases and shelves with safety glass, or paste safety film on glass interiors.
• Prevent injuries by machine guarding, using safe equipment and cutlery.

PHOTO; Noro virus microscopic view.

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