Sanitation and Safety

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              A Guide to Handwashing Sinks

              Hand sinks should be readily accessible and very visible. Local health codes govern the specific number of hand sinks necessary in the back-of-house.

              Handwashing sinks are a staple in the back-of-house to ensure restaurant staff complies with HACCP guidelines to help prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses. Operators should not use sinks designated for food preparation for handwashing or warewashing.

              Health codes for handwashing sinks in commercial foodservice operations have evolved over time. Generally, commercial kitchens should allow for 1 hand sink for every 5 employees, 1 hand sink for every 300 square feet of facility space, and 1 hand sink for each prep and cooking area. 

              Years ago there were limited types available, today, manufacturers offer many hand sinks to choose from that meet the necessary requirements. Various parts of a sink include a backsplash, a front roll rim, legs and fittings. Bowls may be fabricated or deep-drawn. Size and shape can impact installation as sinks without a straight-line design may not fit through an operation’s door in one piece. These types must be brought into a kitchen in pieces and welded into a single unit.

              Generally, the standard size bowl measures 10 inches by 14 inches by 5 inches. Space-saving bowls measure 9 inches by 9 inches by 5 inches for operations with smaller footprints.

              Sinks most often feature stainless-steel construction for durability and easy cleaning. The steel can be type 430, which has 16% chrome content, or the thicker and more durable type 304, which has 8% nickel content. While some have a shallow flat-bottom bowl, others have an oval-shaped bowl. 

              Most hand sinks are the deck-mounted faucet type. These comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and can also be connected to existing plumbing or a special faucet.

              Traditional hand sinks mount on the wall and include a faucet and basket drain. Hand sink accessories include stainless-steel skirts, lever drains, left and right end splashes, trash receptacles, soap and towel dispensers, wrist handles for the faucet, and emergency eye wash units, which mount directly to the faucet.

              The pedestal type of hand sink is typically hands-free for added cross-contamination protection. During use, the operator pushes down on a foot pedal valve located at the bottom of the pedestal. Most hand sinks with foot pedals have one designated for hot water and one for cold water. Foot and knee pedals are available with thermostatic mixing valves. This allows users to preset the desired water temperature and access it with the push of a pedal.

              Also hands free, knee valve sinks are units where the user pushes on either one or two valves with their knees to activate the faucet. 

              Allowing for easy wheelchair access, ADA-compliant sinks also are available with a tapered bowl that starts shallow and gets deeper in the rear. The drains in these sinks are typically located in the rear, so pipes don’t interfere with wheelchair access. These sinks generally have hands-free faucets or are wrist operated.

              For larger operations, multistation handwashing sinks in both NSF and non-NSF configurations accommodate multiple people at one time. These are most often wall-mounted, but freestanding units are also available.

              Mobile/portable handwashing sinks are suitable for operations with limited space, such as food trucks and mobile kiosks. This type includes a hot water supply and wastewater storage on the unit.

              Some health codes require side splashes, which prevent water from splashing onto the floor or other work surfaces, while others specify hands-free operation.

              Hand sink options include built-in soap and paper towel dispensers. Some types provide antimicrobial protection designed to help prevent airborne illnesses.

              For sanitary purposes, all service sink faucets should have a vacuum breaker to prevent backflow. Operators should install NSF-rated sinks whenever possible. These must be manufactured with radius seams, coved corners and integrally welded drain boards for the most effective sanitation.