I like to teach with stories. I think people learn best when they can visualize or relate to a situation. Here’s a story I tell my restaurant manager food safety classes about glove use…
I was at a grocery store with my aunt after church one Sunday morning. This store had ready-to-eat foods and several small tables that allow people to order food, then sit and eat within the store.
We observed a worker serving a breakfast pizza. Here’s how it went: the customer ordered a slice of pizza, then the clerk carefully put gloves on — using one hand to make sure the glove was on the other. She picked up the pizza slice with her gloved hand and put it in the microwave. While it was heating, she rang the sale up on a cash register and took the customer’s money… with her gloved hands! Then she removed the slice from the oven, put it on a paper tray, and handed it to the customer. As she handed it to the customer, her thumb was firmly touching the pizza slice.
This is a real story — not changed or embellished for the sake of education.
What did she do wrong? Did she do anything right?
First, she should have washed her hands before putting on the gloves. She may have contaminated the gloves when she touched them with her bare unwashed hands and then potentially transferred a pathogen to the pizza.
Using the cash register and taking money with gloved hands is just wrong. She could have then transferred pathogens from the cash register and money to the pizza.
All of this was happening with someone who thought she was doing the right thing.
I think sometimes people think that once they have gloves on, they can do anything and be “safe.” Contaminated gloves can be just as bad as unwashed hands and bare hand contact with food. In this case, perhaps the cleanest surfaces in this place were her hands inside the gloves. Then again, I didn’t see her wash them, so maybe not.
Unfortunately, this person was not trained well in glove use. In this situation, she may not have even needed gloves in the first place. She could have picked up that pizza with tongs or a deli sheet and put on the tray.
If you’re teaching food service workers about glove use, here are the basic tips to remember from my story…
- Wash your hands before putting on gloves for food-related jobs
- Change your gloves when changing tasks
- Change your gloves after they become dirty or when they are ripped.
By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University
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