Health codes for hand washing sinks in commercial foodservice operations have evolved over time and so too have the actual sinks. Years ago there were limited types available, but today manufacturers offer dozens to choose from that meet the necessary requirements.
Hand sinks should be readily accessible and visible. Local health codes govern the specific number of hand sinks needed in the back of house. As a rule of thumb, kitchens should have 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.
Handwashing sinks help staff comply with HACCP guidelines in foodservice kitchens and help prevent the spread of food borne illnesses. Sinks designated for food preparation should not be used for hand washing or ware washing.
Basically, the standard size bowl in the industry is 10 inches by 14 inches by 5 inches. Space-saving bowls in 9-inch by 9-inch by 5-inch sizes also are available. 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 then welded into a single unit.
Sinks usually feature stainless steel construction for durability and easy cleaning. The steel can be type 430, which has a 16 percent chrome content, or thicker, more durable type 304 with an 8 percent nickel content. Some have a shallow flat-bottom bowl, and others have a bowl that’s oval shaped. Sink components include a backsplash, front roll rim, legs and fittings. Bowls may be fabricated or deep-drawn.
The majority of hand sinks are the deck-mounted faucet type. These comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and also can be connected to existing plumbing or a special faucet.
Traditional hand sinks mount on the wall and include a faucet and basket drain. Operators can choose to add a variety of accessories to these sinks, including left and right end splashes, lever drains, stainless steel skirts, trash receptacles, soap and towel dispensers, wrist handles for the faucet and emergency eye wash units, which mount directly to the faucet.
Another hand sink style, the pedestal type, typically functions hands-free. During use, the operator pushes down on a foot pedal valve located at the bottom of the pedestal. The majority of 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.
Knee valve sinks, which are also hands free, are units where the user pushes on either one or two valves with their knees to activate the faucet. The most technologically advanced type, electronic eye hand sinks, include sensors for hands-free use.
ADA-compliant sinks are also available with a tapered bowl that starts shallow and gets deeper in the rear, which allows for wheelchair access. The drains in these sinks are typically located in the rear so pipes don’t interfere with wheelchair access. ADA sinks generally have hands-free faucets or are wrist operated.
Multi-station hand washing sinks in both NSF and non-NSF configurations accommodate multiple people at one time. These are typically wall mounted, but can also be freestanding.
With the advent of food trucks and mobile kiosks, there are now mobile/portable hand washing sinks that include a hot water supply and waste water storage.
Some health codes require side splashes, which prevent water from splashing onto the floor or other work surfaces, while others require hands-free operation. In terms of options, hand sinks are available with built-in soap and paper towel dispensers.
It is crucial that all service sink faucets have a vacuum breaker to prevent backflow — an unsanitary consequence.