Sanitation and Safety

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An Overview of Handwashing Sinks

Handwashing sinks help staff comply with HACCP guidelines in foodservice kitchens and help prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses. Sinks designated for food preparation should not be used for handwashing or warewashing. 

Health codes for handwashing sinks in commercial foodservice operations have evolved over time. Years ago, there were limited types of handwashing sinks available, but today, manufacturers offer dozens of options that meet local requirements. 

Handwashing sinks should be readily accessible and visible in all commercial foodservice operations. Local health codes specify the number required in the back of house. Kitchens typically should include one hand sink for every 5 employees, one for every 300 square feet of facility space, and one for each prep and cooking area.

The standard size sink bowl is generally 10 inches by 14 inches by 5 inches. Space-saving bowls in 9-inch-by-9-inch-by-5 inch sizes are also available. 

In terms of materials, sinks usually feature stainless-steel construction for durability, sanitation and easy cleaning. The steel can be type 430, which has 16% chrome content, or thicker type 304 with 8% nickel content. Bowls may be fabricated or deep-drawn. Bowls may have either a shallow, flat bottom or an oval shape, depending on the operator’s preference. Sink components include a backsplash, a front roll rim, legs and fittings. 

The majority of hand sinks are the deck-mounted faucet type, which complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and can easily connect to existing plumbing or a special faucet. Traditional hand sinks mount on the wall and include a faucet and basket drain. These types can be accessorized with left- and right-end splashes, lever drains, stainless-steel skirts, trash receptacles, soap and towel dispensers, wrist handles for the faucet, and emergency eyewash units, which mount directly to the faucet.

Pedestal hand sinks are more hygienic as they typically feature hands-free operation. During use, the operator pushes down on foot pedal valves located at the bottom of the pedestal. Foot and knee pedals with thermostatic mixing valves allow users to preset the desired water temperature. Some hands-free sinks activate with knee operation. Technologically advanced electronic-eye hand sinks utilize sensors for hands-free use.

ADA-compliant sinks with a tapered bowl are shallow by the user and progressively deeper toward the wall. This makes wheelchair access easier. The drains in these sinks are typically located in the rear, so pipes are out of the way. ADA sinks generally have hands-free faucets or are wrist operated.

Wall-mounted or freestanding multi-station handwashing sinks can accommodate multiple people at one time. Mobile/portable handwashing sinks that include a hot water supply and wastewater storage are often used in operations with limited space, such as food trucks or food hall kiosks.

Options vary, depending on the model. Handwashing sinks are available with built-in soap and paper towel dispensers and antimicrobial protection.

It is crucial that all service sink faucets have a vacuum breaker to prevent unsanitary backflow. For food safety purposes, operators should install NSF-rated sinks whenever possible. These should be manufactured with radius seams, coved corners and integrally welded drainboards for effective sanitation.