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Maintaining Sanitary Facilities

Sheryl Lee, BSc, BASc, CPHI(C) Public Health Inspector

Regular maintenance of sanitary facilities is a critical part of operating a food premise. This is particularly important for food handlers and customers as human hands are one of the most common ways that most disease-causing microorganisms (called “pathogens”) spread from person to person, most often via the fecal-oral route.

When these pathogens spread through the fecal-oral route, it means that contaminated feces from an infected person are somehow ingested by another person. This could occur in various ways including when an infected person might forget to properly wash his or her hands after using the toilet. Anything he or she touches afterward might become contaminated with pathogens that other people may pick up through touching the contaminated surfaces such as a door knob or light switch in the washroom. These pathogens may end up in food due to lack of or improper handwashing and potentially cause a foodborne illness. Incidents resulting from poor washroom maintenance such as a sewage back-up also increase the risk of exposure to these pathogens.

It is important to keep the washroom clean, in good repair and fully-equipped with supplies required for proper handwashing to occur in order to cut the route of transmission. The following are some tips and suggestions for washroom maintenance:

  1. Create a washroom cleaning checklist that outlines cleaning tasks, frequencies, date and time of cleaning and cleaning staff’s initials. Washrooms should be cleaned at least once daily with frequent spot-cleaning throughout the day.
  2. Train all cleaning staff on completing the cleaning checklist, what areas are to be cleaned, when, how often and what tools are to be used. Dedicate staff to verify that the cleaning checklist is being completed.
  3. Focus on high-traffic areas and fixtures such as light switches, door knobs, handwashing sink handles, toilet handles, toilet bowls and toilet seats. Clean high-traffic areas first and work down to prevent cross-contamination.
  4. Ensure that the primary disinfectant used for cleaning the washroom is at the right concentration as per the manufacturer’s instruction for disinfection to occur. Label and store these washroom cleaning supplies away from food and food preparation areas.
  5. Ensure that all fixtures are functional and maintained in good repair. Sanitary facilities must be equipped with the following at all times:
    a) a constant supply of hot and cold running water;
    b) a supply of toilet paper;
    c) a durable, easy-to-clean receptacle for used towels and other waste material;
    d) a supply of liquid soap; and
    e) a method of hand drying that uses single-service towels or a hot air dryer.

As required under section 25 of the Ontario Food Premises Regulation 493/17, operators must also ensure that sanitary facilities are maintained in accordance with the design, construction and installation requirements in Ontario Regulation 332/12 (Building Code) made under the Building Code Act, 1992. These requirements are primarily enforced by the municipal Building Department.

If you have a plan to alter any floor space, number of toilets or washbasins in a sanitary facility, a public health inspector at the Porcupine Health Unit must be notified and an approval in writing must be obtained prior to making such changes.