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In the kitchen

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Now a mainstay of many premises, the kitchen has become a hub around which much of an office will orbit. These spaces need to be fully supported to ensure they are safe and deliver on the expectations of staff and management alike, reports Dave Howell.

Within a typical office environment, the water cooler and kitchen space are now essential to the wellbeing of all employees. Organisations and facilities managers (FMs) understand that they must support these areas, but face several challenges when doing so.

Kitchen areas are, from a facilities management point of view, complex spaces. They need to have utilities available, as well as recycling and waste disposal provision. There is the risk from pests to be considered. Also, consideration needs to be given as to how cooking services — if they are to be offered — will be handled by staff and how these will be safely maintained.

The hazards

David Trotter, the inventor of the muggi, says: “From our experience the pressure points seem to be around hot drinks being left on kitchen work surfaces. Also, the movement of these drinks can create issues if there are a number of people in a kitchen with limited space. These are some of the reasons why the muggi has been adopted by NHS Wales for their workspaces. In a busy environment having one hand free while carrying four hot drinks is extremely beneficial when negotiating your way through a crowded kitchen.”

Christian Daniels, owner of The Thirst Alternative explained: “We find that FMs in general have a clear idea of how they want to manage hot water in their office kitchens. This could be a rental option or an outright purchase of a wall-mounted or table-top boiler. Often, FMs will have mains-fed fresh water coolers throughout their offices, but see that they have issues when it comes to hot water supply. This can mean they have several kettles running to service the needs of their staff, which of course isn’t very efficient for them.”

The kitchen area within an office space is either an adapted unused corner or a purposely specified space. Whatever space the kitchen occupies, health and safety is of paramount importance. A full risk assessment should form part of an organisation’s usual routine.

Kitchens though, may need closer inspection as they can contain many more hazards than a typical office space could contain, from potential slips and falls on wet floors, to electrical sockets and food waste issues.

Support services

Organisations should look towards how they can simplify maintenance duties. Cleaning services that may already be in place can of course be expanded to the kitchen area.

However, demand for high levels of recycling, cleaning and waste management are closely associated with each other. Staff should be encouraged to segregate waste that can be recycled into designated bins. Food waste is also now being recycled across more businesses and organisations. Organisations should speak to their waste services provider about how to manage food waste collection. This is particularly relevant, as new research from commercial property agency Savoystewart.co.uk reveals that only one in five workers now takes a lunch hour with over half (52%) eating at their desks.

Having a well-designed kitchen area is of course not a replacement for a proper lunch break, which all employees are entitled to, and many studies have shown promotes health and wellbeing and positively influences productivity, but delivering kitchen services when they are needed can be a component of a healthy working space. Many businesses will have an eating at desks policy.

Stephen Charles, MD of BRITA Vivreau outlined an approach organisations could take to develop an efficient kitchen space: “Hygiene is a vital kitchen space issue. It should be at the heart of each stage of the product design process. FMs should consider choosing drinking solutions with a dirt-free touch pad, purposefully shallow drip tray (because your drinking water dispenser is not a sink) and the ability to fill water bottles without nozzle contact (no more bottle germs) and a removable dispense nozzle for cleaning.

“Cleaning is of paramount importance. Drinking water machines should be cleaned at least once at the start of the day and once at the end of the day. The whole drinking water cabinet should be kept clean with sanitising spray and a clean cloth or sanitising wipes. If nozzles are removable they should be sanitised daily, as should the surrounding area around the machine.”

Charles concluded: “Drip trays should constantly be checked, emptied and cleaned - with sanitising spray or sanitising wipes. If there is a scale build up on the drip tray lid, this should be removed and cleaned with a mild descaler. If the dispense tap becomes soiled through heavy use with dried coffee and milk etc. then this should be cleaned with warm soapy water and a non-abrasive cloth.”

Insights

Clearly, organisations and their FMs are looking to move many of their management activities to more automation, or at least to systems that enable them to gain an overview of the estates and their components they are responsible for. Abbey Crawford, a marketing manager at Checkit outlined its solution:

“Digital work management (WM) tools, such as Checkit Memo, enables the facilities manager to keep on top of the cleaning schedule, without briefing the cleaners or visiting the site daily. The checklists provide the cleaners with step by step guidance on how to perform scheduled routine tasks and the information is automatically uploaded to the cloud.”

Crawford continued: “By simply logging onto the cloud, the manager can check if the cleaners have performed all the daily tasks required to keep the kitchen safe and presentable, and see if any issues have been highlighted or if any crucial checks have been missed. The records and data are real time, trusted and visible, giving the manager confidence that they have an accurate picture of the status of the facility. From a legal and compliance point of view, having a digital record also provides proof that the job was actually completed at a specific time, which is useful in case any incidents, for example slips and falls or food hygiene related complaints, are reported by staff using the facilities.”

And striving to meet ISO 14001 certification for Environmental Management is clearly a guide that can be followed. Often the full complexity of a kitchen space isn’t fully appreciated. Taken for granted a kitchen can quickly become a pressure point. Careful planning and detailed maintenance and support are the keys to an efficient and safe kitchen space.

Last reviewed 14 February 2017

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