Safe Working for Food Businesses During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Social distancing

The advice on social distancing measures applies to everyone. Employers need to minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of 2 metres between individuals. This advice applies to both inside the food business and in the external public areas where customers may need to queue. People should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds and more frequently than normal.

Below general indicators may be relevant to the majority of retail outlets:

  • use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the shop if they have symptoms
  • regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded
  • use floor markings inside the commercial spaces to facilitate compliance with the social distancing advice of 2 metres, particularly in the most crowded areas, such as serving counters and tills
  • use vertical signage to direct customers into lanes if feasible to facilitate movement within the premises while maintaining 2 metre distance
  • make regular announcements to remind customers to follow social distancing advice and clean their hands regularly
  • place plexiglass barriers at tills and counters if feasible, as an additional element of protection for workers and customers
  • encourage the use of contactless payments where possible, without disadvantaging older or vulnerable customers
  • provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water and hand sanitiser

Further information on social distancing and adults who are at increased risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found on GOV.UK.

Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.

Mitigating actions include:

  • further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)

Employers should maintain 2m social distancing wherever possible, including arriving at and departing from work, while in work, and when travelling between sites.

Maintaining social distancing in specific food business settings

Food manufacturing plants

  • Continue to deliver the highest hygiene standards including the use of some personal protective equipment and frequent hand washing.
  • Follow social distancing guidance as far as is reasonably possible.
  • Where the production environment makes it difficult to do so, employers should consider mitigation measures to protect employees such as protective clothing and face masks.
  • Once staff have left the food processing areas and removed protective clothing, social distancing and further hand washing guidance should be adhered to.


Supermarkets need to avoid crowding and create adequate spacing between individuals. Effective measures could include:

  • monitoring the number of customers within store e.g using Google map and limiting access to avoid congestion
  • implementing queue management systems to limit crowds gathering at entrances and maintain the 2 metres distance
  • reminding customers to only buy what they need

Staff canteens and rest areas

It is very unlikely that coronavirus is transmitted through food. Effective measures could include:

  • As far as reasonably possible, a distance of 2 metres should be maintained between users
  • staff can continue to use rest areas if they apply the same social distancing
  • notices promoting hand hygiene and social distancing should be placed visibly in these areas
  • if possible, increase the number of hand washing stations available

Takeaways and restaurants offering a pick-up service

Customers should be encouraged to order online, by app, or by phone.

Customers waiting to order or collect should wait in a designated area where a 2-metre distance from other people can be maintained.

If this is not possible, customers should enter the premises one at a time and only when their order is ready to be made or collected.

Collection times should be staggered to discourage crowding outside the premises.

Where queuing is taking place, you should use queue management systems to maintain a 2-metre distance between people.

Outdoor food markets and farmers markets

The main concern with outdoor food markets is to avoid crowds gathering. The good practices are”

taking orders online or by telephone in advance and pre-packing orders to limit face-to-face time in the market

  • considering delivery services if possible

Food hygiene guidance

Businesses can help reduce the spread of coronavirus by reminding everyone to follow good food hygiene practices. A Food Safety Management System (FSMS) that includes existing food hygiene guidance and HACCP processes should be followed. If you need help in developing the HACCP, please contact us, our Highfield food safety and HACCP courses can build capacities for your employees.

Employers should stress the importance of more frequent handwashing and maintaining good hygiene practices in food preparation and handling areas during COVID-19.

The FSA’s guidance on good hygiene practices in food preparation and their HACCP processes guidance is intended to ensure staff follow good hygiene practices to prevent the spread of disease to food. Key safety points include being fit for work, washing hands and wearing aprons or other clean clothing as appropriate. The FSA Safe Method checklist allows employers to assess the personal hygiene and fitness to work practices in their workplace.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) can also spread through contact with a surface or object that has the coronavirus on it. Effective cleaning helps minimise the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Managing employee sickness

  • If anyone develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the business or workplace they should be sent home and advised to follow the stay at home guidance following government guidelines.
  • If a member of staff has helped someone who has developed symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves.
  • They should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell with symptoms consistent with coronavirus infection.
  • It is not necessary to close the business or workplace or send any staff home unless government policy changes. You should keep monitoring the government response to coronavirus for further updates.
  • The Food Standards Agency’s fitness for work guidance for staff who handle food products provides advice on managing sickness in a food business.

Accidents, security and other incidents

In an emergency (for example, an accident, fire, or break in), people do not have to stay 2m apart if it would be unsafe.

People involved in the provision of assistance to others should pay particular attention to sanitation measures immediately afterwards, including washing hands.

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