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Guidelines for food businesses

The Chief Health Officer (the CHO) has placed requirements on the operation of businesses and organisations including restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars (a food business) to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 being transmitted. These requirements are specified in CHO Directions – Directions for Safety Measures for Places, Businesses, Activities, Services and Premises. (the Directions).

COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person through close contact and droplets including:

  • direct contact with infected persons
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • touching contaminated objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables), and then touching your mouth or face.

The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect your business is through maintaining good hygiene practices, following physical distancing principles and other safety measures as specified in the Directions.

CHO Directions and mandatory requirements

Under the Directions, food businesses must:

  • Have a COVID-19 safety plan, which they must comply with
  • Make available hand sanitiser to customers unless handwashing facilities are available.
  • Display signage in areas that are open to the public and accessible to employees stating that a person should consider the following:
    • keeping 1.5m away from a person who is not a member of the person’s family, a friend or an acquaintance (a person not known to them);
    • if it isn’t possible to keep 1.5m away from a person not known to them - keeping close contact to less than 15 minutes
    • practising hand hygiene by washing hands or using hand sanitiser
    • staying home if feeling unwell
    • downloading the COVIDSafe app.
  • Appoint a COVID Safety Supervisor to facilitate the implementation of their businesses COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Collect the contact details of any person attending the premises for longer than 15 minutes.

COVID-19 Safety Plan

Food businesses must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan to demonstrate how they meet the health directions around the key principles of physical distancing and hygiene practices.

The COVID-19 safety plan checklist must be completed and submitted online. This forms your COVID-19 Safety Plan.

Businesses must update their COVID-19 Safety Plan to ensure that it meets the requirements of the new CHO direction.  The original online checklists have been updated to include the new requirements.  Businesses can complete and submit an online COVID-19 Safety Plan checklist at https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/

The new CHO direction requires that businesses review their COVID-19 Safety Plans at least every six months to make sure they continue to address any required safety responsibilities. If the review of the COVID-19 Safety Plan results in any changes, the updated safety plan must be submitted online with updated information.

Your COVID-19 Safety Plan must be available to show to an authorised officer upon request.

Businesses must comply with their COVID-19 Safety Plan.

COVID Safety Supervisors

The CHO Directions require that the ‘person in authority’ of a food business must appoint a COVID Safety Supervisor to facilitate the implementation of their business’s COVID-19 Safety Plan and other relevant CHO Directions.

The COVID Safety Supervisor can be a person in authority such as the owner or occupier of the business or another person that the person in authority appoints such as a work health and safety officer.

Depending on the complexity, risk and operational hours of a business it may be appropriate to appoint more than one COVID Safety Supervisor to enable the effective implementation of their COVID -19 Safety Plan. For example a hospitality business that operates as a restaurant/café during the day and a nightclub/bar at night is recommended to appoint a day and night COVID Safety Supervisor.

The COVID Safety Supervisor must have the necessary skills and knowledge to undertake their duties. Skills and knowledge may be acquired by

  • ‘In house’ training,
  • relevant professional experience,
  • completing the Northern Territory Government’s free online COVID Safety Supervisor training or the Australian Government infection control training or something similar.

https://www.health.gov.au/resources/apps-and-tools/covid-19-infection-control-training

Note: the Northern Territory Government’s online COVID Safety Supervisor training is in the final stages of completion and will be available shortly.

The COVID Safety Supervisor must be able to provide evidence of/demonstrate their skills and knowledge, upon request by an authorised officer.

Collection of contact details

You must collect the contact details of persons attending your business. Information required to be collected includes:

  • Name
  • Contact number, email, address or other means of contact (Please note: Not all of these methods of contact need to be collected, one is enough. It is preferred that the phone number is collected, as this is the easiest for the purpose of contact tracing.)
  • Date and time of entry into the business

Members of the public will be required to provide their contact information every time they enter the premises if they are there for more than 15 minutes.

One family member can provide their details on behalf of their family group.

In the case of a group of children, one accompanying adult can provide the adult’s contact information on behalf of the group.

Some customers may not be able to provide contact details, due to their circumstances. In these cases the business should take the person’s name and the best way to find them, in the event that there is an outbreak linked to the business.

For example, a person with no phone could provide their name and the phone number of a friend or relative. A person experiencing homelessness, could provide the place where they can be found.

The purpose of the CHO Directions is to protect the Territory from COVID-19. The collection of contact details is to allow the Public Health Unit to conduct contact tracing in the event of an outbreak. Businesses have the right, as always, to refuse entry or to ask customers to leave, however it is important that businesses remember their usual legal obligations, such as their obligations under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1992 If a customer is refusing to give any contact information and the business feels that a customer is not taking the CHO direction seriously, the business may choose to refuse that person entry or to ask the customer to leave. Police may be able to provide assistance if the circumstances require it. If, however, a person is confused or has some other impairment or impediment that is making them appear uncooperative, businesses are encouraged to attempt to help the person comply.

Contact details must be recorded and kept securely for 28 days after which all information must be destroyed using appropriate processes.

A business must provide contact details to an authorised officer if directed. The information must not be used for any other purpose than contact tracing.

How to collect contact details

The method used to record customer contact details will be up to the business owner to decide, provided all the requirements can be met.

Business are strongly encouraged to use electronic methods such as a QR Code, as this provides a secure, contactless and hygienic way of collecting details. However some people may not have a phone and businesses may need to have a paper option to collect details of those customers. If details are collected in a paper based system, these have to be stored securely and not left on display.

Territory Check In

The Northern Territory Government has procured our own app - Territory Check-In – to make it easy for your business, organisation or venue to comply with the CHO Directions by enabling customers to self-check-in. This is the same app that is being used in the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania.

Territory Check-In will automatically collect customer contact information. Venues using the app won’t need to manually collect information and won’t need to store that information.

Protect yourself and others

In the ordinary course of business, food businesses must comply with the Food Act 2004 and specifically the food safety requirements in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

Everyone working in a food business has a responsibility to understand and think about how they can contribute towards community-wide efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

You should review all aspects of the food business that may increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This will allow your food business to apply practical measures to reduce risk of infection between staff or to the general public.

Hygiene practices

The manager of a food business should provide training to staff on hygiene practices and any procedural changes that have been implemented to avoid spread of the virus.

Food handlers and other staff should:

  • Wash your hands frequently when preparing foods, after going to the bathroom, after handling money and after touching your face or hair.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose.
  • Avoid touching areas that have been in direct contact with a customer.
  • Any staff member with a suspected communicable disease (such as coughing, sneezing,   flu-like symptoms) should be excluded from the workplace.

Information for staff

Staff members and volunteers should not attend work if they are unwell and managers should advise them to go home if unwell.

Customers/attendees with a suspected communicable disease (showing symptoms including coughing, sneezing or flu-like symptoms) should be advised not to attend activities or services.

Refer to SafeWork Australia for further information on keeping your workplace safe during COVID-19.

Wearing of gloves

Washing hands regularly or using hand sanitiser will offer more protection against COVID-19 than wearing gloves.

If you are feeling well, there is currently no need to wear gloves other than as part of the business’s normal safety practices e.g. cleaning or disinfecting protocols.

It is important to change gloves regularly between activities and wash hands thoroughly between changing gloves to prevent contamination from used gloves onto the fresh gloves.

Wearing of masksIf you are feeling well, there is currently no need to wear a protective mask. However wearing a face mask is one of the tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and some staff and customers may choose to wear them to feel safer, especially when in close contact.

See advice on facemasks

Physical distancing

A food business should:

  • Seat different groups of customers at tables that are 1.5 metres away from another group.
  • Arrange table seating so different groups of customers are not seated face-to-face.
  • Encourage customers to remain 1.5 metres apart when moving through the business.
  • At times where customers need to be closer than 1.5 metres apart, ensure the time spent in close contact is minimised with particular focus on minimising face-to-face close contact, to less than 15 minutes.
  • Manage the entry and exit points of the business so that customers are not queuing at these points.
  • Display, at the entrance to the business, the number of customers that may be seated inside the business in order to maintain physical distancing.
  • Place signage around the business to remind customers and employees to maintain hygiene practices and to go home if the customer or employee is feeling unwell.
  • Place signage around the business to discourage customers crowding together in any one area of the business.

Cleaning and disinfecting

During the pandemic, extra cleaning should be carried out throughout the food business. You should keep your place of business clean and sanitised by taking the following measures:

  • Maintain thorough cleaning and sanitising of facilities, equipment, and transport vehicles (including food contact surfaces and equipment).
  • Clean shared surfaces more frequently, at least twice a day. This could include door handles (front door, fridges/freezers handles), bathrooms, service counters, handrails and EFTPOS keypads.
  • If you think a surface may be contaminated, clean with appropriate cleaning products.
  • Increase cleaning regimes for all other areas within the food business. Follow the Australian Government cleaning advicefor your cleaning and disinfecting procedures
  • Wash and sanitise all food preparation containers, utensils, chopping boards.

Cleaning products

Use a chlorine based or similar disinfectant which the manufacturer claims can kill viruses. Household bleach is one product which is suitable, and comes in varying strengths.

Bleach solutions should be made fresh daily as they become less effective over time.

The recommended concentration of available chlorine for routine disinfection of cleaned surfaces is 1000ppm.

Disposable vs reusable cutlery, crockery, food and beverage containers

There is currently no evidence to suggest there is any benefit in switching to disposable single use food and beverage containers, cutlery and crockery to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.  A food business may continue to use standard containers, cutlery and crockery with appropriate hygiene, cleaning and sanitation processes in place.

Food businesses may continue to accept reusable cups and containers provided by the customer with appropriate hygiene and sanitation processes in place.

Self-service cutlery and condiments

Food businesses should limit any unnecessary touching of objects and surfaces to avoid the risk of contamination.

Staff should hand over cutlery to customers rather than provide in communal containers. Condiments should be provided in single portions or the person serving the food should provide the condiments to limit self-service.

Self-service areas like buffets, accommodation breakfast bars and, aviation club lounges should be well supervised and require the customer to use hand sanitiser pre commencement of service. Areas should be regularly monitored and cleaning protocols adhered to.

Physical barriers

In certain situations, a physical barrier such as widening the counter can be used to help maintain physical distance between people.

Opaque or clear screen dividers of a suitable material that can be easily cleaned and disinfected can be used to create separation between people. These barriers should be appropriately designed and installed and be of a size that creates protection for the person, especially around the face area.

Rubbish disposal

The risk of transmission of COVID-19 when handling waste is low. Normal collection of waste for households, retail and other businesses continues.

When managing waste, the following hygiene practices should be followed:

  • Disposable gloves, masks, and other items should be placed in rubbish bag before disposing of them with other domestic waste.
  • Hands should be washed with soap and running water or rubbed with an alcohol based solution immediately after handling these items.

Takeaway and delivery service

You need to ensure your food business complies with the requirements of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, including:

  • ensuring appropriate packaging is used for takeaway
  • exercising good hygiene practices when packaging food
  • using an appropriate food transport vehicle
  • maintaining temperature control of food during delivery.

You should advise your customers that food for takeaway should be consumed immediately or refrigerated and not left out of temperature control.

Physical distancing for takeaway and delivery

Measures should be in place to allow customers to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres between people when picking up takeaway and the use of ground markers indicating where to queue and stand should be considered.

For home deliveries, ways to assist with physical distancing include promoting cashless payments and for deliveries to be placed at the door and stepping back when the customer collects the food.

Payments

Promote cashless payments. However, if cash is exchanged, hands should be washed with soap and water, or use a hand sanitiser after handling money.

Communication

It is important to communicate your COVID-19 safety steps with patrons. Provide updates on social media or via emails and provide signage and information at venues. Encourage all your staff, volunteers and patrons to follow these guidelines in their daily life to keep our community safe.

For more information

  • Contact Environmental Health COVID-19 Compliance on 1800 095 646.
  • Further information on food safety and COVID-19 can be found on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.
  • Safe Work Australia – COVID-19 information for workplaces website.