How Personal Protective Equipment Enhances Food Service Safety

The food service industry is responsible for making, transporting, or selling meals, drinks, and other food products for restaurants, school cafeterias, work canteens, hotels, bars, and many other institutions around the country.

As an industry that generates around $50 billion per month and employs over 11 million people nationwide, strict regulations are in place to ensure the safety of all involved.

The Role of PPE in Food Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends using personal protective equipment (PPE) to enhance the safety of the food, workers, and customers.

Protecting the Food

Using appropriate PPE during food preparation and handling helps minimize the risk of cross contamination and unnecessary food spoilage. By providing their employees with high-quality PPE, food companies are less likely to experience contamination in their products through parasites, bacteria, dust, mold, and other human-related debris.

Contaminated food is a common source of severe illness, such as salmonella, E. coli, and Hepatitis A, making it a serious public health concern.

Common PPE worn to protect food includes gloves, safety glasses, masks, face shields, and hairnets.

Protecting the Workers

Employees in the food service industry are at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals and toxic materials. Ammonia from cooling systems, disinfectants and other chemicals found throughout food manufacturing plants pose health risks to anyone who comes in contact with them.

Workers at risk of contamination should wear protective clothing, such as gloves, safety glasses, face shields, masks, or overalls.

Restaurants and kitchens also contain potential hazards for workers. Employees can easily sustain an injury from sharp knives or hot dishes if they don’t have the right PPE. Gloves, oven mitts, aprons, anti-slip footwear, slip-resistant floor mats, and wet floor signs are all examples of PPE found in restaurants, cafes, and bars.

Protecting the Customers

If a restaurant or food service provider is found to be negligent regarding the safe preparation and provision of food to their customers, they can face penalties that may ultimately result in the closure of the premises.

Business owners or managers must provide staff with adequate PPE to prevent contamination and the spread of foodborne illnesses.

Types of PPE Used in the Food Service Industry

The type of PPE recommended for use in the food service industry depends on the nature of the business, the work environment, and the employees.

To determine what PPE is necessary, an employer must survey the workplace and conduct a safety audit. The surveyors should look for potential hazards like obstructions, exposed wiring, or emergency exit access during the audit.

Employees must be trained to use their assigned personal protective equipment correctly to ensure safety. PPE must be fitted to the wearer, or it could become a safety hazard. For example, a protective apron that’s too large may tear or snag on equipment, compromising the safety of the food and workers.

It’s beneficial to carry out periodic audits to guarantee safety standards are maintained and that PPE is adequately stocked onsite.

Some of the most critical pieces of PPE for the food service industry are:

Personal Protective Equipment


Handling food with bare skin is a significant contributor to transmitting harmful pathogens. Food industry employees should wear food-grade gloves to enhance safety.

Two of the most effective glove materials for handling food are nitrile and vinyl. Both materials offer adequate protection for food handling. While nitrile gloves are more durable and touch-sensitive, they tend to be more expensive than vinyl.

Face Shields

Face shields protect against the spread of pathogens via large respiratory droplets in restaurants, kitchens, and food processing plants. Chefs, servers, and other employees who frequently handle the food may wear face shields to reduce how far their respiratory droplets travel. This prevents contamination of food being prepared, packaged, or served.


Respirators, such as N95 masks, protect the wearer from inhaling contaminated air. They are used to protect workers in food manufacturing facilities where there is a risk of ingesting harmful airborne pollutants.

Disposable Face Masks

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, disposable face masks have been widely used, especially in the foodservice industry. They do not offer protection from inhaling particles and pathogens, but they act as a protective barrier to stop large droplets from entering or exiting through the nose and mouth.

Hand Sanitizer

The pandemic has also increased the attention to hand sanitization in the food service industry. The CDC actively encourages food services to provide staff training on proper hand sanitization habits and offer more access to hand sanitizing equipment, including sanitizer. The CDC also recommends using alcohol-based sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol content.

Adequate PPE for the food industry should be cut or puncture-resistant, thermal resistant, and offer liquid protection.

Ensure High Levels of Protection With ICU Production Inc.

Whether you’re purchasing Personal Protective Equipment for a restaurant, food production facility, or any other business in the food service industry, it’s important to maximize workers’ health and safety by sourcing quality equipment.

ICU Production Inc. provides high-quality, FDA-approved PPE for a range of industries, including food and hospitality. We stock glove varieties, face shields, masks, respirators, hand sanitizers, and more, ensuring you can source all your PPE from the same provider.