Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Customer-Facing Employees - Please Be Mindful of Food Allergies

Do you work in a job where you interact with customers, patients, clients, etc.?  Here is a partial list of the kinds of employees I'm thinking of when writing this post:  cashiers, copy shop employees, bank tellers, post office staff, front office assistants, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc.  If you interact with anyone in a manner where you touch something that you give to the general public, or you actually have to touch the patients/clients, yourself, I ask for a moment of your time.

I understand that many jobs are fast-paced, leaving little time to sit down for a decent meal and you find yourself needing to snack throughout the day, to make it through your long shifts.  I have a neuromuscular condition that requires that I eat regularly to keep my strength up, so I truly understand the need to eat that often exists, in addition to the basic need for survival.

However, I ask you to consider the possibility that a growing portion of the people that you interact with throughout your day, might have food allergies.  Nobody would ask that you simply stop eating, because you need to eat to live.  Perhaps, though, you might consider washing your hands before you continue to serve your customers, or have a general awareness of the state of your hands, clothing and work area, as it pertains to food residue.
Messy eater? Me? Nah...
If you are a nurse or doctor, for example, you might be thinking, "of course I wash my hands!"  I know you do (and I thoroughly appreciate all the hard work you do!), but I would then tell you about the time I was in the ER and the nurse came in to check on me and she had her clean hands in her sterile gloves, but the whole front of her shirt was covered in crumbs, from the snack she was just eating.  She looked down and brushed them off her scrubs and continued to treat me.  I, personally, do not have a food allergy, but my daughter does and I immediately thought of her.  I imagined those crumbs of who-knows-what flying towards her and shuddered at those once-sterile gloves, that were now coated with food residue.  I have always had wonderful nurses (I have had a lot of medical visits in my life), and I understand that they are so very busy, working long hours, and eating can be catch-as-catch-can.  All I ask is that you be aware of food residues when treating patients.  Make sure your clothing is as reasonably free of food, as can be managed.  (I know you might also be thinking, "do you know what ELSE is all over my clothing?" and yes, I can imagine, but one thing at a time. ;)

Here are some other scenarios that I have encountered:
  • I was once waiting on a large print order and the employee had an open bag of mixed nuts, spilled out onto a blank sheet of paper.  He was eating them as he was fixing up the job.  Luckily, it was a laminated job and I wiped them all down, since they were to be given to my daughter.  (I actually have to wipe most things down before I give them to my daughter, but seeing the mixed nuts all over added to my anxiety level.)
  • Another time, I was at an exhibit with my daughter and she wanted to go up and visit this one table, but the ladies managing the table were eating Doritos, and peanut butter granola bars.  These were hands-on exhibits, so we skipped that table.  I still had to wipe her hands and some objects at other tables, because who knows what was eaten before we walked up, but eating-in-progress is more of an immediate issue.
  • I remember seeing a pharmacy employee eating chocolate candy, then wiping her hands on her coat, to get the crumbs off, and then filling a prescription bottle.  (I've heard similar reports about pharmacy employees eating and touching prescriptions, so I don't think this was an isolated incident.)     
That is just a random sampling.  Again, I don't expect the world to stop eating, but I just ask if, when going about your day, you might give a moment's thought to how your food consumption, in the middle of your work time, might impact others.  I am asking this on behalf of my daughter, and all those like her who live with the risk of anaphylaxis.  I'm just looking for a way we can all work together, with a minimal amount of disruption, to keep them safe.  I know we can't live in a food-free world, but any amount of food-residue reduction would help.  Thank you for your time. :)

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