From airports to office buildings and every stop between, hands-free sensor faucets are showing up in more and more places. The perception of sensor faucets as the modern choice coupled with the public desire for clean spaces has led to their widespread adoption in restrooms and other areas where hygiene is key.
Despite this overall growth and the compelling benefits of going hands-free, sensor faucets have not widely made their way to commercial kitchens, where frequent handwashing is critical for the safety of workers and guests.
Sensor faucets 101
It takes only a short visit to nearly any public restroom to grasp the basics of electronic faucets. A sensor contained within the faucet detects the presence of hands and begins to flow water. Water flow ceases when the sensor no longer detects that presence or after a pre-set period of time has elapsed.
Sensor faucets have been around for decades, and technological advances over that time have made them more reliable, easy-to-use and affordable than ever before.
Thanks to that evolution, sensor faucets have boomed in recent years as users come to expect the modern, luxurious experience of hands-free faucets and the hygiene benefits that come along with reducing touch points in public restrooms.
Applications with a more utilitarian bent, like the kitchen hand wash sink, have often eschewed sensor faucets for traditional manual choices, but many of the same benefits sensor faucets bring to other facilities are also uniquely valuable in foodservice applications. Today’s sensor faucets can be the workhorse and not just the show pony — helping restaurants function better and more efficiently.
Sensor faucets in the commercial kitchen
The spread of germs from hands to food is a significant contributor to foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants, directly causing 89 percent of the outbreaks
in which food was contaminated by workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Major health organizations, including the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO), acknowledge the critical role of handwashing in reducing illness. “Handwashing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection,” the CDC says.
But even good handwashing habits can be undermined by contaminated faucet handles. Workers who handle raw meat and then wash their hands, for example, can inadvertently leave germs on the faucet handle, risking recontamination when they turn off the water or transferring germs to the next person to use the faucet.
This risk is why hygiene experts, as well as the 2017 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code
, recommend manual sink faucets and other surfaces not be touched by bare hands after handwashing. Instead, users are advised to use a paper towel to shut off water or open door handles. In practice, however, this advice is often unknown or ignored.
Since hands-free sensor faucets eliminate the faucet touchpoint, the risk of recontamination is greatly reduced. In fact, a 2017 FDA study
revealed that touchless faucets and doors were more efficient in reducing the number of infected customers in restaurants than other methods.
Ease of use
As critical as safety is in commercial kitchens, speed and efficiency are also significant drivers of worker behavior.
A CDC study
showed that food workers washed their hands in only about a quarter of the situations that should have involved handwashing. And the belief that it takes too much time was among the potential reasons cited for the gap.
Sensor faucets streamline basic water access and can cut down on the perception of handwashing as a time-consuming activity, thus inviting more frequent handwashing.
Another CDC study
revealed that sink accessibility was related to handwashing, which suggests that the physical location of sinks and the sink’s ease of use can play a role in appropriate handwashing.
In addition to improving hygiene, sensor faucets can improve an operation’s bottom line through water and energy conservation.
Water used in restrooms and other “domestic” activities like handwashing accounts for 31 percent of all water consumed in restaurants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency
Since water is flowing only when it’s needed, sensor faucets save up to one gallon of tempered water per 20-second handwash. The savings extend beyond the cost of water alone to include associated sewer costs and energy costs to heat the water.
Multiplied by the number of workers and handwashes per shift across multiple locations, the conservation impact can be significant.
For information on how to choose the right sensor faucet for any restaurant or other application, refer to T&S’ “Selecting the perfect electronic sensor faucet” brochure
, which details the features and customization options available.