Published October 1, 2020
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that grocery stores are essential. So essential, in fact, that it’s been like a second peak season for many grocery retailers since the pandemic hit. And with so many shoppers moving through the aisles, keeping everything clean and transmission-free is critical.
But how can you make sure your stores are sanitary as possible—and that your employees are following the right cleaning protocols to stop the spread of COVID-19? Start by drawing up some cleaning checklists.
The pandemic has changed the course of shopping and grocery consumer expectations. That’s why it’s necessary to keep up with your store’s cleaning processes. Since grocery stores are so essential, safety habits and creating a checklist that all grocery store employees are trained to follow helps make everyone feel safer and confident about coming back.
Creating a grocery store cleaning checklist ensures your stores meet hygiene standards for safe interactions. For this to be effective, your grocery store managers should train staff on the various steps and expectations, and make sure everyone is prepared to handle the extra responsibility. Guidelines provided by the CDC and the World Health Organization have set the standards for cleaning checklists that your employees can regularly review to make sure they’re following the most up-to-date protocols.
According to a recent WHO publication, “This guidance in keeping surface areas clean aims to reduce any role that fomites might play in the transmission of COVID-19 in both healthcare and non-healthcare settings, including grocery stores. It’s important to note that environmental surfaces include furniture and other fixed items, such as tables, chairs, walls, light switches, computer peripherals and electronic equipment including POS systems, and grocery store conveyor belts, store counters and shelves.”
Although the CDC guidelines for cleanliness mostly focus on medical settings, many of the same steps can be transferred to your grocery store’s cleaning measures. This is why a cleaning checklist is important to create and maintain: it helps reduce the risk of transmission while providing a visual reminder and process for employees to follow.
There’s a reason why your approach to de-contamination should include creating checklists. They help employees progress through tasks and also note when they’re complete. It's how managing cleaning and disinfecting procedures becomes a habit.
“From the standpoint of cognitive psychology, checklists work for a lot of different reasons, mainly related to memory,” said Matt Johnson, professor and associate dean at Hult International Business School. He researches the intersection between business and psychology. “Your business might not be saving lives or sending men into the final frontier, but it can still reap amazing benefits from checklists.”
We now know that the risk of COVID-19 exposure is higher in interior public spaces, according to the most recent studies, and this novel virus is also highly contagious. Since the virus can spread in several ways, it’s important to keep your grocery stores clean and ensure your employees are following steps to avoid the spread of the virus as much as possible.
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus was detectable on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours, and on cardboard for up to 24 hours. Charlotte Baker, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, said when you’re at the supermarket, you should “assume all surfaces everywhere have been touched by someone who is sick.” This includes produce and packaged foods.
“Touch just the items you intend to buy, wipe down the cart or basket handles with disinfectant wipes, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when you’re done,” she said. Baker added that many people are also reducing their potential exposure by using curbside pick-up or at-home delivery. Even local food producers are offering these services. “Some farmers markets are allowing customers to pre-order foods so they are already packaged when you come pick them up,” she said, “reducing the amount of time that you need to be near other people and reducing the number of items that you can touch.”
Not having a grocery store checklist could cause your cleanliness efforts to lag, which could put your customer experience at risk. The last thing your grocery store needs, whether you’re an independent or a big chain, is to be known as a place where someone was exposed to COVID-19 because cleaning processes were not carried out effectively.
Normal routine cleaning with soap and water alone can reduce risk of exposure and is a necessary step before you disinfect dirty surfaces.
Surfaces frequently touched by multiple people, such as door handles, displays, POS terminals, handheld scanners, refrigerator case handles, shelves and other surfaces should be regularly cleaned and disinfected, ideally more than once a day. More frequent cleaning and disinfection may be required based on level of use. It’s also a good idea for cashiers and associates to wipe down the POS keypad and other surfaces near the register after every use. Putting a checklist here just for cashiers is a smart, easy way to organize a cleaning schedule by function; consider putting other area-specific COVID-19 cleaning checklists in other departments, such as the deli, bakery, florist, pharmacy counter and front customer service counter.
Using checklists and posters placed in restrooms, breakrooms, common areas and work areas help make sure your cleaning processes become habit. The Food Industry Association (FMI) has many resources for creating cleaning checklists for additional inspiration. Below are CDC recommendations and information from NCR about how to keep your POS systems clean, along with basic simple steps employees should follow. Consider adding these to your grocery store COVID-19 cleaning checklist for employees:
Touch screens can be effectively cleaned with diluted detergent or up to 70% isopropyl alcohol solution. Make sure you follow the cleaning procedure below to avoid damage to the touchscreen:
1. Clean the screen using a non-abrasive cloth and a diluted detergent solution, such as household soap and water. Do not apply any cleaning products directly to the screen and do not soak the cloth: wring it out before use.
2. Dry the screen with another soft cloth.
3. The screen can then be further cleaned by dampening a cloth with isopropyl alcohol solution, or using pre-packaged wipes, to wipe the screen. Do not apply any cleaning products directly to the screen and do not soak the cloth: wring it out before use.
We recommend cleaning plastic and metal surfaces of the POS or self-checkout with soap, water and bleach solution. Note that bleach can damage clothing.
NCR recognizes that there are non-NCR third-party hardware devices used with our product, and we recommend following the instructions provided by those vendors.
You can also consider adding an anti-microbial coating to your NCR hardware and device surfaces.
Grocery and food retail establishment managers and employees have more pressure than ever before with the need to have COVID-19 health and safety plans in place. By following the CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers, you can ensure these guides are being followed with the creation of a checklist. By keeping up with these guidelines regularly and assigning a person to manage the checklists if needed, you can easily create and maintain checklists.
Checklists can also help your employees stay healthy and know what to do if they get sick. The CDC has published steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if an employee is sick. Consider adding the following steps to your checklists so employees know what to do:
As well as having a cleaning steps checklist, it’s also a good idea to make sure your employees and customers know how to keep a safe distance. So, consider creating a secondary checklist for store managers to inform employees of these proper procedures developed by the CDC, such as:
Designate a person who is responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. Employees should know who this person is and how to contact them. Also:
Stay informed by using the CDC links below and those cited in this article. Talk to your employees and supervisors and make sure everyone is aware of the checklist items and using them regularly. Additional resources include:
*Consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for disinfecting and cleaning processes. The CDC or the World Health Organization (WHO) are a good source of information. See the CDC’s Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations.