As we learn what it means to social distance in the world outside of our homes, it’s not an uncommon sight to also see clear plastic or acrylic barriers between you and the bank teller, grocery store clerk, or hostess at a restaurant. These clear barriers are called sneeze guards and they play an important role in helping stop the spread of illness like COVID-19.
Let’s discuss: what are sneeze guards, what do sneeze guards do, and what requirements/ height regulations have been put in place by public health officials to ensure sneeze guards are as effective as possible in stopping the spread of airborne illness.
What is a Sneeze Guard?
You might be wondering what sneeze guards are and when they are required? Very simply, sneeze guards are clear protective barriers designed to limit the exposure and spread of airborne respiratory droplets propelled by coughing, sneezing or talking. Sneeze guards work as part of a team with hand sanitizer stations and face masks to limit the spread of airborne germs that travel by mouth and hands.
How Do Sneeze Guards Work?
Sneeze guards work as a shield between individuals to block respiratory droplets from spreading. Since sneezes and coughs can travel upwards of 50mph and expel thousands of infectious droplets into the air, a sneeze guard helps lower the chance of exposure to the droplets by stopping the airborne droplets in their tracks.
While sneeze guards aren’t a new concept, they’re definitely being utilized in many more places than ever before. Prior to COVID-19, you may have seen sneeze guards at restaurant salad bars or in your local grocery store to protect open food from becoming contaminated. Today, they’re seen in most public buildings, car dealerships, doctors offices and hospitals, and can be paired with safely strips to help maintain social distancing requirements in meeting rooms, bathrooms and many other settings.
When is a Sneeze Guard Required?
While sneeze guards are not technically required by law to be used in most settings, ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the CDC says “the more, the merrier.” Any time exposure to others can be limited, it can only help reduce the transmission of airborne illness. This is the same reason the CDC recommends hanging wall, window and door signs that remind the public to wash hands and wear a mask whenever possible.
It’s recommended that sneeze guards be placed between employees and customers, students and staff, or employees in the office wherever possible. For the food and restaurant industry, state and national health regulation laws require sneeze guards to be used in:
- Restaurants with Buffets
- Hospital and School Cafeterias
- Portable Food Carts
- Self-Serve Fast Food Displays
To prevent accidental contamination, sneeze guards must be permanently affixed and therefore unable to be moved by staff or patrons.
What Are The Height Requirements For Sneeze Guards?
The National Sanitation Foundation says generally, sneeze guards should stand to reach the mouth height of a person who is six feet tall. Another general guideline for sneeze guards in any setting is said to be 60 inches, or, 5 feet from the floor, coupled with floor or tabletop signs that remind individuals to remain six feet apart in public settings.
Height requirements can be altered in special circumstances where those being served do not meet the general 60 inch height requirement, such as elementary schools or athletic training facilities.
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