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Sneeze guards. Unless you are in the restaurant or foodservice industry, you probably didn't think much about them before March 2020. Sneeze guards weren't in the budget this year, and yet here we are during this pandemic, faced with developing a strategy to keep both employees and the public safe.
Sneeze guards have become a large part of this plan, which may leave you with questions regarding what is right for your application.
I want to share some insight into four common questions we have come across.
#1 What is a sneeze guard?
A sneeze guard is simply a polycarbonate plastic or plexiglass structure used to act as a barrier between two people, decreasing the chance for bacteria and viruses to spread between them. Sneeze guards are also referred to as sneezing guards, sneeze shields, acrylic sneeze guards, or plexiglass sneeze guards. You can learn more about them here.
#2 What size sneeze guard do I need?
OSHA defines the breathing zone as the area "within a 10-inch radius of the worker's nose or mouth." A sneeze guard will protect the "breathing zone" in face to face contact. It helps reduce direct exposure to respiratory droplets that can be expelled while talking, coughing, or sneezing.
When considering size, you will want to account for your sneeze guard to have at least a 10-inch radius around the mouth and nose of the person(s) you are protecting. You should consider if the wearer will be seated, standing, or moving around, as this will impact the overall height and width of the recommended sneeze guard.
The size of the base is also important. Many counters are narrow, so be sure to measure your counter and inquire about the size of the sneeze guard base. You will want the base to fit within the countertop without overhang.
#3 Which material is best when it comes to sneeze guards?
When it comes to sneeze guards, material is important. Below we highlight the two most popular materials: acrylic and polycarbonate. Both are used in the manufacturing of sneeze guards.
Consider product strength. Will your shield easily crack or break if it is hit or dropped? Acrylic is 10 times stronger than glass, and polycarbonate is 100 times stronger. In terms of strength, Polycarbonate wins hands down, as it maintains its strength after fabrication, whereas acrylic can lose its strength.
Visibility and safety concerns. Ideally, you want a sneeze guard that is mostly transparent, yet not invisible. You don’t want it to obscure site, however, you certainly don't need employees or customers bumping into it! Acrylic is 100% clear, with clear edging as well. Polycarbonate is see-through; however, it has a slightly "smokey" or "bluish" tint to the edging of the material, making it more visible. You won't have to add the unsightly red tape or other stickers to highlight the corners as you may with acrylic. Watch out for those corners, too! The manufacturing process is essential; if the edges aren't routered, they may be sharp!
#4 When will my sneeze guards arrive?
You will certainly want to ask where your sneeze guard is manufactured, as well as the lead time for shipping. Many of the less expensive options are produced and shipped from overseas, which means it may be weeks before you receive your purchase.
Ask for the manufacturing location, shipping carriers, and expected lead times to ensure you are purchasing from a company that can meet your timeline! No one wants to place a critical order and then miss a deadline due to a long lead time!
As we all navigate the changes and protections we are putting in place, Trillium is here to serve you! Visit TrilliumNOW.com to view our Trishield Sneeze Guards. We offer a variety of sizes and styles all made of polycarbonate and manufactured right here in the USA!