Editor’s note: This summary article was extracted from an article title “Running water, soap and 20 seconds” written by Phillip Lawless and originally appeared in Cleaning & Maintenance Magazine.
Everyone experiences sickness throughout their lives. It is something that no one wants to deal with, but at the same time everyone will at some point or another. There is no way to completely eliminate or prevent illnesses. However, there are some ways that you can help prevent them from occurring. The simplest way is something that you were taught as a child, and that is to simply wash your hands.
Hygiene is essential in any working condition. Crowded buildings and high-traffic restrooms are the perfect area for germs and illness causing bacteria’s to reside. So in order to help reduce the spread of germs and illnesses employers should have rules and regulations regarding hand washing, and make sure the employees are actively aware of the seriousness of hand hygiene. This will help reduce the illness rate and overall increase productivity within your facility.
The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) is where you want to visit for hand washing facts, programs, etc. The CDC does a fantastic job of helping to promote and make the public aware of the importance of hand washing. Every year they have a Global Hand Washing Day, which takes place on October 15. At this past years event the CDC broke the Guinness Book of World Records for hand washing attempts, had the Golden poo video awards in the UK, and hosted hand washing lessons and events for 65,000 in the state of Georgia. So as you can see they were very active in helping to ensure and promote hand hygiene.
CDC materials presented showed that cleaning your hands only include three Items: soap, water, and some way of drying your hands. It is one thing to just rinse your hand, but if you want to help prevent the spread of bacteria you should wash your hands thoroughly. This process would include wetting your hands with running water, applying soap, washing entire hand for at least twenty seconds, rinse, and dry. The CDC suggest washing hands after numerous activities, but the times they find most important are before and after caring for someone who is ill, after using the toilet, and after touching garbage. If there is no soap and water readily available, then the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Sanitizers are to be used as a temporary solution. The reason for this is because in some circumstances the sanitizer will remove germs on hand, but they typically do not eliminate all types of germs. Sanitizers do not work nearly as well if the dirt is visible, hence prior washing is necessary.
The last suggestion the CDC has is to disinfect frequently touched surfaces. These should be cleaned constantly. This will be a way to help contain, prevent the spreading, and kill germs. These surfaces should be cleaned often, but even more so when someone is ill.
One Company Bradley Corporation, has been conducting a yearly Healthy Hand Washing Survey for the last five years. Jon Dommisse, Bradley’s director of global marketing stated that the company uses this data collected to make their products more customer focused.
The survey this past year asked 1,015 American adults about their hand washing habits. The age was ranged from 18 to 65 and were almost evenly split between men and women.
One of the finding from the survey was that 95 percent of the people surveyed know that they should wash their hands after using a restroom. Of the total people surveyed seventy percent of them admitted to skipping the step of using soap, which is 15 percent higher than the previous year.
So now everyone is probably wondering why are they not using soap? The main answers they received were that there was no soap, the sink or soap dispensers were broken, or the facilities were too unclean. These responses show how managers and other employees can change what they are doing to help focus on hand hygiene.
Another key aspect finding of the survey is the difference between males and females hand hygiene. The survey showed that 74 percent of women always wash their hands in public restrooms, whereas only 60 percent of men do. With that being said cleaners may want to spend a little more time cleaning the men’s facility.
Jon Dommisse agrees with the CDC that washing with soap is the number one way to prevent the spreading of germs. Scientists believe that our hands alone can spread up to 80 percent of all infections. So this reiterates the importance of hand washing to help stop the spread of illnesses.
Dommisse States that illnesses that are able to be spread by poor hygiene practices include, diarrheal diseases, food-borne illnesses, respiratory infections, etc. To back this Dommisse provided a few examples. First, washing hands with just soap and water has the potential to reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50 percent. Secondly, Researchers in London made an estimate that if everyone washed their hands regularly, one million deaths a year could be prevented. Lastly, hand washing has the potential to reduce respiratory infections by 16 percent.
In 2011 scientist at the University of Colorado examined the microbial biogeography of public restroom surfaces in 2011, and their findings were astonishing. They found that 19 bacterial phyla’s were in these areas. Some of the bacteria was found on the toilet seat and floors. However, the vast majority of bacteria was found with the hand washing process. The exterior of soap dispensers were found to have more bacteria than the toilet seats themselves. So once again, this is another area were cleaners should give more care too.
After going through his companies findings, Dommisse offered up some of his own advice. He first suggest that obtaining durable hand washing items and well-maintained/stocked facilities. With having a well maintained restroom you may very well be encouraging people to clean their hands more. On top this you also want to ensure that you restroom is garbage free and air freshener is used to keep a strong appeal.
Another piece of advice that Dommisse passes forward is the thought of using touchless fixtures. This is a good idea because this is a way to help prevent germs from forming, and to help prevent the spreading of ones that have already formed. This will ultimately help in getting the whole facility more hygienic.
Hand hygiene is essential in the work force. It is a way to help prevent the spreading of bacteria’s and illnesses. It is an issue that all companies should make sure that they address. As an employer you should make sure that all your employees know the importance of hand hygiene, and how to properly perform it. The CDC website is a great way for individuals to get informed. If places are to improve their hand hygiene, then this in turn will help improve the overall quality of the facility. Just remember it only takes about 30 seconds.