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Last Updated on April 21, 2023
Hand hygiene is a crucial aspect of maintaining overall health and preventing the spread of diseases, particularly in public spaces and workplaces.
As businesses grapple with the consequences of poor hand hygiene, including increased sick days, lost revenue, and damage to brand reputation, it is vital to prioritize and promote effective hand hygiene practices.
A comprehensive understanding of hand hygiene involves not only the use of appropriate products like soap and sanitizers but also the application of proper techniques.
Ensuring that individuals have access to well-maintained public restrooms and high-quality hygiene products is essential in encouraging the adoption of good hand hygiene habits.
In recent years, the importance of hand hygiene has become increasingly apparent, with organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) providing guidelines and recommendations for effective handwashing techniques.
As the world continues to navigate the challenges posed by infectious diseases such as COVID-19, adherence to proper hand hygiene practices is more important than ever.
In this blog post, we will delve into the various aspects of hand hygiene, exploring its impact on public health, the cost of poor hand hygiene for businesses, and the best practices for promoting and maintaining proper hand hygiene in the workplace and beyond. Join us as we uncover the importance of hand hygiene and its role in safeguarding the well-being of individuals and communities.
The Cost of Poor Hand Hygiene
No business wants to face the risks and costs that can come with poor hand hygiene.
From leaving customers with a gastrointestinal illness, to facing an increase of sickdays taken by your staff, the importance of hand hygiene is not to be underestimated.
Unfortunately, poor hand hygiene often occurs when there is a lack of:
- education on proper technique
- poor public bathroom facilities
- outdated washroom hygiene infrastructure
- low quality soaps and sanitizers
But, with the right information, technique and washroom hygiene services practicing proper hand hygiene becomes easy and dare we say, enjoyable for your colleagues and customers.
Read on to learn everything there is to know about effective hand hygiene practices and provisions in workplace and public bathrooms today!
What is hand hygiene?
Hand hygiene is the act of using the right technique and products like soap and sanitizer to clean one’s hands to reduce the number of harmful pathogens present.
Proper hand hygiene prevents the spread of infection and reduces chances of illness, whereas poor hand hygiene can encourage germs and bacteria to replicate, resulting in a greater spread of infection and disease.
Poor hand hygiene can cost businesses lost work time, lost revenue and even damage brand reputation with customer complaints.
Whether your business is in food, health, child or recreation services – if you have employees that work closely together, or direct interaction with clients and customers, hand hygiene should be a top priority for your business.
Yet, the importance of hand hygiene can often be overlooked, even with the negative consequences brought to light. If people become sick in the workplace, this can lead to more employee sick days and reduced productivity, lowering sales, profits and making for a less engaged workforce.
However, by providing the necessary hand hygiene facilities within your business that encourage good hygiene practices, you can prove to your visitors that you take hygiene seriously and protect all those who come and go, including your own employees.
With hands being the main pathway for the transmission of harmful germs, practising good hand hygiene is vital. Hand hygiene best practices should be reinforced and encouraged to avoid any risk of ill health, both at home and in the workplace, from visitors to customers to employees.
Expert opinions on hand hygiene
Hand hygiene is becoming more important than ever in public health, as Professor Didier Pittet from the WHO (World Health Organization) reinstates in their global hand hygiene campaign outreach. The WHO have worked hard to share preventative measures to promote good hand hygiene and infection control actions, reducing the risk of disease especially in healthcare settings.
Proper hand washing is one of the most important actions we can take in preventing the spread of bacteria. The Government of Canada expresses how important washing your hands frequently is in order to prevent illness, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic. It may sound simple but not nearly as many people as you think do it effectively, or at all!
In the above video, Dr. Gerba talks about the impact of soap dispensers on infection transmission. He says that you are more likely to come into contact with more germs on a refillable soap dispenser than anywhere else in a restroom because you can’t tell contamination is occurring and can’t see bacteria growing.
Not all bacteria can be removed in daily cleaning so hand hygiene is the first line of defense in infection control. He says facility managers have a responsibility to ensure effective, proper soap is provided so users can wash their hands properly.
Numerous studies around the world have been done in relation to hand hygiene. From understanding why and how people comply to the relationship between preventing infectious diseases. Research has even been conducted around why levels of hand hygiene compliance may be low due to lack of knowledge, skin irritation and lack of policy.
The answer: proper hand hygiene education, facilities and products.
More guidance on the importance of hand hygiene can be found on the Canadian Government’s website and The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) publishes up to date information on infection control that can be accessed by provinces, territories and healthcare organizations.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) publishes relevant information about the importance of hand hygiene and how to maintain proper hygiene in public settings.
10 important things you should know about hand hygiene
1. Hand hygiene & the spread of infections
In order to understand why hand hygiene is so important, we must also understand what happens during the process of infection transmission.
An infection can occur when a germ enters the body, multiplies and then causes the body to fight and react. In order for the spread of infection to be successful, three stages need to be in place:
- The source: the source is where infections (germs) live – sinks, skin, surfaces etc.
- A susceptible person with a way for germs to enter the body.
- Final transmission: the way that germs are moved to a susceptible person.
Hands usually play a critical role in the transmission of germs from the source to the person.
The source: virus, bacteria & harmful microbes
Germs can be found everywhere, some surfaces more so than others, for example, wet surfaces, office desks, shopping carts – areas you may not expect and most likely have contact with every day!
The source is important as this is where the initial bacteria or virus lives and can be caught.
While some germs can actually be good for you – the ones that promote a healthy body and stop us from getting ill, some germs can be harmful if you come into contact with them.
There are four main types of germs: bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa.
Covid-19, influenza and gastroenteritis are common illnesses caused by viral infections, while common bacterial infections are tonsillitis and urinary tract infections. Our guide provides more information on the differences between bacteria and viruses.
Before infection transmission can occur, preventative measures can be implemented such as regular cleaning and disinfecting shared spaces to avoiding food and drink that may be contaminated with harmful germs
A susceptible person
A person is susceptible to infection if they are not vaccinated or immune to germs.
A healthy immune system prevents infection by fighting it, whereas a person who is susceptible may be more prone to catching an infection.
There are several factors that can decrease a person’s immune system function and ability to fight off incoming infections.
These factors include:
- Underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or cancer can compromise the immune system’s ability to fight off infection.
- The use of certain medications, like antibiotics and steroids, can increase the risk of some types of infections.
- Medical treatments such as catheters and incisions from surgery can increase the risk of infection by providing new ways for germs to access and enter the body.
Transmission is the transfer of the illness from the carrier onto the susceptible person, whether it be through physical contact, sharps or inhalation.
If we touch an object that has been sneezed on or touched by someone carrying harmful germs, then we could be susceptible to catching an illness ourselves. This is where hand hygiene comes into play.
By washing or sanitizing our hands, we can kill any harmful germs that we may have picked up by touching contaminated surfaces or objects.
2. How hand washing supports hand hygiene
Washing your hands can be one of the easiest yet most important ways to clean off any germs that may cause infections such as the flu or common cold.
In order to practice hand hygiene correctly, it’s vital to understand the correct ways in which you should be washing your hands to reap the benefits.
Whether you’re looking to place essential hand sanitizer solutions around the workplace to protect against infection or commercial soap dispensers that encourage proper hand hygiene, these devices will be your best bet in masking off germs and bacteria.
Both the classic soap and water method and hand washing using sanitizer methods are effective ways to disinfect and clean your hands.
Don’t forget to dry your hands too as damp hands can spread bacteria 1000x faster than dry hands.
3. How to wash your hands with soap & water
Germs can get onto your hands throughout the day and therefore handwashing with soap and water can help remove any bacteria and chemicals you may have come into contact with.
Here’s the protocol you should take when washing your hands, every time:
- Wet your hands with water
- Apply a decent amount of effective soap solution to cover your hands
- Rub the palm of your hands together
- Rub your palms together interlacing your fingers
- Rub the back of your hands
- Scrub the base of your thumbs
- Wash fingernails
- Rinse your hands from the soap
- Dry your hands thoroughly with hand dryer with a HEPA filter, such as Dyson or clean paper towels
More guidance on how to wash your hands with soap and water can be found in our helpful handwashing poster. This poster can be displayed around your facilities to promote excellent hygiene all year round.
How hot does the water need to be when washing your hands?
There’s been a number of studies conducted over how hot the water should be to wash your hands.
Research conducted in Florida investigated exactly how many microbes remain on hands after washing hands in water in different temperatures using the glove-juice technique. The researchers found that there was no real difference between the number of bacteria left on hands in water that was cold, luke-warm or hot.
While there’s evidence to suggest that heat kills bacteria, the ideal temperature is really one that we can comfortably wash our hands under for the right length of time (at least 20 seconds). You don’t want to be washing your hands in boiling hot or ice cold water to the degree where you’re discouraged to practice proper hand washing.
4. How hand sanitizer makes for better hand hygiene
Purell has purposefully protected people (see what we did there?) from germs for 35 years.
If a soap and water option is unavailable, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol will be your next best option.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer can kill most types of germs found on your hands and can keep you safe from any harmful bacteria throughout the day.
- Start with dry, visibly clean, hands
- Apply a coin-sized amount of hand sanitizer to the palm of your hand
- Rub the hand sanitizer solution into your hands until dry, in a similar motion you would do when washing your hands with soap
- Avoid touching anything before your hands are totally dry
By placing hand sanitizer solutions like the Gojo hand sanitizer refill stations all around your workplace and necessary signage to enforce the importance of proper hand washing, you can provide peace of mind for your employees and visitors.
Surface and hand wipes should also be stocked around the workplace to prevent cross contamination and ensure users have full access to cleaning equipment to feel safe within your facilities.
Download our how to clean your hands with sanitizer poster.
It may also be helpful to display ‘Please Use Hand Sanitizer’ display posters alongside hand sanitizer stations in your organization.
5. How to perform hand hygiene throughout the day
Hand hygiene should be performed as regularly as possible throughout the day.
However, in order to ensure your working facilities are totally free from contamination or bacteria, staff should be encouraged to perform hand hygiene before and after specific daily tasks or occurrences, such as:
- After coughing or blowing your nose
- Before and after making or eating food
- After using the washroom
- After using your laptop, keyboard or any office facilities
- After travelling or driving
- After touching animals
- After dealing with garbage
- Before and after treating a cut or a wound
- Before and after caring for someone who is ill
It’s also advisable to wash your hands regularly especially if you have been in contact with any items that are potentially germ hotspots such as door handles, keyboards, phones and fridge doors.
6. Hand washing tips & timeline
When washing your hands with soap and water, you should be washing for the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” – twice!
In other words, wash your hands for around 20-30 seconds for the hand hygiene process to be effective and to reduce the risk of illness.
After washing your hands choose the most sanitary hand drying method available: usually it’s using a touch-free hand dryer, but it depends on which brand and model is available. To learn more about how sanitary hand dryers are, check out our blog on hand dryers vs. paper towels.
7. The best soap to sanitize your hands for optimal hand hygiene
There are numerous types of soap on the market including foam, liquid, gel and bar soap which can all be used for effective hand hygiene. However, it’s said that liquid and gel variations are better than bar soap as there is less risk of contamination between users and the latter should not be provided in public washrooms.
Some soaps are fragranced; some are not. Several studies have reported that there are no additional benefits in using an antibacterial soap compared with plain soaps.
8. Alcohol vs non-Alcohol commercial hand sanitizer – which one is better?
When soap and water is not available, an effective sanitizer can be used for hand hygiene.
Hand sanitizer can be particularly effective in community settings, when you’re out and about and don’t have access to a sink and water, but are touching a variety of germ-laden surfaces.
The CDC has stated that hand sanitizers with over 60% alcohol are most effective, so check the label or with your hygiene services provider to ensure what you are using will actually work. Find more guidance on the differences between alcoholic and alcohol-free hand sanitizer to help you make an informed decision about which solution is best for your business.
9. The difference between a virus & bacteria
The main difference between viruses and bacteria is the way in which they survive: viruses cannot survive without a host and can only reproduce by attaching themselves to cells, whereas bacteria can survive without a host and reproduce by dividing and replicating.
Viruses are always harmful and can be very specific on the cells they attack which ends up causing disease, whereas bacteria can either be harmful, or actually beneficial to your health.
10. Covid-19 and hand hygiene habits
The Coronavirus pandemic presented businesses with challenges and the impact on health and the economy has been huge.
For many employers, the pandemic has completely re-shaped the way in which they do business.
In a recent study, Citron Hygiene explored this in more detail; surveying 2000 Canadians to give businesses an insight into their colleagues and customers’ attitudes to facility hygiene in a post-coronavirus world.
Download the full report into the effect of Covid-19 on hand hygiene habits.
Display hand hygiene posters to encourage effective hand sanitizing routines
Whether you’re looking to maintain hygiene in your organization or looking for ways to improve standards, as experts in hygiene, we want to share our resources with you to better equip your business with the correct hygiene knowledge. This way your staff and visitors can play a part in building a healthier, safer space within your organization.
View and download our free resources and posters that you can display in your business to educate all those who come and go.
Improve hand hygiene in your business
Hand washing is fundamental to tackling the spread of infection, and so too is hand drying, therefore it’s important that your business provides the right solutions to encourage effective routines – like picking the right hand dryer for your space.
If you need help with choosing the best hand hygiene solutions for your business, speak to the Citron Hygiene team for more information.
Explore our full range of solutions to achieve maximum hand hygiene in your organization: