What You Need to Know About Hand Hygiene in the Workplace
Take a moment to think just how reliant you are on your hands. From flicking on the light switch first thing in the morning and getting dressed, to making and eating breakfast, to driving to work, to making telephone calls and typing on a laptop – we spend our day to day lives coming into contact with hundreds of objects.
That is why hand hygiene in the workplace is so important. In the course of a typical day, our hands pick up hundreds of thousands of microorganisms from all the various surfaces they come into contact with. Some of these are harmless. Others are responsible for illnesses such as colds, flu, diarrhea, vomiting bugs and sometimes things even more serious.
In a busy place of work, with dozens of hands touching the same objects throughout the day, these germs get spread around easily. If there is a sudden outbreak of a particular illness in an organisation, the infection has more likely that not been passed from hand to hand.
Hand hygiene should therefore form part of the occupational health policy of every employer. Put simply, keeping people’s hands clean will help keep a workforce healthy. Here are some of the key things you need to know about promoting better hand hygiene.
Good hand hygiene starts in the bathroom. Going to the toilet is when some of the nastier germs can make it onto our hands and from there, without adequate cleaning routines, be spread from surface to surface.
The essentials of good hand hygiene in washrooms are hot water and a good supply of ant-bacterial hand wash. Washrooms should be inspected regularly not only to make sure they are in a clean and hygienic state, but also to check that soap, toilet roll, paper towels and so on are in good supply.
There has been some controversy over the use of washroom hand dryers with regards to hygiene, with the suggestion that they blow bacteria into the environment. However, this misses the point that hands should be thoroughly cleaned before the drying stage. Air dryers also produce no physical waste, whereas used paper towels not properly disposed off can become both unsightly and unsanitary.
A growing number of employers are choosing to make alcohol-based hand sanitiser available throughout their place of work. This is particularly useful in ‘high traffic’ areas where there are likely to be a lot of people using and touching the same objects throughout the day. Some examples of where hand sanitiser supplies are particularly common are in kitchen areas and around photocopiers and printers, or any other type of shared, communal equipment.
Finally, making all the resources available to improve hand hygiene will only go so far without explaining the importance to members of staff. Education has to be at the heart of hand hygiene policy in the workplace, both to inform people of the role hands play in the distribution of communicable diseases, and helping them to understand what they can do to improve it.