It’s not hard to see why hand hygiene in the workplace is so important: we use our hands to carry out most tasks during the working day. At the same time, they are responsible for transmitting 80% of infections. To reduce the spread of germs and bacteria in their workplaces, health and safety managers need to take the provision of handwashing opportunities seriously.
But there’s more to hand hygiene than this, and for a hand hygiene programme to be at its most effective, it requires other elements – especially if health and safety managers want to avoid the threat of occupational skin disorders.
Skin problems acquired in the workplace can range from mild, short-term skin irritations to serious conditions such as occupational dermatitis. Research leaves no doubt about the seriousness of the problem: every year, around 3 million working days are lost because of occupational skin disorders, costing the EU an estimated €600m.
If employees are affected, companies might not only have to pay the salary of those absent due to occupational skin disorders; they might also have to cover the overtime incurred by those stepping in, as well as any overall losses. If employees leave, recruitment, training and support cost loom. And if news of incidents spread, bad publicity is inevitable.
Implement a dedicated skin care programme
A proven 4-step approach for hand hygiene identifies 4 crucial moments: applying protective cream before work; using appropriate hand cleansers throughout the day; sanitising where access to running water is not immediately accessible; and applying a restorative cream at the end of the day.
Cleansers and sanitisers, as well as protective and restorative products should be sourced from reputable companies who offer advice and guidance on their use. By taking into account the potential hazards the skin might come into contact with, as well as the specific nature of the work, skin experts are able to suggest the right cleansers and creams.
The installation of specifically designed, sealed cartridge dispensers is strongly recommended. Such dispensers provide the most hygienic system, by reducing to a minimum the risk of cross-infection that can occur if a number of people extract the product from an open or communal container.
Health and safety managers should also look for BioCote marked dispensers, a market-leading antimicrobial technology that is proven to achieve up to a 99.99% reduction in bacteria, mould and fungi over a 24-hour period.
But it’s not enough to put the right products in the right places. For a hand hygiene programme to work, it needs to include a dedicated programme of education and training. Materials such as leaflets, posters and information boards are widely available to help health and safety managers increase awareness of hand hygiene compliance.
The effort to combat occupational skin disorders should be an ongoing conversation between employers and employees – not just a one-off event that is quickly forgotten about. Regular staff meetings are a good way to keep the conversation going – and achieve the “buy in” that is necessary for a hand hygiene programme to be at its most effective. If employers and employees work together, they can go a long way to prevent occupational skin disorders – and keep their skin healthy in the workplace.
References Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work – https://osha.europa.eu/en/tools-and-publications/publications/factsheets/40
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