We are all aware that the HSE states that an employer has to provide “adequate toilet and washing facilities for employees”, but is your washroom provision as good as you think?
Studies show that people do not wash their hands frequently or adequately enough; the average person washes their hands for around 9 seconds and only 16% wash their hands at the recommended time periods.
Indeed, separate washroom studies from around the world show that only 78% of people wash their hands at all which means that 1 in every 5 is walking around with unwashed hands.
So, whilst you have provided a washroom solution, is this really the problem?
For any organisation, implementing and maintaining appropriate hand hygiene practices is going to be a daily challenge as there are inconsistent hand hygiene habits across the population. However, employers have a responsibility to provide adequate facilities for workers and addressing hand hygiene is an important part of this responsibility.
A report reveals that more than 60% of people feel that the toilet is the most unhygienic place visited on a daily basis.
A washroom environment should actively promote good personal hygiene practices; it is imperative that the washroom facilities are kept clean and in good condition, with an adequate supply of the basics such as washroom consumables and hand drying facilities.
So, what washroom products can you source to encourage regular use?
Washroom products should be sourced from a reputable company who offer advice and guidance on the use of their products. With regards to skin care products, it is important that products are not only effective, but that they are pleasant and easy to use as this will encourage regular use.
Washing with soap and water is the most familiar way of removing dirt and grime and provided the skin is not heavily soiled, it is a very effective method. However, choice of the correct soap is critical.
A good quality soap, that gives a good lather with the particular water supply, will provide safe and often adequate cleansing. However, some of the cheaper soaps and substitutes such as domestic detergents can be too harsh on the skin.
Similarly the use of solvents such as paraffin, thinners, petrol and white spirit should be avoided as should coarse abrasive such as pumice or sand as these will damage the outer surface of the skin and lead to skin problems; special skin cleansers should be used where deeply ingrained soilings are encountered.
What other factors should be considered when implementing effective hand hygiene practices?
The format for how products are used is also very important in the daily challenge of implementing effective hand hygiene practices. Wall-mounted dispensing systems that are colour-coded for ease of identification have long been recognised as the overall 'best practice' solution for delivering general skin care products. Such dispensers ensure the correct amount of product is used to minimise wastage and provide economy of material usage; they can also be permanently sited where they are needed the most.
Consideration should also be given to mobile or outdoor workers where no piped water supply is available. Special skin cleansers formulated for use without water or moist wipes specifically developed for skin cleansing provide a simple answer to the lack of plumbed washing facilities, although the skin should be washed with soap and water at the next convenient opportunity.
The correct method of cleaning is also an important factor as developing a good hand washing technique is imperative to ensure hands are thoroughly clean. Particular attention should be paid to the backs of the hands and fingertips as these are frequently missed.
Whichever method of skin cleansing is used, the skin should always be properly dried to avoid risk of chapping particularly during cold weather.
Should employers introduce a hand sanitiser as part of their organisation’s regular hand hygiene regime if they are using the best skin care products available?
The answer to this is ‘yes’, in addition to providing adequate hand washing facilities, employers can encourage good hand hygiene practices by promoting the use of a hand sanitiser; applied regularly to clean, dry hands to complement routine hand washing to reduce the risk of germ transfer by insufficient hand washing.
Everyone should use a hand sanitiser as they enter and leave their main work environment; this is particularly important in large communal offices. It is known that enclosed environments, where people who are working or interacting in close proximity with one another, whether in a workplace, public facility or leisure environment are at a higher risk of the spread of germs.
A hand sanitiser should be reapplied every 2-3 hours and certainly immediately after coughing, sneezing or touching surfaces or equipment likely to have been contaminated. It is particularly important to use a sanitiser prior to consuming food e.g. before a working lunch/finger buffet.
As working culture changes, practices such as hot-desking or eating lunch at your desk are considered to be conventional workplace behaviour. Consequently, our offices have become “bacteria cafeterias” as we transfer germs, invisible to the naked eye, from home to work and back again.
So, in addition to providing adequate washroom facilities, what can employers do to educate employees on the importance of adopting good hand hygiene practices?
Employers can encourage good hand hygiene practice by providing easy-to-understand awareness materials such as posters, stickers for use in the washrooms, on floors, mirrors and doors as well as reminders on company intranets of the importance of keeping hands clean. With modern day substrates, such as removable wall vinyls, stickers can be used and replaced without leaving any residue on walls, floors or mirrors.
Employers can also work with their washroom services suppliers to create a communications campaign to educate people why they should keep their hands clean. Free downloadable posters are readily available from established suppliers to help promote good hand hygiene practices.
So, by having a systemised approach to skin care, combined with programmes to educate employees about their skin, employers can provide a simple yet cost-effective solution to help all employees adopt good hand hygiene practices.
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