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Mis-LEEDing information made clear: Understanding hand hygiene as it applies to green cleaning

Armand Coppotelli
September 23, 2014

LEED hand hygieneRecently, a sales representative was informed by a distributor that a manufacturer promised the distributorʼs customer they could gain 10 points toward their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-Existing Buildings (LEEDEB) certification program just by purchasing his companyʼs hand cleaners.


Time To Clear Up Confusion


There seems to be confusion and misinformation about the role of hand cleansers and sanitizers in regards to the U.S. Green Building Councilʼs (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) certification program.


LEED-EBOM certification is based upon meeting and maintaining performance standards for sustainable, ongoing operations of existing buildings.


The standards include, for example, maintenance programs of a buildingʼs exterior and site and efficiently using water and energy.


One of the standardʼs concerns is green cleaning programs.


Included in the green cleaning program is the following statement: “Development of strategies for promoting and improving hand hygiene, including both handwashing and the use of alcohol- based waterless hand sanitizers.”


Other specifications for hand hygiene products state that the products contain no antimicrobial agents, except as a preservative (exceptions: Where required by health codes and other regulations, such as food service areas and health care requirements); additionally, that products are certified under Green Seal Inc.ʼs Environmental Standard for Hand Cleaners and Hand Soaps Used for Industrial and Institutional Purposes (GS-41) or TerraChoice Environmental Marketingʼs Standard for Industrial & Institutional Hand Cleaners (CCD-104), as offered through their EcoLogo Program.


However, the obvious key point to green cleaning in regards to hand cleansers and sanitizers is the development, promotion and improvement of a hand hygiene program throughout the facility.


How Would A Facility Create Such A Program?


Here are some suggestions:

  • Designate a project leader who can then assemble a committee to assist with the program implementation. Walk through your building, noting restrooms. Are the basics for hand hygiene supplied, such as warm water, cleanser, paper towels or air drying devices? Note any areas that need upgrading. Do the same with common areas, such as shared wash stations on the work floor or break rooms. Finally, check individual or personal spaces, such as offices, cubicles and conference rooms. These are good locations for alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • Communicate your green cleaning policy of hand hygiene to your employees or building tenants, if applicable. Be creative. Printed letters on company stationery may not be as effective as e-mails or postcards, flyers, etc.

  • Set up reminders. Posters, inexpensive promotional items and rewards for handwashing compliance keep the program active. Check with your vendors to obtain product literature, posters and educational materials at no cost or at a nominal fee. Check the Internet for free materials, such as videos on proper handwashing from

  • Surveys can help you track your success rate. Pre-program surveys can establish your baseline for handwashing compliance. Periodic surveys help track improvements.


Keep in mind that there are two requirements for any hand hygiene program to be effective and successful: Education and product availability.


hand washing 4Education

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the single most important way to prevent the spread of diseases is to frequently wash hands with soap and water.


It is vital to educate workers about the importance of hand hygiene and to inform them that participation can help prevent physician visits and lost work time.


This is an important point for reducing “soft costs” by implementing a hand hygiene program.


Timely health topics, such as helping to prevent the spread of the H1N1 influenza A (swine flu) virus, can motivate employees to actively participate and embrace a hand hygiene program.


Training posters, pamphlets and videos offer excellent support for your efforts to educate employees on the proper techniques of handwashing and hand sanitizing.


Product Availability

Equally important to the education of workers to proper hand hygiene is the availability of effective skin care products.


In this current economic environment,  where all companies are tightening their belts and cutting costs wherever possible, purchasing agents and other personnel looking at budgetary entries may scrutinize employee health and safety programs.


You canʼt meet LEED-EBOMʼs hand hygiene requirements unless appropriate Green Seal-certified or EcoLogo Programcertified hand cleansers are supplied continuously.


You must also supply warm water and hand drying choices to assure that all the components are available in the hand hygiene program.


While not intended as a definitive program outline, it is our hope that these points will “LEED” you to a better understanding of LEED-EBOM certification in regards to green cleaning and hand hygiene program requirements.


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