Hand hygiene is no new phenomenon. The importance of good practice in this area has been well documented over the years, but despite this it continues to challenge businesses as one of the leading contributors to ill-health in the workplace. Growing levels of antibiotic resistance and a lack of continued investment in educational resource put many at a disadvantage when tackling the problem.
To combat germs, it isn’t always about adopting the latest technology or trialling new products. Businesses should first take time to re-evaluate the basics of hand hygiene in order to understand how and where improvements can be made. Here’s a list of considerations businesses must make to actively stop the spread of germs and maintain a healthy workforce.
- Educate According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC), hand washing using soap and clean water is still the most effective way of removing germs, but only if it is done correctly. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the recommended 20-second time it takes to wash hands and kill the germs that cause infection. Educating employees with posters detailing this information as well as incorporating helpful signposts throughout a workspace reminding staff to wash their hands will encourage more regular and thorough washing.
- Avoid deterrents Using soaps that are too harsh on the skin will deter people from using them. Make sure cleansers are moisturising and kind to skin. You can also increase the likelihood of employees using soaps and sanitisers by having them nearby. Don’t limit them to washrooms.
- Stock control Regularly reviewing stock levels and identifying any usage changes will ensure that there are no gaps in product use, giving a chance for infections to spread. Businesses who have recently recruited but haven’t considered the extra pairs of hands using sanitisers and hand gels for example. Be prepared and have contingency stock.
- Contract cleaners Understanding the areas that contract cleaners focus on within a business, as well as the products they use, will ascertain whether known germ-harbouring areas are being effectively and frequently cleaned. Door handles, lift buttons, water cooler dispensers and printers are just some of the less obvious areas where germs can quickly spread from person to person. Some businesses also have policies in place whereby cleaners cannot clean employees’ desks. In these instances, and especially when hot-desking is more commonplace (when colleagues often use each other’s workspace), having easily accessible wipes, sprays and gels in multiple locations promotes a company-inclusive approach to hygiene.
- Technology Removing the need for touch is a sure way of reducing the spread of germs. Automatic toilet flushers, hand sanitisers, bins and doors are just some of the ways businesses can stop the transfer of bacteria within the workplace. If incorporating such technology isn’t feasible however, there are alternative products available that will still play an important role in combatting germs. For example, many dispensers are now available with antibacterial bio-coatings to reduce the spread of germs between users. Using bins with a foot pedal to operate for example or purchasing single-use cleaning products such as paper towels and antibacterial wipes will also help to safeguard hands from contamination.
- All year protection Businesses shouldn’t confine good hand hygiene to the winter months. Unfortunately, illnesses and infections, including influenza, can spread at any time of year. Enacting cultural change throughout the whole of an organisation will go a long way in helping drive down levels of workplace illness and absenteeism.
- Find the right business solutions Speak with your cleaning and hygiene distributor to understand the best products and services for your business. Good suppliers should be recommending new or alternative products and providing information on the best options to support better hand hygiene. Businesses can inadvertently be reducing their protection against germs by using multiple products which can make some less effective, or not using products with enough concentrate for example. Knowing exactly what products to buy and how and where to use them will give businesses confidence in their efforts to protect employee health and wellbeing.
By Rob Abrahams, European head of cleaning and hygiene at Office Depot EU