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Promoting healthy workplaces

Mike_SullivanSomething as simple as increasing the frequency and effectiveness of hand washing can have a big impact on the wellbeing of a workforce and even help to reduce absenteeism, says Mike Sullivan, managing director of GOJO Industries-Europe

Sometimes the smallest actions can have the biggest impact. Establishing a thorough cleaning schedule in the workplace is key, however if employees don’t wash or sanitise their hands properly, a thorough cleaning schedule is not enough. Up to 80 per cent of all infections are transmitted by the hands1, therefore if just one employee comes into the office with a cold and doesn’t take care to follow good hand hygiene, the infection could easily spread around the whole workplace.

There can be no doubt that poor hand hygiene increases the likelihood of infections spread through a facility. Add to this startling research whereby 25 per cent of people don’t wash their hands after using the washroom2, while a further 46 per cent don’t wash long enough to be effective3 – and the scale of the problem becomes more apparent. Infections spreading around the workplace causes more employees to take time off sick, and can ultimately affect the overall productivity of a business, as well as the morale and well-being of its workforce.

Over 400 million working days were lost due to sickness absence between 2013 and 2015, including 138.7 million working days in 2015, according to the UK Office for National Statistics. At the same time, the recent Stoddart Review found that if just a one per cent productivity gain could be achieved in UK workforces, it could add almost £20 billion to our national output.

The message is simple: a comprehensive hand hygiene programme in the workplace can have a significant impact on the health of employees, reduce absenteeism, and demonstrate company commitment to employee wellbeing. This message is consistent with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) latest infection prevention and control guidance that highlights good hand hygiene as a core element to breaking the chain of infection in a facility.

WINTER ACTIVISM
Winter is cold and flu season, traditionally seeing an increase in contagious viral illnesses, which in some instances can be quite debilitating and lead to more time off work. The simple act of hand washing can make a huge difference to health, helping to prevent the spread of germs and reduce the chances of getting sick in the first place – ensuring wellbeing during the colder months and all year round.

ColdandfluThe washroom should be considered a germ hot spot by facilities managers, and infections that make their way on to the hands here, can easily be transferred to other surfaces throughout a building. Having the correct hygiene solutions and signage in place can help increase hand hygiene compliance, and ultimately boost the health of a facility. Other areas that should be targeted for hand hygiene solutions and awareness-raising campaigns include food and drink preparation areas such as communal kitchens and cafeterias, where attention to hand hygiene is of course paramount. Additional suitable locations include receptions and waiting areas, and on, or near desks in open plan offices.

Access to the right products and systems plays a critical role in the promotion of healthy hand hygiene, and can increase hand washing and sanitising compliance in a building. Creating and improving a healthy environment can be as simple as adjusting or upgrading hand hygiene facilities; enhancing the perception of a workplace as well as increasing hand hygiene in both staff and visitors.

A RANGE OF OPTIONS
Dispensers can be wall-mounted, free-standing, push-activated or touch-free – the latter models intuitively sense the presence of hands and dispense just the right amount of product every time. The fact that they are touch-free also increases their hygiene rating. Meanwhile, soaps can come in liquid or foam format, with or without fragrance; and hygienic hand rubs can also provide another level of protection in addition to washing hands. The best manufacturers will offer a wide range of hand hygiene solutions and will combine this with advice on the best place to site these in order to improve overall hand hygiene habits.

Soap dispensers should be placed in the washroom or where hand washing facilities are required. However, if water & soap is not available, alcohol hand rubs & other sanitising solutions are on hand in order to help provide an additional layer of protection against germs. Sanitiser dispensers can be installed near entrances and exits, next to coffee stations – in fact almost anywhere you can think of. Some of the best and most recent sanitiser dispensers on the market have been designed to make hand hygiene as accessible as possible, with very robust construction, compact dimensions and long-term reliability.

Meanwhile, the best manufacturers will also offer sanitary sealed refills for dispensers. This is where the product inside has been protected from contamination thanks to being factory sealed at the point of manufacture. A fresh valve with each refill is also important, as this means that the soap is never open to the environment and so cross contamination from the air or other sources is prevented.

Many people may not be aware that refillable bulk soap dispensers (ones in which new soap is poured into a dispenser) can actually help spread rather than prevent infections. This is because the soap inside can become contaminated with bacteria, particularly if dispensers are not properly cleaned or if soap is added to top off a partially empty dispenser.

GERM-FIGHTING EFFECTIVENESS
Efficacy of a soap or sanitiser formulation is another important issue, so only those companies who can prove the effectiveness of their soaps or their hand rubs against germs through independent scientific testing should be considered. The best products will successfully combine this with soothing, moisturising ingredients that are gentle on the skin, meaning that the products can be used again and again, safe in the knowledge that hands will be kept in good condition.

Gojo_hand_hygiene2Using products that both look and feel good can greatly enhance the washroom experience and they can also play a major role in encouraging healthy hand hygiene behaviour. To be truly successful, systems need to combine good aesthetics and accessibility, whilst being equipped with pleasant and effective hygienically advanced formulations. Hence, dispensers that look good and are easy to use, which are sited at convenient locations, are bound to be more popular.

RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT HAND HYGIENE
Facilities managers could also consider introducing public awareness posters about the importance of hand hygiene. The best hand hygiene companies can offer sound advice on the most effective approaches, and provide materials, based on their knowledge and market insights.

As well as ensuring the wider working environment is regularly and thoroughly cleaned, including desk surfaces and germ hotspots like kettles, door handles and railings, paying close attention to hand hygiene can also reap big rewards. The productivity of your business and the wellbeing of your workforce, and indeed wider society, can be boosted by adhering to hand hygiene best practice in the workplace. If you’re looking for the simplest but effective way of making a big impact on workplace wellbeing, look no further than championing a comprehensive hand hygiene programme.

WORKPLACE WELLBEING AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

  • The process of washing hands should take at least 20 seconds, making sure that the hands are washed correctly – wet hands with water, apply enough soap to cover all surfaces, rub palm to palm and carefully scrub fingers, back and front of hands and each thumb. Rinse with water and gently dry with a clean paper towel.
  • Hand sanitising is ideal when water and soap is not available, or as an additional layer of protection. Using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, whether foam, gel or wipes, significantly reduces the spread of germs. The process of sanitising hands should take at least 15 seconds to be effective – apply a palmful of hand sanitiser, covering all surfaces, rub the sanitiser into palms, fingers, back and front of hands and thumbs, continuing to rub hands together until they are dry.
  • Washing or sanitising hands is most crucial after using the washroom, before preparing food, before eating and after sneezing or coughing. Hands should be washed or sanitised after touching anything that may carry germs such as shopping trollies, handrails and other public areas.

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  1. www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/implementation/topics/immunization.html
  2. “Clean Living.” News Center, Press Releases. American Society for Microbiology and The Soap and Detergent Association, September 2007.
  3. “Clean Living.” 2008 Clean Hands Report Card. The Soap and Detergent Association, August 2008.

About Sarah OBeirne

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