The threat posed by hand to surface transmission of bacteria and viruses has never been more in the public conscious than right now. The understanding that we are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain has underpinned the best practices of the many businesses which have now returned or are returning to work.
Of course, there will be lasting cultural change as we emerge from the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 but will continually need to educate on and encourage effective hand hygiene.
The information presented in this guide is based on the latest UK Government guidance and other agencies. It concentrates purely on hand hygiene but recognises that effective hand hygiene can only be achieved in conjunction with cleaning and disinfection of surfaces.
So, as we make plans to return to work there is a requirement to increase the availability and frequency of handwashing and sanitising. But what does this mean in reality and what steps can be taken to achieve this?
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Government Guidelines on Hand Hygiene
The Government has provided guidance for different industry sectors to help them prepare for staff returning to the workplace whilst maintaining social distancing requirements.
Returning to Work Safely
As part of the 5 Steps for Returning to Work Safely step 2 focuses on cleaning and hygiene, recommending the following:
Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
You should increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning by:
- Encouraging people to follow the guidance on handwashing and hygiene
- Providing hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms
- Frequently cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly
- Enhancing cleaning for busy areas
- Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets
- Providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical dryers
How Can this be Achieved?
- Provide additional handwashing facilities on site.
- Use signs and posters to build awareness of the importance of hand hygiene and good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency, avoid touching your face and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available.
- Use signs to remind everyone to maintain hygiene standards.
- Take steps to maintain social distancing in washrooms by preventing the use of some cubicles, urinals and basins.
- Establish clear guidelines on the frequency and process for the cleaning of washrooms, paying particular attention to portable toilets and to ensure social distancing is achieved as much as possible.
- Provide facilities for hand drying including paper towels or hand dryers.
- Provide hand sanitiser facilities for anyone handling goods and merchandise.
- For those wearing face coverings hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds (or the use of hand sanitiser) before applying the face covering and following its removal.
- When social distancing isn’t possible due to the nature of the task the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning needs to be further increased.
- Anyone providing assistance in the case of an accident or emergency must pay particular attention to sanitation measures immediately afterwards, this includes washing hands as soon as possible.
- Avoid touching surfaces unnecessarily, for example, touching products whilst browsing.
- Try to avoid passing items hand to hand, instead place them in a pick-up point.
- Increase cleaning of key touchpoints such as door handles.
- Provide Hand Sanitiser throughout the workplace.
- To encourage good hand hygiene practices by customers, visitors and staff, hand sanitiser and/or handwashing stations should be provided at key points throughout your premises in addition to washrooms.
Provide Hand Sanitiser Throughout the Workplace
To encourage good hand hygiene practices by customers, visitors and staff, hand sanitiser and/or handwashing stations should be provided at key points throughout your premises in addition to washrooms.
- Handwashing or hand sanitising facilities should be provided at entry and exit points.
- Hand sanitisers should be made available in meeting rooms.
- Reduce maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts, and encouraging the use of stairs wherever possible.
For handwashing to be truly effective it needs to be done correctly. A quick rinse with water is not enough! The NHS provides guidance on the best way to wash your hands.
Displaying posters at basins and hand sanitiser stations will help to encourage good practice.
Use the link provided to download these free posters which you can print and display throughout your business here.
Are you using enough soap or sanitiser?
For handwashing to be effective, enough soap or sanitiser must be used to cover the whole surface of your hands and wrists.
When should you wash your hands?
As a minimum, make sure you wash your hands (or use sanitiser) after/below the following:
- After using the toilet or changing a nappy
- Before and after handling raw foods like meat and vegetables
- Before eating or handling food
- After blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After touching animals, including pets, their food and after cleaning their cages
Hand Washing Technique with Soap and Water
Effective handwashing is the most important and easiest way to protect against infection. Wash and dry your hands frequently. Always wash your hands before and after preparing and eating food, after coughing, sneezing or visiting the toilet. When soap and water isn’t available use a hand sanitiser.
The duration of the entire procedure should last between 20 – 30 seconds.
Choosing Dispensers for Your Business
In addition to choosing soap and sanitising solutions, dispensers play a crucial role in promoting hand hygiene. Housing soap and sanitiser in dispensers can encourage people to wash their hands and use the correct amount of soap if the dispenser is visible, reliable and easy to use.
A whole range of factors may affect the dispensers you select for your facility. Make sure to take the time to research the different options. An experienced washroom accessories manufacturer should help you make the right choice for your business however this guidance should further help.
Type of Soap
There are various types of soap and depending on what soap you buy will have an effect on what dispenser you choose. Some dispensers are suitable for liquid soap, foam soap, sanitiser or even shower gel.
Number of Users
Effective hand hygiene in the workplace can only be achieved by making sure you don’t run out of the essentials. Therefore, when choosing dispensers, you should consider how often they will be used. If your business is likely to see more people come and go, opting for 1L capacity soap dispensers is advisable. For smaller businesses, soap dispensers with 400-500ml capacity are available.
After handwashing, drying your hands is just as important to reduce the spread of germs and bacteria. It may not always be possible to install hand dryers where there is no mains power supply and therefore paper towels should be provided. Paper towels are a great option, however, ensure a waste bin is provided so they can be disposed of safely.
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