If we have learned anything from our experience with COVID-19, we know that we are supposed to wash our hands. Study after study shows that proper hand hygiene is the most critical thing we can do to prevent the spread of infection in education, healthcare, or any other field serving the public. This is mainly in viral diseases, such as COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory maladies. Even gastrointestinal viruses like norovirus can be controlled through proper hand hygiene. Beyond COVID-19, the stakes remain high as colds, the flu, and norovirus outbreaks result in millions of lost school and work days and costs the economy tens of billions of dollars.
Unfortunately, even during the pandemic, research shows that poor compliance to proper hand hygiene continues to be a significant obstacle to controlling these illnesses, even in the highly regulated healthcare field where healthcare-associated infections are a constant threat. For example, while over 50% of students wash their hands in schools, less than 20% use soap. Men are also less likely to wash their hands properly – come on, guys, we need to get into the game.
Poor compliance can be attributed to several different factors we can control. The condition of the restroom and the supplies provided throughout the facility can and does encourage people to help keep their hands in a more hygienic condition. The following four considerations can summarize these key actions.
1. Hand Care Products that Encourage Use
Get rid of the bulk soap dispensers. There has been significant development in hand soap formulations that improve performance and reduce skin irritation. In addition, hand soaps from many manufacturers come in hygienically sealed cartridges, eliminating contamination. These are the types of products people are looking for when washing their hands away from home. Remember, the idea is to encourage hand hygiene and not look at the expenditure only as a cost.
2. Convenient Dispenser Locations
There should be sufficient dispensers in the restroom to facilitate the hand washing process. In addition, hand sanitizer dispensers should also be available throughout the building. As recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol hand sanitizer is effective against the SARS_CoV-2 coronavirus, as well as those pesky colds and flu viruses. It is a viable option for hand hygiene when hand washing isn’t an option. However, as with hand soap in the restroom, empty hand sanitizer dispensers are a common complaint. Dispensers need to be routinely checked and filled.
3. Access to Paper Towels and Facial Tissue
Simply put, most people like to dry their hands with paper towels, and most people don’t actually like hand dryers. Paper towels provide for higher compliance, and the mere wiping of wet hands can remove bacteria and viruses through mechanical action. But, just as with soap and sanitizer, empty dispensers discourage compliance. Lastly, where practical, providing facial tissues is a great way to control cross-contamination from sneezes and runny noses.
4. Established Educational Programs
As with any behavior change, education is key. Every primary hand care and paper company can provide educational programs and materials appropriate for a wide range of audiences. Whether it be elementary students, college campuses, or the workplace, tools are available to help promote effective hand hygiene. Talk to your Imperial Dade sales consultant and find out if there is more that you can be doing to encourage this vital health and wellness behavior.
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