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The reality of hand hygiene

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We have all seen many articles and several signs that promote the importance of hand washing. There are many reasons for this. On the one hand, given the many things you do in a day that put your hands in contact with germs, frequent hand washing is the most important thing you can do to avoid getting sick, as well as to spread germs to other surfaces and other people. You may not even know how many times a day you blow your nose, play with the dog, talk on the phone, use your smartphone, type on the computer or knock on the door knob.

Consider the following facts and figures:

  • Infectious diseases commonly spread through hand-to-hand contact include the common cold, the flu, and gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Many outbreaks of foodborne illness such as salmonella and E. coli, can be traced to unwashed or poorly washed hands.
  • Two million people become ill each year as a result of a hospital-acquired infection. Proper hand hygiene is critical to the prevention of these infections, which contribute to the death of nearly 90,000 hospital patients per year and $4.5 billion in medical expenses.
  • 91% of adults say they always wash their hands after using public restrooms. However, only 83% were observed doing so.

  • Proper handwashing is also the most effective way of preventing the spread of many serious illnesses such as meningitis, bronchitis, hepatitis A, and SARS.
  • Most people report washing their hands after using the bathroom in their home (83%) and before handling or eating foods (77%). However, smaller percentages wash their hands after petting a dog or cat (42%), coughing or sneezing (32%), or handling money (21%).
  • 68% of respondents of the Soap and Detergent Association’s (SDA) 2006 National Cleaning Survey do not wash their hands long enough to effectively remove germs and dislodge dirt. (Source:

As you can easily see in these statistics, it has been shown that good hand hygiene benefits health. Proper cleaning of their hands is simple and extremely effective, however, many people do not maintain this practice as often or as well as they should.

Hand hygiene at workplace

Infectious diseases, such as colds and the flu, are the main causes of employee absenteeism due to illness. Loss of productivity in the workplace from the flu alone costs employers an estimated $ 15 billion. However, employers often overlook the first line of defense against infectious diseases, good hand hygiene. Most companies do not proactively encourage handwashing in the workplace.

The SDA recommends that employees wash their hands approximately five or more times a day. In addition, there seems to be a direct correlation between employee stimulation and compliance. In companies that publish hand wash reminders, 72% of employees wash their hands five or more times a day and 38% wash their hands more than 10 times a day. Therefore, employers should place reminder posters in bathrooms, kitchens and other common areas. By doing this, companies are not only responsible, but can also help improve their results.

Experts agree that the best way to stay healthy as we go through the flu season is to practice proper hygiene and have an efficient cleaning program. It is also important to establish a response plan in case preventive measures do not work. Employers must take this important step to help prevent the rapid spread of infection and thus avoid a pandemic.

Businesses play a key role in protecting the health and safety of employees, as well as the general public, and in limiting the negative impact on the economy and society.

Below are some helpful tips on when to wash your hands:

  • After using the restroom
  • Before and after eating
  • Before and after staff meetings
  • Before and after a networking event
  • After using shared office equipment
  • After sneezing, coughing, and blowing your nose
  • After scanning reading material in the break room
  • After using someone else’s keyboard or tools

At the next ISSA Show North America 2019, from November 18 to 21, in Las Vegas, there will be many exhibitors with experience on the importance of hand washing and the most appropriate hand hygiene solutions for different environments.

Be sure to plan to visit them during the show. Also, don’t forget to see the complete list of educational sessions offered in the program that can help with this and many other issues that will be beneficial in your facility or company. .