October 15th is Global Handwashing Day if you didn’t know. It’s a globally celebrated advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
It’s amazing to think that only 60% of the world’s population have access to handwashing facilities. We sometimes forget how fortunate we are. Running water and cleaning facilities are something we take for granted (especially at work).
Scary as it is, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that c.40% of food-borne sickness is caused by germs transmitted via our hands. And worse still, 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch alone making it all too easy to spread illness to our colleagues. As mundane as it seems – effective handwashing would dramatically reduce the spread of disease and bacteria in the workplace.
Despite this, the proportion of people not washing their hands after using the toilet is estimated to be somewhere between 25% and 65%! Now might be a good time to remind your co-workers of the importance of handwashing to prevent sickness.
Research has shown that during Winter months viruses can survive and reproduce more effectively due to the colder temperatures, making it much easier for them to spread. The icy weather may also reduce our immune system, doubling the challenge and making it harder for us to fight off bugs. It seems therefore to be a good time to refresh our memory on good hand washing practices in the workplace…
To wash your hands properly you must use soap and washing for a minimum of 20 seconds is advised. There’s a real technique to it and the CDC recommend the following:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, your thumbs, between each of your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Want to know the science behind the method? We did too… You can find out what research goes into it here. For example, did you know that damp hands can transmit 1000 times as many bacteria as dry ones?
So, with Global Handwashing Day in mind… what can you do to promote awareness in your workspace?
Top Tips For Promoting Good Personal Hygiene & Handwashing in Your Office
- Educate and remind people. It sounds silly but some people may just not know how to properly wash their hands. While we don’t advise you to run a training session on it, the odd poster here and there in strategic locations to raise awareness won’t hurt. Gentle reminders can make all the difference during flu season. Pay particular attention to providing reminders in lunch areas as well as toilets – food preparation is a key point of contamination.
- Ensure you facilities are up to scratch. Make sure hot water is available to all staff and accessible too – consider the needs of your disabled staff and ensure you have adequate facilities for your entire team. No one wants to wash their hands in freezing cold water in Winter do they? Equally, investing in touch-free facilities can bring significant benefits.
- Restock daily. How many times have you gone to use a bathroom sink only to find there is no soap left in the dispenser? Infuriating isn’t it? Ensure your cleaning team check these daily and refill if low.
- Mind the quality. Again, it’s a simple one but good soap makes all the difference. If it’s too strong smelling, drying or chalky – people will use it less. Invest in a good all-round product, and preferably something environmentally friendly too!
- Keep facilities clean all day long. Trying to keep your facilities sparkling and smelling fresh all day-long will encourage more people to use and leave them in a good condition. It will also encourage to stay longer and wash their hands. The worse your facilities are, the worse people will treat them. Invest in hand dryers if you can too – they minimise the spread of bacteria significantly.
- Provide sanitisers. To really encourage cleaner hands you could also consider supplying each employee with hand sanitiser. It’s not as effective as thorough washing but will help prevent the spread of germs.
- Reward compliance but keep it fun. Ok, so while a hospital might need to actively reward good personal handwashing hygiene, we understand it’s much harder in a workplace. It’s important not to patronise staff however, this doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the positives when you can – if sickness absence decreases or cleanliness generally increases, be sure to note it with your team as positive reinforcement. It doesn’t have to be serious either – reward ‘the cleanest desk’ at the Christmas party or highlight the good work your cleaning team do by working out how many times they have mopped and washed up this year and including it in your annual company meetings. Any and all positive reinforcement is the surefire best way to company-wide engagement and compliance.