Proper hand washing technique is a beneficial habit to adopt and encourage since 80% of known diseases are transferred through touch alone.
The five most common ways for bacteria to spread are,
- from the hands, eyes, nose, and mouth to other people
- from hands to food
- from food to hands to food, through the handling of raw vegetables or meat for example
- from children to adults during nappy changes and on to other children and adults
- from animals to people
In all of these instances, hands are the main culprit for spreading bacteria.
That’s why regular hand washing is so important, with figures showing that hand washing education can reduce the spread of illness. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found that proper hand washing technique was linked to a 23-40% reduction in diarrhoea contraction and a 16-21% reduction in respiratory illnesses, like colds.
However, in the UK, research has revealed that it’s not treated as a priority by citizens. A UK-wide study showed that, although 99% of people surveyed said they had washed their hands after going to the toilet, only 32% of men and 64% of women really did.
Another study by Harvard University into the increase in hand washing during the 2009 swine flu pandemic exposed that the UK was the worst out of the five countries that were surveyed, with only 53% of respondents admitting they increased their efforts in the period.
Hand Washing in the Workplace
Stressing the importance of hand washing in the workplace is important for a few reasons.
Not only are employees much more likely to come into contact with new types of bacteria and take them home with them, but they’re also more likely to pass them on to customers and clients.
It is also especially important to stress the importance of hand washing in workplaces where people are particularly vulnerable to the threat of disease and bacteria. These include places of care such as hospitals, homes for the elderly, schools and childminders, and of course, restaurants, cafés and bars where food and drinks are handled and served by employees.
As a precaution for keeping people who rely on your service safely, it is necessary to have the appropriate facilities in place. The same precautions should be taken to protect the health of your staff.
Facilitating Hand Washing in The Workplace
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 requires that employers provide adequate and appropriate welfare facilities for employees while they are at work. Welfare facilities are those that are necessary for the wellbeing of employees, such as washing, toilet, rest and changing facilities.
The laws around hand washing facilities on commercial premises are that hand wash basins must have hot and cold running water, materials for cleaning hands such as liquid soap and hand sanitiser, as well as paper towels for drying. In most cases, liquid soap and paper towels are most effective for cleaning and drying hands.
In organisations where employees work with food and vulnerable people, putting in place systematised reminders and regular training will help remind employees when to wash their hands and help it take place more regularly.