We all wash our hands regularly at home and at work, so it’s something we should be pretty good at, right?
Washing our hands properly is one of the most important steps we can take to keeping ourselves, our families and our colleagues fit and healthy, but unfortunately, it’s something not all of us do regularly or thoroughly enough. Research has shown that only 68 percent of women and a paltry 38 percent of men wash their hands regularly, while 95 percent don’t wash their hands correctly.
A number of infectious diseases can be spread from one person to another by hands that have not been washed properly. That includes gastrointestinal infections, such as Salmonella, and respiratory infections like influenza. Some forms of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections can be extremely serious and cause complications in children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system that can put their lives at risk.
Why is proper hand washing so important at work?
In UK workplaces, handwashing might not be a matter of life and death, but in enclosed environments where people work in such close proximity, there is a particularly high risk that germs will be spread. Poor hygiene can lead to increased levels of illness and lost productivity, reduced employee efficiency and a higher disruption cost.
In hygiene sensitive environments, such as the healthcare and food sectors, proper hand washing practices are of critical importance to help prevent the spread of germs. Failure to put adequate procedures in place could even result in the closure of the business. For this reason, it’s important your employees are aware of some of the common hand washing mistakes.
When should you and your employees wash their hands?
Although not all of these scenarios are likely to occur in the workplace, or certainly not all in the same workplace, it’s important to be aware when the spread of harmful germs and bacteria is most likely to occur. That includes:
- Before, during and after preparing food
- Between handling raw and cooked or ready-to-eat food
- After using the toilet
- After changing nappies
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After using a tissue or handkerchief
- Before and after attending to sick children or other family members
- After smoking
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- After handling rubbish
- After working in the garden
- After handling animals
How to wash your hands properly
You might have heard stories about the weird and wonderful things you should be doing to make sure you wash your hands properly. However, simply washing your hands with soap and lathering the backs of your hands, between your fingers, under the nails and up your wrists should suffice.
Once you have thoroughly washed your hands, one mistake people commonly make is to use a dirty towel to dry them. Wherever possible, you should use a hand dryer or disposable paper towel to keep your hands clean. In the workplace, it is also better to use liquid soap rather than a bar, particularly if many hands will come into contact with the soap. This helps to reduce the spread of germs and bacteria.