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Effective hand drying is vital to limit the risk of a second spike

30 June 2020

As workplaces and educational establishments gradually re-open following lockdown, the need to ensure the highest possible level of hygiene throughout their facilities has never been more important.

Government guidance designed to enable organisations to minimise the risk of further waves of COVID-19 prioritises hand hygiene, stressing the importance of providing hand washing and drying systems with strong hygiene credentials.  

From the outset, the UK government gave clear instructions on the most hygienic form of hand washing. Efficient hand drying is also vital to limit the spread of the virus, as microbes survive better in moisture, so any that remain on skin after washing are more likely to spread to other surfaces when people do not dry their hands properly.

A recent, high profile piece of research by the University of Leeds - "Dispersal of Microbes to Hospital Surfaces Following Two Hand Drying Methods: Paper Towels or a Jet Air Dryer (Dr. Ines Moura, Duncan Ewin and Professor Mark Wilcox)" - found that paper towels remove remaining microbes more efficiently than electric hand dryers.  

Furthermore, many within the hygiene sector claim that hand dryers help to disperse the virus through the air, and so instead recommend single use paper towels on this basis also. 

Facilities managers currently upgrading their washrooms to improve hygiene standards within their organisations are faced with a bewildering choice of hand drying systems. A leading manufacturer and supplier of Away-from-Home (AfH) professional paper hygiene and wiping products, Northwood Hygiene Products, recommends that buyers bear in mind a number of criteria when doing so.

COVID-19 can be transferred via touch, and according to some studies, is capable of surviving for several days on hard surfaces. The New England Journal of Medicine reported in April 2020 the findings of a piece of research undertaken by Neeltje van Doremalen of the US National Institutes of Health - "Aerosol and Surface Stability of HCoV-19 (SARS-CoV-2) as Compared With SARS-CoV-1" - which found that the virus could live for more than 72 hours on plastic, and up to 24  hours on cardboard. This being the case, dispensing systems that do not require the user to touch the unit in order to extract tissue offer a clear hygiene advantage.

For the same reason, single sheet dispensers which allow users to touch only the paper they will use are also preferable.

Even when direct user interaction is kept to a minimum, it is inevitable that dispensers will come in to contact with humans, whether it be those who are utilising them or those responsible for their maintenance.  Because of this, it is essential that they are easy to wipe hygienically clean.

Buyers are also advised to source a dispenser system where fresh towels are kept locked, wrapped and clean until required.

Maintenance of hand drying systems

In addition to meeting stringent hygiene credentials, it is also essential that today’s hand drying systems require low maintenance. Janitorial staff are currently tasked with the significant responsibility of achieving higher than usual levels of cleanliness throughout their facilities, so dispenser systems that can be quickly and easily replenished and maintained are preferable.

For this reason, high capacity units, engineered to facilitate swift refill, are ideal, as are those offering controlled dispensing, which help to prevent blockages and litter.  Durability is also important, and buyers are advised to look for lockable systems manufactured from tough acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic.

Organisations keen to ensure the highest possible level of hygiene throughout their facilities are also taking heed of the government’s advice to offer throughout their entire premises – not only their washrooms – opportunities for people to keep their hands clean through the use of sanitiser. 

Northwood is advising facilities managers to try, where possible, to source their hand sanitisers from the same supplier as their other paper hygiene systems, in order to simplify the procurement process and make it as efficient as possible, saving time during this intensely busy period.

Northwood’s marketing manager, Paul Mulready, said:  “Facilities managers are dealing with a crisis situation in which the pressure on them to provide people with hygienic hand washing and drying solutions is unprecedented.

“When under such pressure, it’s easy to simply go for the first system you find, but we’d strongly recommend to buyers that they select their solutions with care, bearing in mind a few key criteria.

“We’ve experienced a surge in demand for our North Shore premium proprietary range of washroom dispensers and consumables, along with our new hygiene gels, and are pleased to be able to play a part in getting the UK hygienically back up and running as lockdown is lifted.”

 
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