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Promoting health and safety in the washroom

10 August 2021

Chris Wakefield outlines how businesses can ensure their restrooms enhance hand hygiene behaviour and lessen the risk of infection.

WHILE CLEANLINESS has always been important, feeling safe about the hygiene of public spaces is front of mind now more than ever. The NHS vaccination roll-out has been a tremendous success and is largely responsible for giving people the confidence to visit public spaces again. 

However, in addition to being double-jabbed, potential customers want to see that businesses are taking their health and safety seriously. Companies can demonstrate this by ensuring that their premises are impeccably clean and hygienic – including their washroom facilities. In fact, the smallest (and perhaps least glamorous) room arguably makes the biggest impression when it comes to a visitor’s perception of the building as a whole. 

It is often perceived as an accurate reflection of the overall health and hygiene of an establishment. Despite being such a small proportion of a building’s total footprint (typically less than 5%), a pre-pandemic study showed that facilities management companies receive four times more complaints about the restroom than any other area within a facility.

So, at a time when consumers are demanding cleaner washrooms and in a social media driven society, where negative comments can quickly tarnish a reputation, it has never been more important to pay attention to washroom facilities. 

Hand hygiene has a large role to play
One of the primary functions of a washroom is to ensure its occupants leave it with clean hands. As well as ensuring all equipment is in good working order, businesses should consider how their washrooms can better promote hand hygiene behaviour – because it is not just a case of providing soap and water. There are many factors which can influence and help maximise compliance, from the types of dispensers installed, to the soap formulations that they are equipped with. Above all, a washroom must be welcoming and so organisations should aim to offer the best user experience possible within their budget.

Choosing a dispenser
When selecting a dispenser, the very first thing to consider is the design and layout of the washroom. Think about how people will move around the space, and fit equipment accordingly, for example, install slim, wall-mounted dispensers in smaller washrooms. After all, users are far more likely to abandon best practice in cramped and congested conditions. 

Touch-free technology can also help. As people better understand the chain of infection, they have become more reluctant to touch dispensers, taps, and dryers – especially if they don’t look clean or are leaking. With so many different people touching a dispenser’s pump to release product, many might be put off cleaning their hands at all!

Touch-free dispensers solve this problem. By their very nature, hands do not need to come into direct contact with them, thus increasing their hygiene rating. By releasing the exact dose of product required each time, they also help to reduce waste and mess in the restroom. They are simple and intuitive to use, helping to ensure that there is a steady flow throughout the washroom, and preventing congestion or queues. 

Ensuring that dispensers are maintained and stocked is also important. After all, how can people wash their hands if the soap dispenser has run empty? Today, there are dispensers available that can help staff monitor product levels. The new PURELL ES8 Dispenser, for example, features an innovative ‘AT-A-GLANCE™’ design, which enables staff to check refill levels with one quick look. What’s more, it also boasts an integrated battery to ensure continuous touch-free dispensing, eliminating any worries about the battery running out and needing to be replaced.

Product matters
Of course, dispensers are only part of the story. The product inside is vitally important too. However, although the pandemic boosted both awareness and practise of good hand hygiene behaviour, it also resulted in two major challenges for purchasers of soap and sanitising products.

Firstly, when hand sanitiser demand outpaced supply at the outbreak of the virus, many organisations turned to bulk fill systems. Whilst these helped plug the gap during the crisis, they may not be the safest, or most effective solution, and could actually cause more harm than good. 

Problems associated with “open refill” dispensing include branded hand sanitiser products being refilled with other formulas, products mixing into unknown chemical combinations, contamination or degradation, and product tampering. All of which can mean an uncompliant and potentially harmful end product. Factory-sealed refills are a better alternative. Smart, safe, and sustainable, they simply snap into place on site. The product inside is protected from contamination as it is sealed at the point of manufacture. This means that the soap or sanitiser is never open to the environment and so cross contamination from the air or other sources is prevented.

Secondly, we saw a flurry of new brands and products enter the market, resulting in a confusingly large choice available – some of which are not fit for purpose. In fact, several products have been pulled from European markets recently, due to compliance  and safety issues. It’s therefore critical to choose a brand that you can trust. But how do you distinguish between the ones to avoid and those that will protect from germs, care for skin, and even influence hygienic behaviour?
Above all, products need to be effective. Buyers should look for products that meet key standards, including EN 14476 and EN 12791, and that are dermatologically tested. 

Formulation comes a close second though. When you consider that approximately 60% of the population report having sensitive skin, and combine this with the frequency with which people are now washing or sanitising hands, formulations must be gentle and unlikely to irritate. If the balance of ingredients is not right, hands can quickly become dry or irritated or result in a poor user experience. Products that are too runny, too smelly, or that irritate skin can put people off using the soap or sanitisers provided, ultimately reducing compliance and increasing the risk of transmission of germs around a building. 

That’s why we have developed a brand-new type of ‘healthy soap’ that is remarkably gentle to skin, even with frequent use. PURELL HEALTHY SOAP features CLEAN RELEASE Technology’ (CRT), enabling users to achieve their deepest clean ever. It reaches into the cracks and crevices, which are normally difficult to access, to remove more than 99% of dirt and germs from hands. Dermatologically tested and formulated for dry and sensitive skin, the formulation includes 90% naturally derived ingredients, and leaves 2x less residue on hands, reducing the potential for irritation.

Visual reminders 
Placing eye-catching notices and posters in the washroom can also help increase compliance. They not only prompt healthy hand hygiene behaviour, but also act as a handy reminder of the most effective techniques. Good hand hygiene companies can offer sound advice on the most effective approaches, as well as provide materials, based on their knowledge and market insight.

Offering one final chance to clean hands can make all the difference in reducing the number of germs leaving the washroom. If people have not washed their hands properly, bacteria and viruses can be spread onto the door handle and other surfaces that they touch when they leave the room. In fact, research shows that one single contaminated door handle can infect up to 60% of the occupants of a building within just four hours.

Placing a sanitising dispenser at washroom exits provides an extra opportunity for hand hygiene, as well as offering an additional layer of protection. Positioning it between 36" to 46" above the floor, on the handle side, is the optimum height to trigger proper hand hygiene behaviour and prevent the transmission of bacteria from door handles.

Opt for a sanitiser whose formulation has at least 70% alcohol and is enriched with moisturising agents to to keep skin healthy and feeling soft and refreshed, like PURELL Advanced Hygienic Hand Rub.

Businesses should not overlook the importance of the humble washroom; it is in fact one of the most important rooms of a building. By equipping it with dispensers and formulations that offer an easy, enjoyable experience, companies will see higher levels of hand hygiene compliance, resulting in a healthier space and an enhanced reputation.

Chris Wakefield is managing director UK & Ireland at GOJO Industries-Europe, a leading global producer of skin health and hygiene solutions for away-from-home settings. The company has a portfolio of internationally recognised brands, as well as other markets, and a major supplier partner to the NHS. 
Chris joined GOJO in April 2011, first as European sales operations manager. In this time has he has helped manage the growth of European operations, working closely with partners in healthcare and other markets to promote the importance of hand hygiene, skin care, and scientifically proven product solutions. This has included participation in industry groups and initiatives in collaboration with the Private Organisations for Patient Safety (POPS), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Société Française d’Hygiène Hospitalière, and the Infection Prevention Society. 

For more information visit www.GOJO.com