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A germ's journey starts in the washroom

12 June 2015

One in four office workers admit to not washing their hands after visiting the washroom, which means facilities are vulnerable to harbouring, and spreading, infection, explains Dr. Peter Barratt, technical manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene

Contagious illnesses are often passed from person to person through indirect contact; for example through sharing personal belongings or by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces, such as door handles. To encourage visitors and employees to wash their hands properly, we must constantly be on the lookout for innovative means of addressing the ongoing risk of cross contamination.  


Inspired by colour

One way of doing this is through the use of colour. Earlier this year, Initial Washroom Hygiene launched its Signature COLOUR range, which encourages cleaning managers to look at harnessing the persuasive power of colour to help promote proper hygiene behaviour. The concept of colour affecting human behaviour is not a new phenomenon, and our understanding of this area is increasing with new studies. Choosing the right colour for washroom products in your business could bring real benefits to visitors and employees within your facility. 

Angela Wright, colour psychologist and author & founder of the Colour Affects System, highlights the fact that there are universal and predictable psychophysical reactions to colour that are common to us all. Following these scientifically accepted colour principles, we are able to identify colours that inspire activity and cleanliness. The aim of applying these colours to hygiene products is to leverage their effects to drive better washroom practices. Turquoise, for example, is considered the most inspiring colour of all. This shade is reminiscent of a clear ocean on a sunny day; provoking fresh, clean thoughts that motivate improved hygiene behaviours.

Whilst altering the colour of washroom equipment may be considered superficial and purely for the aesthetics of the washroom, this small change can have a direct impact on washroom behaviour, which in turn significantly reduces the chances of bacteria spreading among visitors via cross contamination. 

While the addition of colour to the washroom can have a positive effect on hygiene behaviour, it’s important to understand the basic guidelines when addressing hygiene on your premises.

Five steps for maintaining hygiene

  • Encourage staff to practice good hand hygiene by regularly and thoroughly washing their hands throughout the day. Research shows that finger tips and thumbs often get missed during hand washing. It is recommended that you should wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing happy birthday twice (up to 30 seconds).  Thorough hand washing is the easiest and most effective way of helping to reduce and remove potentially harmful bacteria and viruses, and so reduce cross-infection. 
  • Aside from encouraging staff to regularly wash and then dry their hands thoroughly, hand sanitisers should always be available in public areas. The most effective sanitisers are those which are not based on alcohol. Initial’s UltraProtect forms a gentle, long-lasting and invisible barrier across hands, inactivating germs for hours after use and protecting against a wide range of bacteria and viruses, including Campylobacter and norovirus
  • Ensure regular, thorough cleaning takes place in communal indoor spaces like the dining area, washroom facilities and any corridors. It is recommended that companies undertake a professional deep clean at least twice a year to prevent the build-up of hidden embedded dirt and contamination, and the associated micro organisms. In washrooms, specialist air sterilising devices can alleviate airborne microbes and help reduce unwanted odours
  • Ensure table tops, shelves and any equipment is cleaned regularly using anti-bacterial surface wipes
  • If a member of staff  contracts a virus  such as norovirus, make sure they stay away from the premise for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have disappeared, to avoid wider contamination

These steps are simple and cost effective, because hand and surface hygiene is critical to reduce the spread of microbial infections. If you’d like to seek advice on cleanliness in your facility, or are unsure about the UK regulatory requirements surrounding hygiene standards then it’s best to seek the advice of an expert.