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When sharing isn't caring

19 November 2015

A washroom should be a haven of cleanliness and wellbeing – helping all who use them to fend off infections and stay healthy. The last thing facility managers and business owners want is for their washroom soap to make customers and staff sick – but that’s exactly what can happen if they choose the bulk-fill option, Mike Sullivan, managing director of GOJO Industries-Europe, argues

We are a species that just loves to share. The continuing popularity of social media bears testament to our desire to be part of a wider community – from ‘tweeting’ on Twitter to posting pictures on Instagram. Facebook achieved a milestone on 24th August when a billion people used the site in one day – meaning that one in seven people on Earth logged onto the website.

Sociable by nature, one of our major instincts is to share – but there are limits. Would you be happy to share someone else’s germs and bacteria? I think not. Yet that’s exactly what we are doing if we unwittingly use a bulk-fill hand soap dispenser. The days of grimy bars of soap teetering precariously on the edge of hand basins are thankfully long gone. However, dangers still lurk, albeit hidden behind the façades of bulk-fill dispensers.

What does bulk-fill mean?

Bulk fill means buying soap in bulky 5 litre (or even larger) containers and typically lifting this rather unwieldly container to pour it into an open dispenser reservoir, where it sits open to the washroom atmosphere. Even with the best inventions this rather old fashioned manoeuvre means that the very soap that is supposed to clean your hands can easily become dirty and contaminated before it even reaches your palms.

The soap can be affected by hand contact with the operative that is servicing the washroom, and as it is poured, airborne germs from the environment, as well as foreign objects such as dust and insects, can infiltrate it. Research into the subject has discovered that one out of four refillable bulk soap dispensers are contaminated by bacteria that can cause illness such as sickness and diarrhoea, and that washroom users can have as many as 25 times more germs on their hands after washing with contaminated soap.

The bacteria that can contaminate the soap has a similar effect on the dispenser reservoir itself, helping to form a bacterial biofilm that coats the inside surface. Biofilms are very difficult to wash off or ‘kill’, even with bleach and it’s this staying power that means any new soap added to the dispenser risks becoming contaminated – and the unhealthy cycle continues. The threat bulk-fill soap poses to health and wellbeing has even been recognised by the World Health Organisation, which has issued guidelines against the practice.

A sanitary-sealed solution

The bacteria found in bulk soap are known as opportunistic pathogens, which can help to cause respiratory, eye, skin, blood and urinary tract infections. The young and elderly are most at risk from picking these up, but no-one is immune, which obviously has huge consequences for business owners and facility managers.

An outbreak of illness can cause severe disruption to services, production and output, whether we’re talking about a school, factory, restaurant or cruise ship. However, a solution does exist and you could describe it as celebrating individualism over community – a system that everyone can use, but in a safe and ‘separate’ way.

Sealed soap systems offer many advantages, especially when it comes to health outcomes. GOJO ensure that all their dispensing system refills are factory sealed, meaning that the soap formulation inside is never exposed to the environment, so cross contamination from the air or other sources is prevented, plus the fact that each one comes with its own fresh valve increases the hygiene factor. Time and money is also saved as the refills simply snap into place in seconds, allowing operatives to work more quickly and effectively. 

Less stress, mess and increased healthiness – everything you could want from a hand hygiene system is within reach, thanks to sanitary-sealed technology. Investing in hand hygiene systems is essential for any organisation that wants to increase the well-being of its employees, customers and service users, but they need to make the right choice when it comes to dispensers and refills to ensure that financial commitment is not compromised.