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Hand hygiene & healthy businesses

14 March 2016

Richard Adams, sales director at Cannon Hygiene, explains how the right hygiene solutions can help increase productivity by minimising the spread of germs in the workplace

Productive employees are the cornerstone of any successful business, so sickness can be a huge issue and have a significant impact. According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, British businesses lose 131 million days to sickness every year. Minor illnesses, like coughs, colds and vomiting, accounted for almost a third (30 per cent) of all time taken off, resulting in 27.4 million lost working days.

Alongside employee absence rates, there is also the issue of ‘presenteeism’, when staff members will often attend work feeling unwell to avoid causing disruption or taking sick leave, which puts other people at risk of catching illness. 

Harmful bacteria is almost always present on hands and can be transferred onto every surface a person touches. Studies have shown that adults touch their face on average 3.6 times every hour. Research conducted in an office environment by the University of Arizona found that within two to four hours, between 40 to 60 per cent of the surfaces sampled were contaminated with a simulated virus that started purely on the door handle. 

Without the right hygiene practices in place, contagious illnesses such as Norovirus could easily spread – via hand to surface to hand – across more than half of a workforce by lunchtime.

Washroom worries

The hand-to-surface transmission of germs and bacteria often starts in the washroom, so hygiene solutions need to be designed to serve the business in the best way possible. 

Almost one third (30 per cent) of people have admitted to not washing their hands at all after using the toilet and a further 64 per cent do not wash their hands thoroughly enough to kill the germs. 

In this case, businesses have a lot to think about. The 1992 Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations are a great starting point and set out the minimum requirements. For example, there are guidelines on how many washbasins and toilet facilities are needed in different workplaces. 

Washrooms should also be positioned in accessible places, well ventilated and lit, and kept in a clean and orderly condition. But to create a culture of good hygiene firms should go above and beyond what’s expected.

Spread the word

Education is crucial to best practice, so clear signage that highlights the implications of not washing your hands – or not washing them properly – is vital.

Hand-washing guides are available online, such as the World Health Organisation’s recommended 12-step method for cleaning hands thoroughly to help protect against cross-contamination. 

These should be placed close to soap dispensers and sinks, both as a reminder to wash hands and also to instruct workers how to clean them effectively. With the right prompts in place, this behaviour can become second nature over time.

Effective hygiene equipment

Soap dispensers are one of the easiest ways for organisations to reduce the chances of spreading bacteria, but they must be reliable, always filled with effective soaps and evenly distributed throughout the washroom to maximise their use. What’s more, when presented with a stylishly designed dispenser, more people will wash their hands. 

Automated no-touch soap dispensing units and taps can be especially effective as they deliver the right amount of soap every time while also limiting the chance of germs spreading between staff. Wet hands are also proven to carry more bacteria than dry ones, so ensuring employees are able to dry their hands properly is equally as important. 

There are many options available, for example paper towels, roller towels or an automatic air drier. All have various benefits and are designed to suit diverse business needs. Door handle sanitisers are also available to provide added protection against bad bacteria when leaving the washroom, regardless of people’s hand-washing habits.

A culture of cleanliness

While the right equipment will help to facilitate good hygiene behaviour, it isn’t just an issue that starts and ends in the washroom. The hygiene solutions needed will depend on the size of a firm’s operations and whether the sector it works in has any special requirements, like healthcare and hospitality, which are subject to intense regulatory scrutiny.

Ensuring the air is clean and germ free is another way in which businesses can invest in a hygiene solution that will help to improve productivity. The latest odour neutralisers use cutting edge technology to kill airborne and surface bacteria.

Companies that achieve this can create a healthier environment for their staff and customers, which can in turn have long-term benefits for any business.