Simply put, proper hand hygiene is the most effective way to stop the spread of disease and infection. In fact, hand hygiene is the number one method of stopping the spread of germs.
More than 80 percent of illnesses can be transmitted by hands. The U.S. CDC recommends hand hygiene – handwashing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol when soap and water are not available – as one of the most important steps to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
There are many solutions that facilities can provide for their occupants to promote hand hygiene. First, make sure to provide a good soap in all restrooms. Any sink in your facility should have a full, well-maintained hand soap dispenser located nearby. Maintain all soap dispensers, preventing the harboring of germs by choosing closed-loop refills and updating dispensers whenever necessary.
When a sink is not available, provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Alcohol-based sanitizers quickly kill a broad spectrum of germs and it is not left behind on your hands. Installing alcohol-based sanitizer stands at building entrances and locations throughout the building where people are at risk of contamination, including near cafeterias and by high-touch areas such as elevators, will make hand hygiene top-of-mind and accessible throughout your facility.
These stands can serve a dual purpose by providing important tools and products for hand hygiene when no sink is available, while also educating building occupants about the importance of hand washing in stopping the spread of disease. We recommend including signage that educates building occupants about the important role of handwashing along with your alcohol-based sanitizer dispensers.
Your facility’s second line of defense against the spread of infection is a proper disinfection program. Germs are often transmitted by touch, which makes your facility’s high-touch surfaces a breeding ground for infection. Disinfecting these surfaces and objects helps eliminate the number of germs that are passed around and picked up by others.
When it comes to the spread of infection, your building will have three different types of surfaces: low-risk, moderate-risk, and high-risk surfaces. You can classify each surface based on how often it comes into contact with the human touch. You will want to plan to disinfect the higher-risk surfaces frequently, perhaps after each use. Moderate risk surfaces should be disinfected daily. And for your low-risk surfaces, you will have a fixed schedule, or disinfect on an as-needed basis. The point of classifying your surfaces will be to target those critical surfaces where infection is most likely to spread while limiting the use of strong disinfectants where they are not necessary.
Let’s take a closer look at the different types of processes and products that are included in any facility’s infection control program. Cleaning works by using soap and water to physically remove germs, dirt and particles from surfaces. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. All effective control programs will include consistent disinfection, but they should also include regular cleaning. Disinfectants come in many different formulas with a variety of active ingredients. All of them can be rendered ineffective if the surface is not first cleaned. Organic matter on a surface can disrupt the disinfectant’s ability to kill germs.
Dwell times must also be strictly followed to ensure germs are being killed. A dwell time is the amount of time that the active ingredient in a disinfectant will need to kill germs. Many infection control programs fail because end users are not properly trained on the importance of dwell times. In an effort to move through cleaning and disinfecting procedures efficiently, workers will not wait the required amount of time—sometimes up to ten minutes—to ensure that all germs are killed. Dwell times are all clearly listed in a disinfectant’s MSDS and should be explained in all training. Processes where disinfectants are sprayed and a separate procedure is included to allot for dwell times are highly effective. For example, a disinfectant may be sprayed on a surface, and the end user will then use the dwell time of that disinfectant to refill soap dispensers, coming back to wipe the disinfectant up only after a timer goes off.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average employee is off work 2.8 days with a case of the flu. This can cost U.S. employers $20 billion a year. In addition, a study conducted by The Medical Mutual of Ohio and GOJO study referenced earlier showed that implementing a comprehensive hand hygiene program throughout the workspace reduced related healthcare claims by over 24 percent and reduced absenteeism by over 13 percent. Infection control is an essential line item in any business’s bottom line, but it’s also the right thing to do for your employees, building occupants and public health.
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