It amazes me that people just don't wash their hands. We talked recently to over 200 office workers and the results are quite astonishing. Did you know that only two in five people wash their hands after they pop to the loo? Really makes you wonder about that last cup of coffee and biscuit you were given this morning!
With 60% of your day spent in the office and over 40% of us or our colleagues not washing their hands, it is of little surprise that sick leave, colds and flu and strange new viruses are all on the increase. More worrying is the finding that over 65% of companies don't encourage basic levels of hygiene.
I thought it would be interesting to get it broken down even further. Naturally we found the type of work was reflected in the amount of times people washed their hands during any given day. 75% of construction workers; 63% of office workers and 57% of customer services personnel wash their hands less than 3 times per day! 93% of medical employees and 87% of food service employees showed a much higher level of awareness, washing their hands anything up to 10 times per day.
You have to think of the keyboards, kitchen plates, cups, cutlery and phones - all can, when tested, be sources of the worst kind of bacteria. At least in your own home you control the environment and can guarantee hygiene for your surfaces, protecting both you and your loved ones. Unfortunately once you enter the workplace you rely on others to protect your health.
With the continuing high annual level of absenteeism by Irish workers due to sickness, costing millions to the Irish economy, it's good to know that the simple steps of encouraging hand washing, signage in the hand basin areas, good soap and detergents on view and excellent hand drying equipment would help greatly in reducing the number of sick days taken every year.
Let's call a spade a spade; in order to ensure a reasonable level of hand hygiene you need to wash your hands at least 4 to 5 times daily and wash in the right way. The temperature of the water, type of soap/detergent used and length of time washing, all contribute towards the first line of defence in the fight against germs in the workplace.
The Department of Health recognises the benefits of hand washing in the prevention of the spread of germs and the control of disease, and it regularly promotes the basic departmental guidelines on health. We should add to this effort in our workplaces.
Hand washing is a personal and professional responsibility and it should be done routinely. Let's face it – it's common sense, easy and effective hygiene control. So here it is - the best way to wash your hands. Why not print it out and hang it in the office bathroom! Email us and tell us your office horrors to firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW TO WASH YOUR HANDS – PROPERLY
- Remove rings, watches or bracelets
- Wet hands with warm water prior to reaching for the soap/detergent
- Rub hands together – make up a lather (away from running water)
- Wash front and back of hands, between fingers and nails
- Rinse under warm to very warm water
- Dry extremely well, ideally under hand dryer – don't leave until fully dry!