Does hand hygiene still matter?

Hand hygiene was an essential tool during the pandemic peak. Does it still matter as we continue to fight coronavirus?

From the start of the pandemic, practising effective hand hygiene was touted as essential in protecting ourselves and stopping the spread of coronavirus. Fast forward almost two years, and restrictions have been lifted in the UK and cases, while still lingering, are at a lower rate than they were at the peak of the pandemic.

In more recent months, many reports have emerged that hand hygiene compliance is down across the world. Given that case levels have fallen and many other restrictions have wound down, it is perhaps no surprise that many have gone back to old habits.

Close up of person washing hands

However, we must not ignore that coronavirus still exists. With transmission still a risk among the public, despite reduced restrictions, it poses the question of whether hand hygiene still matters moving forward.

In this blog, we have explored the continuing role of hand hygiene during the current stage of the pandemic.

Does hand hygiene still matter – and why?

The simple answer is yes: hand hygiene still matters. Data in October showed that coronavirus cases in the UK were rising, although not at the level of the first or second waves. Therefore, it is not uncommon to come into contact with positive cases, which could exacerbate the spread and harm our health.

Due to this, action continues to be required to protect people against coronavirus and curb the rate of infection. Hand hygiene can provide this protection by reducing the spread of germs, allowing for risk-free contact between people and surfaces.

Research has found that up to 80% of infectious diseases are transferred by touch, with the average person coming into contact with 840,000 germs every half hour. Effective handwashing can reduce the spread of germs, including coronavirus particles.

While hand hygiene alone will not eliminate COVID-19, given its airborne nature, it can help to reduce the likelihood of catching it and make for safer environments.

Pair of clean hands

Hand hygiene also has an impact beyond coronavirus. Our hands are often used to cover our faces while sneezing and coughing – so it’s no surprise they’re instrumental in the spread of infection. Cleaning your hands properly can safeguard you against various infectious diseases, including flu, cold and food-based contamination. This means that your health is protected against all kinds of illness, which will be particularly welcome given reports that flu and cold are likely to hit harder this year.

This is particularly welcome news for workplaces that face productivity disruption through staff sick leave. A study found that staff trained in handwashing took 20% fewer sick days – highlighting the link between workplace sickness and hand hygiene. It’s also interesting to note that in 2020, UK sick leave was at a record low, which has been attributed to COVID measures, including increased hand hygiene compliance.

By utilising effective hand hygiene, we can enjoy better productivity at work with minimised disruption and unplanned time off while being happier and healthier in our everyday lives. It’s also essential for those who want to protect themselves against disease – coronavirus or otherwise.

Top tips for effective hand hygiene

While the importance of hand hygiene is relatively well known, it’s easy for people to rush or fall into lazy ways when cleaning their hands. With compliance falling, it’s therefore worth refreshing your mind as to what makes excellent hand hygiene.

  1. The 20-second rule. When washing hands, this should be done with warm water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. This applies every time you wash your hands – which should be after using the toilet; before eating or handling food; after touching animals; after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing; before and after treating a wound; and when your hands are visibly dirty.
  2. Cover the whole hand surface. It is also essential that you wash your entire hand, including palms, fingers, between fingers and backs of hands. This will allow you to reach any germs that may be lingering.
  3. Use sanitiser. There may be times where handwashing simply is not possible due to lack of facilities or time. In these instances, hand sanitiser is a great solution, allowing you to disinfect quickly and on the go. Seek to buy an effective hand sanitiser with strong germ-killing power and use it as needed throughout the day. Once again, it’s essential to target the whole hand surface.
  4. Remind workers through signage. If you are running a business, hand hygiene is a powerful tool to reduce the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks and the spread of illness through your workforce and customers. It’s worth displaying signage across the workplace – especially in bathrooms – that encourage hand hygiene compliance, such as how-to posters.
  5. Find smart solutions. If compliance is an issue, it is possible to find solutions that actively encourage hand hygiene. One example is the Orbel hand sanitiser, which utilises habit-forming technology through cooling gel and rollerball stimulation, helping the user remember to continually sanitise their hand during the day. This improves compliance while killing germs through 99.99% efficiency.

Delivery driver wearing Orbel hand sanitiser

Conclusion

While life may seem almost normal, there is no denying the risk that coronavirus still poses. To reduce the curb and avoid the threat of future lockdowns, as well as protect our health, hand hygiene remains a valuable tool.

Beyond this, the last two years has shown many people what a life without illness from cold and flu would look like. With the winter months soon upon us, infections are likely to rise from non-coronavirus diseases, so utilising hand hygiene is crucial to reducing transmission of other illness.

By improving hand hygiene compliance, we can unlock better protection against various diseases, improving workplace productivity and general quality of life.

At Protecta, we provide solutions to help you and your business protect staff and customers against the risk of coronavirus and other infections. We can offer solutions to safeguard your workplace, including the innovative Orbel hand sanitiser.

Get in touch today to find out more.