Hand hygiene has been touted as one of the most crucial protective measures people can take to ward off COVID-19. However, in more recent months, there have been reports of hand hygiene compliance falling across settings.
It may be in the case in your business that staff are returning to the workplace, and a sense of ‘normality’ has seeped in. This may see old habits creep back in, including a lack of good hand hygiene across your workforce.
The risk of coronavirus has not disappeared, and hand hygiene remains an integral part of the fight against infection. With the a strong implementation plan that encourages, you can reduce the risk of transmission across your staff while protecting their general health.
We explore how to create a hand hygiene implementation plan that encourages compliance and manages risk across your workforce.
Why does hand hygiene matter?
Although at a limited level, coronavirus can spread through contact. This could include between hands and surfaces, where germs can linger and eventually infect others who touch the same area. The average person comes into contact with 300 surfaces every 30 minutes, exposing you to approximately 840,000 germs, including those that cause coronavirus, cold, flu and other illnesses.
By regularly and effectively cleaning your hands, you can reduce the transmission risk of germs by removing their presence. 80% of infections are spread by hands, so improving our hygiene here can drastically affect our health and stop us from getting sick as often.
If you improve hand hygiene compliance across your business, the knock-on effects will be a more protected workforce, with reduced sick leave and higher productivity. It will also help you fulfil your duty as an employer to mitigate the threat of coronavirus, which may lower the chances of outbreaks at work.
Hand hygiene will be particularly vital in some businesses, including close-contact services, food and healthcare. Maintaining good practices will therefore also benefit customers, preventing infections and safeguarding your reputation.
The steps of your hand hygiene implementation plan
In order to ensure your staff follow hand hygiene best practice consistently, it’s essential to create an efficient implementation plan. Below, we explain the process to follow when designing your strategy.
Assess the risk
The first step in creating a successful hand hygiene plan is to understand your business’s specific risks. This should focus on the areas where people are most likely to come into contact with germs, either from other people or surfaces.
Areas that may be hazardous include those where you fraternise with visitors or customers (including handing over money, such as at tills) or communal areas with commonly used equipment like kitchen facilities, printers, door handles or telephones.
If you conduct hygiene-sensitive services, such as touching customers or handling food, you will also need to clean your hands before undertaking these tasks to minimise potential infection.
By understanding the hazards in your business and where hand hygiene might be most compromised, you can identify a suitable approach to tackle the issues – including ensuring employees wash their hands at the appropriate times This will enable you to focus your efforts on the right areas, where the most value can be sought.
Ensure you have the appropriate facilities
The next step of your plan is to ensure you provide employees, customers and visitors with the appropriate facilities to maintain good hand hygiene practices.
Typically, this will include handwashing facilities, such as sinks and soap. The amount you need will depend on how many people are based in your premises, so it is essential to understand this.
There are other solutions you can utilise alongside bathroom facilities. Many businesses choose to install hand sanitiser dispenser units in their business, especially at entry points, so visitors and staff can disinfect their hands upon entering the workplace.
If your staff must work on the move or are pushed for time, it’s worth considering personal sanitisers too. This will enable colleagues to carry sanitiser with them at all times, ready to be used whenever required, thereby reducing the barriers to adequate hygiene. Some personal sanitisers have proven to be more effective than wall-mounted units, so it may even be the best solution in most workplaces.
Remember to ensure that any products you use are effective, with suitable germ-killing power, so you be sure it is having a real impact on hygiene levels.
Educate your staff
With an understanding of the risk and adequate resources in place, you need to make sure your workforce understands the process to follow and why it matters.
Use signage and communications to demonstrate the importance of hand hygiene, including the implications of poor hand hygiene in the workplace and on a personal level. You should also share details of your implementation plan and how it has been created in view of the risk.
While educating your staff, you will also want to break down ‘best practices’. This could include displaying posters highlighting correct handwashing procedures in bathrooms, explaining how frequently hand cleaning should happen, and other ‘checklist items’ they should follow to meet the expected standards.
Once you have created your implementation plan, you must continually evaluate your processes to ensure they have the desired effect. This means undertaking audits to check if staff are following the correct protocol and having conversations with them to understand if they are comfortable with the steps. It may also be worth tracking infection rates across your workplace, such as seeing if sick leave has fallen since the strategy was introduced.
Be prepared to adjust your plan to improve performance where required. You may also need to adapt your strategy if new risks emerge, including if coronavirus cases continue to rise.
By evaluating your process over time, you can make sure you are getting the right results and driving workplace illness down.
Focus on longevity
The recent months following the pandemic have shown how easy it is to fall into old habits. However, by letting compliance drop, you run the danger of allowing cases to spread in your business and becoming lax in your approach towards occupational health (including against coronavirus).
This is why you must revisit your implementation plan over time. Firstly, this will enable you to review whether it still works and, secondly, it will allow you to refresh it in employees’ minds. If they have fallen into bad habits, you can then reinforce the protocol to follow.
It’s also worth reaching out to your workforce now to highlight that the hand hygiene measures you are pushing are for the long-term – not just until coronavirus cases meet a minimal level. This will set expectations and ingrain the steps into your permanent health and safety strategy.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of hand hygiene, particularly if your business does not fall into healthcare or food-related sectors. However, by introducing effective protocol across every workplace, employers can fulfil their duty to protect their staff and customers while eliminating the disruption of sick leave on their operations.
With compliance already falling across the world, now is the time to refocus the role of hand hygiene in the fight against coronavirus and the predicated rise of seasonal infections.
By creating an efficient hand hygiene implementation plan, you can encourage your staff to take appropriate action to manage the health of themselves and their colleagues.
If you need support in implementing better hand hygiene across your business, we can help. We offer the innovative Orbel hand sanitiser, a personal and wearable device that provides hand hygiene throughout the working day, even on the move. With 99.99% germ-killing power in less than 15 seconds and habit-forming technology, it can enable you to reduce the barriers to hand hygiene compliance and get results.