When news of a global pandemic was confirmed by the World Health Organisation on 11 March last year, governments scrabbled to understand how to handle the crisis.
So, WHO stepped up its efforts to help and relaunched its Five Moments of Hand Hygiene campaign, first issued in 2009 to combat healthcare-associated infections.
This blog explains the five moments of hand hygiene and how to implement them in your workplace.
The ‘My five moments of hand hygiene’ approach
The My 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene approach was introduced to increase the frequency of healthcare workers cleaning their hands.
It’s an evidence-based, field-tested, user-centred approach designed to be easy to learn, logical and applicable in a wide range of settings.
This approach recommends healthcare workers clean their hands:
- Before touching a patient.
- Before clean/aseptic procedures.
- After body fluid exposure/risk.
- After touching a patient.
- After touching patient surroundings.
It’s a straightforward strategy to adopt, and here’s how to implement it in your workplace.
Steps you need to take in your workplace
We’ve all been told to wash our hands after using the bathroom, but in the wake of the global pandemic a new emphasis has been placed on this seemingly simple task.
We say ‘seemingly’ because it turns out there’s more to hand washing than you’d think.
Here’s what you need to do to help your staff get it right and reduce the risk of spreading the virus when multiple people touch the same surface, where potentially deadly germs may be lurking.
- Behavioural change. Scientists agree that it is hard to stimulate a change in people’s behaviour. Common errors that are cited include simply appealing to common sense. This will not be sufficient to bring about change among your employees. Instead, you’ll need to provide detailed information about what is required and why.
- Information. In the beginning and throughout your campaign, you’ll need to instil a culture of hand hygiene in your workplace. To get people on-side we recommend starting with a risk assessment to assess the opportunities for coronavirus to enter your premises and spread among your employees. Consult with all staff members so that everyone knows what you are doing and is able – and encouraged – to make a contribution and give feedback. Then, you’ll need to communicate your findings, perhaps via your company’s intranet or simply by putting up posters in prominent places around your premises.
- Communicating the why, how and when. The WHO is very clear about what you need to communicate.
Why? If people understand why it’s essential not to be complacent about hand hygiene – despite the vaccine rollout – they are more likely to take seriously any measures you introduce. As WHO points out, hands are one of the main pathways of germ transmission. Indeed, the global public health advisory has stated that “hand hygiene is therefore the most important measure to avoid the transmission of harmful germs”. And this includes COVID-19. Staff must understand the risks that face premises as we come out of lockdown.
How? This is a biggy – and you’d best get it right. The WHO’s recommendation is to start by cleansing your hands with an alcohol-based sanitiser as it’s “faster, more effective, and better-tolerated” by hands than washing them frequently with soap and water. If it is not possible or inconvenient to install hand sanitising stations, then the provision of a wearable alternative – such as the highly innovative and habit-forming Orbel sanitiser – may be the answer. That said, WHO is insistent that frequent handwashing remains a critical component of any hand hygiene regime. In fact, the organisation has published a series of handy posters that you could use to help your workers clean their hands properly. Post these in prominent locations around your premises, most notably in your washrooms.
When? The WHO’s advice is based on workers in the healthcare sector. Here’s how it translates for all other workplaces.
- At the start and end of a shift.
- After using the toilet.
- Before and after eating or drinking.
- Before and after breaks.
- When changing workstations.
- When moving to another area.
- Before and after touching equipment.
- If hands become dirty.
To name but a few. You will have a better idea of ‘when’ after you’ve completed your risk assessment and consulted with staff.
- Ensuring your staff receive workplace safety training is another vital part of the process to encourage a culture of hand hygiene. As a good employer, you’ll want to be sure your training is in line with health and safety legislation. Showing your employees that you are aware of your obligations to provide a safe working environment will help reassure staff who are nervous at the prospect of returning to work. The provision of training, put simply, shows that you care – a soft skill but an increasingly important one, especially in the wake of the pandemic.
The World Health Organisation introduced its five moments of hand hygiene initiative because it found a 25 per cent shortfall in compliance among healthcare workers in hospitals.
Yet, it is well-established and scientifically proven that improving handwashing compliance reduces the transmission of harmful germs. The challenge has always been to find ways to increase compliance rates effectively. We hope this blog will be helpful as you go about making your premises COVID-secure.