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Workplace hand hygiene

Hand hygiene is a simple, low-cost, and effective way to keep employees healthy and prevent the spread of germs. Promoting clean hands among your employees, whether they work in a classroom, a retail store, an office, at home, or any other setting, can improve the health of your employees, customers, workplace, and even your community.

Everyone’s health benefits from good hand hygiene

Germs can quickly spread. Hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to keep employees healthy and prevent germs from spreading in the workplace.

Even when they arrive at work, sick employees are less productive, and they can spread their illness to others. Promoting clean hands in the workplace can also lead to fewer sick days taken.

Employees who practice hand hygiene prevent illness from spreading to their families at home and set a good example for their loved ones to follow. Employees who have healthy family members spend less time away from work caring for sick relatives.

Hand hygiene entails regularly washing and drying hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, it may be necessary to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

Handwashing benefits the entire community in the following ways:

  • reducing respiratory illnesses such as colds by 21%.

  • reducing the number of people who become ill with diarrhea by 31%.

  • Diarrhea illness in people with weakened immune systems was reduced by 58%.

Important times for hand hygiene

Inform employees that if their hands are visibly dirty, they should wash them with soap and water rather than using hand sanitizer. Employees should clean their hands at the following times:

  • Before and after work;

  • Before and after breaks;

  • After blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing;

  • After using the restroom;

  • Before eating or preparing food.

When you shake hands or touch common surfaces and objects, such as tables and doorknobs, good hand hygiene can help reduce the spread of illness to others.

  • Increase access to sinks in places where all employees can use them, such as bathrooms, food preparation areas, and eating areas.

  • Provide soap, water, and a method to dry hands (e.g., paper towels, hand dryer) so that employees can properly wash and dry their hands.

  • Place hand sanitizer dispensers containing at least 60% alcohol near frequently touched surfaces and in areas where soap and water are inconveniently located, such as near elevators, shared equipment, building entrances and exits, and so on.

  • To remind employees to wash their hands, place visual reminders such as signs or posters in bathrooms or kitchen areas.

  • Other hygiene supplies, such as tissues and no-touch/foot pedal trash cans, should be available.

  • Other healthy habits to promote and model include covering coughs and sneezes and then washing hands.

  • Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces such as countertops, handrails, and doorknobs.

  • Tell sick employees to stay at home until they feel better.

  • Employees should be reminded to practice and model good hand hygiene at home.