Hand hygiene. And, as winter approaches, many of us are susceptible to falling ill with colds and flu. Unfortunately, our workplaces are where the germs and bacteria responsible for these illnesses can easily spread with 80% of all infections being transmitted by our hands .
That’s why hand hygiene in the workplace is so important. Handwashing with soap is widely seen as the most effective way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria, and avoid infections. According to estimates, this practice could reduce the number of people catching colds by 45% .
If companies take hand hygiene seriously, they can go a long way towards avoiding the negative consequences of colds, such as decreased productivity and low staff morale, as well as the financial burden: sick leave due to colds is currently estimated to cost UK businesses £1.3 billion each year .
Employees and employers have their parts to play
Employees clearly have a responsibility when it comes to hand hygiene: everyone should make sure to keep their hands clean throughout the day, especially before and after eating, after coughing or sneezing, or using the toilet. To effectively wash hands, soap should be lathered and rubbed vigorously around the hands and wrists for at least 40-60 seconds.
Employers have their part to play too. It’s their responsibility to make sure that the right kind of products are available for their employees to use. If they go one step further by implementing a fully integrated skin care programme for their workplace, they will not only increase hand hygiene compliance but also take care of their employees’ skin health in general.
Implementing a fully integrated skin care programme
A proven fully integrated skin care programme identifies three crucial stages for treatment of the skin: washing, sanitising and restoring.
Different working environments will have different product requirements. Generally speaking, cleansing products need to be effective and supported with scientifically proven data where appropriate. It’s also important that they are gentle to the skin and pleasant to use. If soaps contain conditioners they can help improve skin hydration and prevent drying of the skin.
Modern foam soap solutions require 36% less product for an effective hand wash compared with traditional liquid or lotion soaps. This makes them a cost effective choice, especially in environments where hand washing needs to be frequent if infections are to be avoided.
As important as hand washing are the use of sanitisers and restorative creams. Sanitisers should be used where access to running water is inconvenient. Easy and quick to use, they kill germs rather than physically remove them. When used frequently they can be less harmful to the skin than an equivalent number of hand washes. Modern sanitisers have been designed to kill 99.999% of common germs – making them very effective at preventing the spread of germs and bacteria in the workplace.
Restorative products are a crucial element of any skin care programme. Applied at the end of the day, they moisturise, nourish and condition the skin improving its strength and preventing it from becoming dry or damaged. It’s easy to forget or overlook this part of a skin care programme, but it’s vital to keep the skin healthy.
The right products and the right equipment
Cleansers, sanitisers and restorative products should always be sourced from reputable companies who offer advice and guidance on their use. By taking into account the potential hazards the skin might come into contact with, as well as the specific nature of the work being done, skin experts are able to suggest the right cleaners and creams.
The installation of specifically designed, sealed cartridge dispensers for use with soaps, skin cleaners and creams is strongly recommended. Such dispensers provide the most hygienic skin care system by reducing, to a minimum, the risk of cross-infection that can occur if a number of people extract the product from an open or communal container. Dispensers also assure that the correct amount of product is used – minimising waste and optimising the cost of use.
Companies should look for BioCote marked dispensers – a market leading antimicrobial technology supplier proven to achieve up to a 99.99% reduction in bacteria, mould and fungi over a 24 hour period. The presence of BioCote’s logo on dispensers reassures employees and customers that excellence in hand hygiene procedures is of paramount importance.
If products are available from easy-to-use, accessible dispensers, employees are much more inclined to wash their hands regularly and use the right restorative creams. Well-designed facilities are one of the best ways to encourage better hand hygiene compliance and improve skin health. If members of staff see others wash their hands or use creams regularly, they are more likely to do so themselves.
Staff education is crucial
However, it’s not enough to just put the right products in the right places. A skin care programme should include a dedicated programme of education and training. Employers need to make a real effort to inform their staff about the seriousness of occupational skin disease and the steps they can take to avoid being affected.
Compliance is crucial to the success of any skin care programme – staff need to be aware of facts such as when soap and water should be used, when a sanitiser is appropriate and when to apply a restorative cream.
Keeping the hand hygiene conversation going
Training sessions can help to ensure that hand hygiene is not just a one-off event that is quickly forgotten about. Materials such as leaflets, posters and information boards are widely available to help employers increase awareness of hand hygiene compliance. Regular staff meetings are a good way to keep hand washing on everyone’s mind.
Supporting materials such as these are available from the Health and Safety Executive website as well as skin care manufacturers.
World leading hand hygiene
At Lyreco, we work with skincare experts Deb, part of SC Johnson Professional. Deb has been a world leader in providing occupational skin care and hand hygiene solutions for over 80 years.
Through our partnership with Deb, we supply its four stage skin care and hand hygiene solutions. These are available as individual items and integrated skin care programmes.
A broad range of pre-work creams and sprays to help protect the skin against a wide variety of workplace contaminants and working conditions.
An extensive range of hand cleansers and body washes using a 1-5 strength rating to enable appropriate product use for any working environment.
Specialist hand sanitisers that can be used without water to quickly and easily kill a broad spectrum of germs and leave hands hygienically clean.
A broad range of after-work creams specially formulated to nourish and moisturise all skin types and skin conditions from normal through to very dry and stressed skin.
For more product details click here
 US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
 American Journal of Preventive Medicine
 Royal Pharmaceutical Society, 2007
SC Johnson Professional