Whichever way you look at it, nobody likes to be told they aren’t washing their hands properly. In a recent blog post, we talked about the fact that studies have shown that that only about 5% of people in general are in fact washing their hands in accordance with official guidelines. Which technically isn’t what you’d call reassuring, but what exactly is being referred to when people talk about the ‘proper’ way to wash hands?
When should hands be washed?
In terms of when and how frequently hands should be washed, the simple answer is as often as necessary. Which is of course disconcertingly vague, which is why experts recommend that hands be washed at least every couple of hours, or in any of the following instances:
- Before, during and after the preparation of food
- Before eating and afterwards
- After using the bathroom
- Before and after caring for sick individuals
- Immediately after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose
- After touching garbage
- After handling cleaning products or anything dangerous
- After coming into contact with any surfaces that may be contaminated
Technically speaking the list goes on, with much of it being a little more than common sense. After all, it’s really no secret these days as to where germs and bacteria are lurking around the office – come into contact with any of these and hand washing is recommended.
The ‘proper’ way to wash hands
As for how to get the job done properly, it’s very difficult to tell anyone how to wash their hands without coming across as patronizing and/or condescending.
Nevertheless, as evidence clearly shows that most people really are not doing it as they should be, it’s worth glancing over the guidelines as a reminder:
- Wet the hands under running warm water, ensuring the temperature is not too hot.
- Apply plenty of soap and work it across the entire surface of the skin, including between the fingers, the backs of the hands and under the ends of the fingernails.
- Continue massaging the soap into the skin for a minimum of 20 to 30 seconds, in order to ensure as much dirt and bacteria as possible is lifted away.
- Rinse hands extremely thoroughly, making sure no soap residue is left behind.
- Dry the hands immediately using paper towels or a hot air dryer, ensuring that the hands are completely dry, front and back, before finishing.
- If possible, finish by using antibacterial hand sanitiser for an extra dose of hygiene.
Speaking of hand sanitiser, these days this is exactly the kind of thing that every workplace should have available in plentiful quantities and within easy reach at all times. Extensive studies have shown how the introduction and widespread use of hand sanitiser has the very real potential to maximise workplace hygiene and minimise sickness rates, all for an incredibly low cost.
It’s natural to overlook the importance of proper hand washing practices in generally clean office environments, but this is exactly the kind of complacency that eventually leads to problems. It’s therefore more than worth revisiting the subject from time to time, just to make sure things are as they should be.