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With World Hand Hygiene Day taking place on 5 May 2019, we want to remind people how washing hands with soap and water can remove bugs to protect both their health and that of others.

The day is declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in an effort to encourage health workers, and others, in their efforts to practice good hand hygiene.

According to WHO, every year, hundreds of millions of patients around the world are affected by healthcare associated infections. The purpose of hand washing is to remove dirt, viruses and bacteria from hands to stop these being spread to the environment and from person to person, which can lead to illness.

Hands should be washed:

  • after using the toilet
  • after handling raw foods like chicken, meat and vegetables
  • before eating or handling ready to eat food
  • after handling animals, including pets

Hands are easily contaminated with faecal bacteria when going to the toilet and this can be easily spread on to other things you touch, including food, but unfortunately not everyone consistently washes their hands after going to the toilet or before handling food.

In 2015 a survey of 100,000 people across Europe by washroom services company Initial, showed that 62% of men and 40% of women admitted they do not wash their hands after going to the toilet.

Washing your hands with soap and water is sufficient to remove dirt, viruses or bacteria and it can reduce the risk of diarrhoea by nearly 50% so these simple measures are a great way to stop people becoming unwell.

It is very important to ensure you wash your hands in order to help prevent the spread of infection when visiting a friend or relative in hospital or other healthcare environment.

Washing your hands properly should take about as long as singing “Happy Birthday” twice (around 20 seconds).

Use the following steps from the World Health Organization while you hum:

1. Wet your hands with water (warm or cold).
2. Apply enough soap to cover all over your hands. You can use alcohol-based hand-rub if you don’t have immediate access to soap and water.
3. Rub hands palm to palm.
4. Rub the back of your left hand with your right palm with interlaced fingers. Repeat with the other hand.
5. Rub your palms together with fingers interlaced.
6. Rub the backs of your fingers against your palms with fingers interlocked.
7. Clasp your left thumb with your right hand and rub in rotation. Repeat with your left hand and right thumb.
8. Rub the tips of your fingers in the other palm in a circular motion, going backwards and forwards. Repeat with the other hand.
9. Rinse hands with water (warm or cold).
10. Dry thoroughly, ideally with a disposable towel

We also cover Hand Washing on our Infection Control course. Contact us now for further details

Nigel Braybrooke, Grad. IOSH Health and Safety Consultant