Advances have been made in making it easier and more inviting to wash hands. Handsoap formulations have advanced to provide effective cleaning while using skin-safe ingredients. This, together with touch-free dispensers, encourages frequent use.
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Explore This IssueOctober/November 2013
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Better papers, dispensed by no-touch electronic dispensers, are ideal for handwashing, affording a measured degree of friction to actually complete the cleaning-drying process.
Value-engineering and “green” initiatives periodically compete with handwashing’s best practice choices and they frequently win. This harkens back to the lack of standards. A purchasing agent may get rewarded based on finding a lower price for a 60 percent recycled paper. No one bothers to check that the new paper crumbles when wet and discourages handwashing.
The false-saving of air-dryers is witnessed regularly in food service and retail restrooms, the very restrooms used by the staff as well as the public. Both, along with the quality assurance department and the health inspector, prefer paper towel drying but are muzzled by either a “green” argument or over an unsightly presence of paper on the floor. If that decision maker could only see the pathogens marching out through the restroom door on the hands of the great unwashed.
Hospitals are no better than food service when it comes to handwashing but they do have a useful organizational tool to protect best practices—the Infection Control Committee. When changes are proposed to a process like handwashing, they must approve. Restaurants and retail would be well advised to consider a three member Handwash Process Control Committee, bringing quality assurance, operations, and risk management together to help control the risk.
The nailbrush raises another controversy. It simply can be used to accelerate good cleansing, particularly around the nail bed. However, the health inspector may request that the brush be tethered and stored in a sanitizer solution. Technically this is a good idea but the difficulty in keeping the sanitizer level at an effective range without risking skin damage makes it a bad idea. This method deters nailbrush use and the grimy appearance of the tethered brush may discourage use of the handsink altogether.
Some operators use an easily cleaned, self-cleaning fused bristle nailbrush. It is simply recycled by running it through the dish machine, power soak, or microwave as it has no staples.
Norovirus serves well as a focal point in setting handwashing criteria in food service and retail establishments.
Expanding Role of Hand Sanitizers
Hand sanitizers are one of the most under-utilized interventions in restaurants, convenience stores, lodging, and supermarkets. When operators want to add a further level of confidence and safety, these alcohol based, code compliant formulations have many advantages based on their versatility and convenience.
They can be applied directly at the handsink following a thorough wash. With the soil removed, this category of germ killers is highly effective. It is true that there is a wide range of performance when dealing with killing norovirus. Christine Moe, PhD, at Emory University in a break-through study discovered that human norovirus is much harder to kill than its calicivirus surrogate. She also identified one particularly effective formulation, breaking the myth that alcohol hand sanitizers are ineffective with norovirus.
Norovirus enters restaurants and delis through the front door as well as the employee entrance. Once inside, they welcome new hosts, contaminate shared surfaces, and threaten the wellness of both customers and employees.
Washing with alcohol hand sanitizer when water is not readily available has proven to be as effective as soap-water handwashing when followed by a second application of the sanitizer.
Multi-unit operations often know what’s best based on third-party research but can’t implement because some of the inspectors across the country in over 3,000 jurisdictions are misinformed or waiting for formal codification. Thus the risk of citations and attendant administrative costs protect the status quo. The cards are stacked against innovation.