It is probably safe to say that similar proposed legislation for food services is right around the corner, if not already underway. Concerns for good health will guide people to seek reports and statistics that identify the most hygienic places to eat. All this really means is that the public is becoming better educated to the necessity of improved food handling and thus, improved hand hygiene.
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Explore This IssueJune/July 2006
Within the food service industry the educational process for proper hand washing methods has been underway for some time. Organizations such as Handwashing for Life promote continuing education as the primary element to improve hand-washing performance. Continuing education together with monitoring and compliance to established hand-hygiene standards among food handlers has become accepted procedure in food processing environments. These practices have filtered down to every food handler in quick service restaurants. Food service businesses today have defined processes, procedures and performance standards for hand hygiene. But just how is a system put in place to ensure compliance?
The Importance of Measurement
Anything important is worth measuring, and those things that are not measured will never improve or ever be taken seriously. Without understanding what the hand washing performance of your food handlers is today, how can you decide what needs to change? And perhaps more importantly, without statistical data how can you convey the necessity of change to your food handlers?
The coupling of measurement, statistics, and process control is a very old concept with proven results. Your business is undoubtedly employing measurement in other areas requiring process control. Manufacturing processes strive for zero defects. Clearly we can identify the similarity with food services striving for zero outbreaks of foodborne illness. Employing a process that includes education, providing access to proper hand washing facilities, using measurement techniques and reporting the statistical data generated can and will improve performance and reduce risk.
The issue of implementing defined processes and procedures via a hand hygiene system that is integrated with a viable educational program can be overwhelming. Ideally, the system must be able to gather hand-wash data unobtrusively, process it without human intervention in a timely manner and display the results in a format that can be easily read and acted upon by management. Ideally, hand hygiene performance results should be easily available to each stakeholder with a vested interest in using these results as a process control tool. In the case of operations with multiple locations where comparative analysis may be advantageous, or when remote access to information is necessary, the performance results may reside on a corporate network or a secured Web site.
Managers must have a tool that can be used to measure and report compliance status as well as one that aids in the improvement of hand hygiene performance. For example, the system may produce displayable charts that can be used to further educate and motivate employees. The total system—educating, measuring, reporting—should promote and encourage buy-in at every level of the organization for complete success.
Using Wireless Technology in the Process
Various system options are available to respond to the hand hygiene performance improvement process. Selecting the system that best suits the environment takes careful evaluation. Reliable, affordable wireless technology today influences this buying decision tremendously. With the right educational program, a wireless system removes many, if not all, of the obstacles to installation, and outperforms manual methods.
There are a range of factors to consider when selecting an appropriate system, including cost and return on investment to the psychological and emotional matters of ease of use and overcoming concerns with respect to personal privacy. Also, the system should complement and support the ongoing educational program.
Counting Soap/Sanitizer Dispensers
As an alternative to no means of measurement, today there are several manufacturers, who produce soap/sanitizer dispensers that contain counter modules. The counter is tripped each time soap or sanitizer is dispensed.