Hand Washing Technique

It is widely accepted that there is a correct technique to good hand washing and separate studies from around the world show that good hand hygiene practices can reduce illness, sickness absence and the associated costs by up to 40%.

However, numerous studies continue to demonstrate that the correct procedure of hand washing is not adhered to.

Improper Hand Washing

It is not always possible to protect the skin against various contaminants in the workplace.  Therefore, cleaning and taking care of the hands is an important part of developing a proactive, holistic stance against work related skin disorders.

However, for any organisation, implementing and maintaining appropriate hand hygiene practices is a daily challenge as there are inconsistent hand hygiene habits across the population:

  • Separate washroom studies from around the world show that only 70% of people wash their hands and only 30% of people actually use soap when washing their hands
  • People do not wash their hands frequently or adequately enough - The average person washes their hands for around 10 seconds. This will remove around 90% of germs from their hands
  • Bacteria grow and double in number in less than 20 minutes

The image below shows the most frequently missed parts of the hands when the correct hand washing technique is not adopted.

Correct Hand Washing Technique

Removing all dirt and contaminants from the skin is extremely important. Hands and other soiled parts of the body should be cleaned at least at the end of each work period, prior to breaks, or when visiting the toilet. 

The correct method of cleaning is also important. Developing a good hand washing technique is imperative to ensure hands are thoroughly clean. Particular attention should be paid to the backs of the hands and fingertips as these are frequently missed. 
It is usual to wet hands before dispensing a dose of soap into a cupped hand, however for heavily soiled hands it is advisable to apply the appropriate specialist hand cleanser directly to the skin before wetting. In all cases, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommended instructions.

Hand washing step 1

1. Rub palm to palm

Hand washing step 2

2. Rub palm over back of hand, fingers interlaced

Hand washing step 3

3. Palm to palm, fingers interlaced

Hand washing step 4

4. Fingers interlocked into palms

Hand washing step 5

5. Rotational rubbing of thumb clasped into palm

Hand washing step 6

6. Rotational rubbing of clasped fingers into palm

The skin should always be properly dried to avoid risk of chapping particularly during cold weather. Clean towels should be available at all times – dirty towels mean exposing the skin to more dirt and the risk of infection. Ideally, ‘single issue’ disposable towels should be used, as the use of ‘communal’ towels can lead to contamination.