Maximising hand hygiene compliance through clever washroom design
Employers have a responsibility to provide adequate facilities for workers and addressing hand hygiene compliance in washrooms is an important part of this responsibility. Given that 80% of all infections are transmitted by the hands, it is vital that employees and visitors are provided with the most hygienic environment to reduce the risk of infection.
If an infection does occur in the workplace, especially in enclosed environments where people are working in close proximity with one another, there is the potential for it to spread if hand hygiene compliance isn’t adhered to. Dr. Chris Smith, Virologist at Cambridge University, revealed in a recent Radio 2 programme on hand hygiene that to become infected with norovirus – one of the biggest causes of gastronomical upheaval – someone would only need to be in contact with ten particles to catch it; a person with the infection can shed enough virus to infect the world population. Infections can impact productivity and sickness in the workplace. The UK Office for National Statistics estimated that more than 400 million working days were lost due to sickness absence between 2013 and 2015.
The risk of germ transfer can be minimised and absenteeism reduced if facility managers better consider washroom design. Dr. Chris Smith claimed that toilets in many workplaces are “abysmally designed”, and this poor design is making occupants more vulnerable to infection. If you think about the washroom at your workplace, it is likely that you will push a door to enter the washroom, and pull the door to exit. Many people will fail to wash their hands effectively (or not at all) after using the toilet, and will touch the handle before exiting. This handle will therefore harbour bacteria which can be easily transferred. When you consider the overall hand hygiene of occupants, logistically this design doesn’t make sense.
One suggestion to improve overall hand hygiene and reduce the risk of infection would be to place hand sanitisers outside of each washroom, and any other areas where the risk of germ transfer might be high. Examples of these locations would be at the entrance and exit of the workplace, areas close to lifts and stairs and any location where food is being served, so that occupants can be assured that any bacteria that may have been picked up can be eradicated. Certain sanitisers can kill 99.9% or 99.99% of germs, but if facility managers wish to effectively safeguard their workforce, then it is vital that they choose a sanitiser which can kill 99.999% of many common germs. That extra ‘9’ could prove critical in stopping the spread of infections and reducing absenteeism in the workplace.
It isn’t just the location of the dispensers that can impact hand hygiene compliance, but also how the elements inside the washroom function and are displayed. It is crucial that washrooms contain hygienic sealed dispensers. Foam dispensers are advisable for workplaces as they require 36% less product for an effective hand wash compared with traditional soap and can cut water consumption by 45%. These dispensers can provide enough product for over 1,400 hand washes.
It is also important for the washroom to look appealing, and to accurately represent a company. Shabby, dirty dispensers which are empty will reflect negatively on any business. Instead facility managers should consider investing in bespoke designed dispensers that fit perfectly in the working environment, and can be designed to include company logos, slogans and can match a company’s overall branding. Having an aesthetically pleasing, reliable dispenser system with readily available soap will mean that occupants will be more inclined to be hand hygiene compliant. Companies should also look for BioCote marked dispensers; a market-leading antimicrobial technology supplier proven to achieve up to a 99.99% reduction in bacteria, mould and fungi over a 24 hour period. The presence of BioCote’s logo on dispensers reassures employees and visitors that excellence in hand hygiene procedures is of paramount importance.
Ultimately, facility managers must ensure that enhancing hand hygiene compliance is at the heart of the design, or redesign process of a washroom. If facility managers are clever with the design, then there is the potential to reduce the risk of infections, consequently impacting absenteeism and productivity, whilst also ensuring that the washroom environment positively reflects a company as a whole.
 Source: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
 Source: BBC Radio 2
 Source: Office for National Statistics (ONS)