Improving Hand Hygiene in the Workplace

Tags:   hand hygiene , handwashing

As Australians gradually return to the workplace in a Covid-19 world, it’s important to ensure that hand hygiene practices are maintained to improve economic activity in the coming months which will help in mitigating potential future infections and deaths. To ensure that economic activity is returned to normal, following Safe Work Australia’s (SWA) workplace principles and the Federal Government’s “Stay Covid Free – Do the three” will potentially help employers and employees comply with hand hygiene practices. Implementing hand hygiene compliant technologies in the workplace will further assist in a return to economic normality. Executing hand hygiene compliant technologies and following Government workplace policies will provide a net benefit for the economy, but to what extent?

The challenge of returning to economic normality as Australians return to the workplace in a Covid 19 world, is how might we ensure that employers and employees are complying with good hand hygiene?

In April, Safe Work Australia released their safe workplace principles, its purpose is to ensure a healthy and safe working environment during the current pandemic (Safe Work Australia 1: 2020). This is to ensure that businesses are in alignment with advice issued from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) (Safe Work Australia 1: 2020). Though the principals themselves are fairly general in detail, placing emphasis on work health and safety, there is a more detailed checklist as well. In section 3, the checklist provides methods into managing handwashing and hygiene which is helpful for both employers and employees in the workplace (Safe Work Australia 2: 2020). Some of these include the following:

  • Have hand sanitizer stations at entry and exit points and around the workplace
  • Ensure bathrooms are well stocked with hand wash and paper towel
  • Put up posters with instructions on how to hand wash/hand rub
  • If possible, accept only cashless transactions
  • Put up signs to request customers only touch objects they are going to buy

(source: Safe Work Australia)

Complementing SWA’s safe workplace principles is the government’s “Stay Covid Free – Do the three”, it’s design to provide a three step process that simplifies the decision making process for employers and employees which ultimately will help in rebuilding the economy (Australian Government: 2020).

Though SWA’s safe workplace principles and checklist, alongside the “Stay Covid Free” campaign are vital in ensuring a return to business through healthy hand hygiene practices, what other ways are there to ensure that hand hygiene practices are followed?

Education around hand washing is another way to help ensure good hand hygiene practices are followed as a means of restarting the economy. Prior to Covid 19, there has been poor risk recognition, accountability, traceability and prioritization around maintaining good hand washing practices (Hinds et al: 2017), much of which can be attributed to lack of education and visibility of the risks. With Hand washing now in focus as an Australian Governments ‘Stay Covid free’ priority, there is a need to build greater awareness around proper hand washing practices while actually doing the process to reinforce long lasting behaviors, this will ensure the best possible outcomes in rebuilding the economy.  

Scientific research in 2013 proved that hand hygiene standards can be improved with verbal instructions on the importance of compliance with hand hygiene practices (Salama et al: 2013), which should be improved further through interactive visual guidance.

Having fixed or portable sensor tapware solutions is a complementary measure to further improve hand hygiene compliance in the workplace.  Products such as Enware’s Electra sensor taps or the Portable Hand Hygiene station provide employers with options to install or utilize in a range of environments such as commercial offices, job sites or retail outlets ensuring hand hygiene compliant workplaces. 

Using verbal education technologies to improve hand hygiene practices in the workplace will make the shift to increase economic activity easier, allaying potential employer concerns of spreading infections in the workplace. Complementing this with sensor tap technologies will further improve hand hygiene compliant workplaces in the coming months.

How much of an impact then will following government health advise and implementing innovative hand hygiene solutions will have on the economy?  

By following hand hygiene practices such as implementing innovative hand hygiene technologies and following government health advice, it’s highly likely that this will reduce the current economic costs during the current health crisis. Already the Australian government have spent $200 billion in stimulating the economy which will have long-term impacts for taxpayers (Mannheim: 2020). Even in normal economic circumstances it has been estimated that in some industries the number of sick days is 12 in Australia (APSC: 2018).  

(Source: APSC)

Further studies have indicated that small and medium enterprises (SME) lose upto $26,536 in productivity per year as a result of sick days taken (Professional Coaching & Mentoring Blog: 2018). Therefore it’s important to ensure that hand hygiene practices are followed, studies have shown in hospital environments that improving hand hygiene standards displayed significant drops in health care associated infections (Salama et al: 2013). Applying similar practices in the workplace would result in positive outcomes as it would reduce the likelihood of absences, therefore increasing productivity in the workplace and reducing overheads for employers.  Compounding abseentism in the workplace is the close proximity to other employees, in the United States this applies to 70% of all employees which assist in spreading (Arbogast et al: 2016). However, by practicing safe hand hygiene practices, studies suggest that was a 31% reduction in self-reported illnesses such as gastrointestinal infection, respiratory illness and influenza (Arbogast et al: 2016). This supports SWA’s and Stay Covid Three promotion of ensuring 1.5 metres distance is maintained (Safe Work Australia 2, Australian Government: 2020). By ensuring that employees are 1.5 metres apart in accordance to Australian health advice and following good hand hygiene practices through innovative technologies, this should reduce the risk of lost productivity for employers and help the Australian economy as a whole. 

Providing greater accessibility to hand washing products in the workplace as well as engaging staff and visitors with interactive educational tools to help reinforce and develop proper hand washing behaviors are just two new innovations that will help create safer workplaces. Following government health advice such as SWA and Covid Free promotions will not only ensure a safer workplace,  but it will help in rebuilding the Australian economy in the following months to come. Society as a whole has an important role in ensuring that future infections and deaths are mitigated. Maintaining good hand hygiene and following government health advice will be the primary tools to make this happen.

At Enware, we have a number of Hand Hygiene solutions that will resolve the problem of using touch tapware such as the Electra sensor tap range to improve the likelihood of good hand hygiene practices. If you would like to get a specification you can contact our team on 1300 369 273 or email info@enware.com.au.

Sources:

Arbgast, JW Moore-Schiltz, L Jarvis, WR Harpster-Hagen, A Hughes, J Parker, A (2016), Impact of a Comprehensive Workplace Hand Hygiene Program on Employer Health Care Insurance Claims and Costs Absenteeism and Employee Perceptions and Practices, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 58, Issue 1

Australian Government (2020), Stay COVID free – do the 3, Retrieved from https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/stay-covid-free-do-the-3

John, K.J., Campbell, D., Armstrong, M.C., Degnan, A., Hinds, J. (2017), Non-Compliance and Hospital Acquired Infection: Using Design Methodologies to Improve Hand Hygiene Practices, Monash University, Australia

Markus Mannheim (2020), Australia’s coronavirus spending to protect economy dwarfs the GFC stimulus package, Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-05/coronavirus-data-stimulus-spending-dwarfs-gfc-chart/12115518

Professional Coaching & Mentoring Blog (2018), The Cost of Sickies in Australia, Retrieved from https://www.exponentialprograms.com/professional/blog/tag/sick-days/

Safe Work Australia 1 (2020), National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles, Retrieved from https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-information-workplaces/other-resources/national-covid-19-safe-workplace-principles

Safe Work Australia 2 (2020), Checklist: What can I do to keep my workers safe at the workplace and limit the spread of COVID-19, Retrieved from https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-05/COVID-19_Workplace-Checklist.pdf 

Salama, MF Jamala, WY Mousad, HA Al-Abdul Ghani, KA Rotimi, VO (2013), The effect of hand hygiene compliance on hospital-acquired infections in an ICU setting in a Kuwaiti teaching hospital, Journal of Infection and Public Health, Volume 6 Issue 1

Professional Coaching & Mentoring Blog (2018), The Cost of Sickies in Australia, Retrieved from https://www.exponentialprograms.com/professional/blog/tag/sick-days/

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