As the new coronavirus continues to impact people around the globe, governments and businesses alike are taking drastic steps to try to limit the spread and magnitude of the pandemic.
Governors and mayors across the United States are ordering facilities where crowds tend to gather— including restaurants, bars and theaters—to close their doors temporarily. For the managers of these facilities, as well as those that remain open, like supermarkets, the outbreak represents an opportunity to ensure their buildings are well-equipped for effective hand hygiene—a crucial method of combatting the virus.
How hand hygiene helps
The new coronavirus infects individuals via droplets from a cough, sneeze or spit of a sick person, which often land on surfaces and the hands of those who touch them. Many people proceed to touch their faces, allowing the virus to find an opening to enter their bodies and make them ill. For this reason, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says proper handwashing and hand-drying are critical factors to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus.
By empowering employees and guests alike to easily maintain clean, germ-free hands, businesses can make it clear that they are taking steps to prevent COVID-19 from infecting patrons. Facility managers should consider the following hand hygiene best practices:
Wash away germs
Using soap and water is the most effective method of handwashing, according to the CDC, because it provides friction to remove simple soils and surfactants to lift microbes from hands. As a result, facilities should do everything they can to make handwashing essentials easily accessible. Restrooms should have ample hand soap by every sink and visible signage in restrooms, reminding visitors and staff to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. To eliminate points of physical touch, businesses should seek automated soap dispensers, and even consider touch-free sinks.
Microbes like the new coronavirus are not confined to restrooms, however. As a result, facilities need supplementary ways to kill germs on hands when soap and water aren’t readily available. This is where hand sanitizer comes in. During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors will be highly aware of the importance of sanitizing their hands, and businesses can give them peace of mind by providing automated hand sanitizer dispensers in all high traffic areas such as entrances, lobbies, hallways, check-out counters and exits. The CDC recommends hand sanitizers contain at least 60% alcohol in order to successfully kill pathogens.
Don’t forget to dry
Hand-drying is key to hand hygiene since wet hands pick up germs much more easily than dry hands. When it comes to hand-drying methods, some surveys show that up to 75% of people prefer paper towels over air dryers. In addition, research continues to show that some air dryers have the potential to spread pathogens through the air. Therefore, facilities often turn to paper towels as their primary hand-drying resource. Look for an absorbent and soft option that can dry hands without using excessive paper.
In addition to the paper towels, the right dispensers can also be an asset for a business in protecting against pathogens. Some paper towel dispensers are made of antibacterial plastic and use silver ions to create an active barrier against germs. These dispensers add another layer of protection against microbes and help avoid re-contaminating hands after washing them. During times of outbreak, facilities can also post signage urging people to use a paper towel when touching door handles. Finally, make sure paper towels remain stocked and dispensers remain functional around the clock to avoid germ-attracting wet hands and customer complaints.
Make hand hygiene contagious
Since 80% of common infections are transmitted by hands, facilities should find ways to encourage hand hygiene. Especially during and after a major outbreak like COVID-19, providing the best resources for staff and guests to wash their hands consistently and properly is of paramount importance. This means stocking touch-free hand soap dispensers, placing hand sanitizer stations strategically throughout the building and opting for paper towels as the go-to hand-drying solution.
Businesses can also get creative with their signage to nudge people to wash and dry their hands the right way. The bottom line is that promoting hand hygiene is a vital way for businesses to protect the wellbeing of everyone who comes through their doors and to do their part to slow the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19.