Managing Wellness

National Clean Hands Week: How to Encourage Your Staff to Wash Their Hands

  • Washing hands helps improve overall workplace wellness
  • There are five steps to washing your hands: wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry
  • Sanitizers and gloves may help stop the spread of germs, but cannot be used in place of handwashing
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Posted by September 18, 2017

By now, we all know the importance of clean hands and how vital washing them is to staying healthy and keeping germs out of the workplace. But, there’s a very good chance that your employees are not washing their hands correctly or frequently enough. It isn’t that your staff wants to get sick. Instead, they probably aren’t thinking about the significance of their actions. It’s up to you to remind them, and keep germs from wreaking havoc in your organization. Not only will washing hands help minimize the threat of presenteeism and sick days, but it may also lower your annual health care costs.

Hang Signs

It isn’t that your staff wants dirty hands, they just occasionally forget to wash them. Hanging signs in prominent locations, such as bathrooms and kitchens, helps to remind them to do so. However, eventually, your employees may not even notice the signs as they go about their day. One way to ensure that doesn’t happen is to switch up your signage frequently. Be funny. Share stats. Include pictures. Just make sure your notices are visible and easy to understand.

Invest in Supplies

Do you buy the cheap hand soap and the scratchy paper towels? While these might seem like cost-saving measures, your staff may be more likely to wash their hands if you spring for a more pleasant option, even if it’s a little more expensive. The cost is minimal compared to how much you might pay in sick time and overtime, so staff can cover your ill employee’s shifts.

Depending on your business, your staff may not have easy access to a sink where they can wash up. Remedy this by installing hand sanitizer stations throughout your building. Remember that while sanitizers are a great secondary option, they can’t replace washing with water and soap. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals.” So, if you make sanitizers readily available, keep reinforcing the importance of hand washing as often as possible.

Gloves are also a helpful secondary measure for employees who may be handling food or bodily fluids. Just remember to reinforce that the gloves are only a basic form of protection. They must also follow up with proper hand washing in order to maintain clean hands.

Explain Why

Your staff may not be aware of how vital it is to have clean hands in the workplace. Of course, your employees would never want a cook sneezing into their hands and then preparing their meal, but they may not realize how their own actions and behaviors affect their co-workers. According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM), “the typical office desk harbors more than 10 million bacteria, 400 times more germs than found on a standard toilet seat.” If you really want to shock your staff into using proper hand hygiene, you can lead with that.

Then, teach them how and when to clean their hands. With just five easy-to-complete steps—wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry—your staff can act as germ warriors, protecting themselves and others against icky colds and illnesses. In fact, the CDC reports that regular hand washing can reduce the risk of diarrhea by 31 percent and respiratory illnesses by 16 to 21 percent.

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