Handing on good practice

Mike Sullivan explains why encouraging healthy hand hygiene behaviour is critical in educational environments

Students are extremely susceptible to picking up communicable diseases and viruses, as any parent or carer will attest. A number of risk factors can contribute to this, but the fact that they come into regular close contact with each other is high on the list when analysing reasons for the spread of infections in these age groups.

Informing young people about healthy hand hygiene behaviour and providing them with the right products to make the activity pleasant rather than a chore is therefore crucial in educational settings. Investing in this area brings many benefits including: 

• improved academic success – less absenteeism amongst pupils and staff means increased chances for learning and knowledge development, making for higher grades

• better service to students – measures to help reduce the risk of virus outbreaks mean less disruption to teaching and exam timetables

• cost savings – viruses can spread amongst pupils and staff, which can result in increased spend to bring in supply teachers 

Efficacy is, of course, an important issue, so only those companies who can prove the effectiveness of their soaps or hand rubs against germs through independent scientific testing should be considered. However, the best products will successfully combine this with soothing, moisturising ingredients that are gentle on the skin, meaning that the products can be used again and again, safe in the knowledge that hands will be kept in good condition.

Aesthetics play a valuable role in encouraging people to develop healthy hand hygiene habits. Dispensers that look good, are easy to use and are installed at convenient locations are bound to be more popular. The use of innovative technology also helps, with touch-free dispensers available that intuitively sense the presence of hands and dispense just the right amount of product every time. The fact that they are ‘touch-free’ also increases their hygiene rating.

In order to improve its facilities, Newcastle University was looking for a system that would help it save money, improve sustainability, reduce maintenance and look good. Heather Willis, building facilities team leader at Newcastle University, says: “The system is a cleaner product for us as the dispensers do not leave drips on the sinks or, even worse, the floors. This makes the environment much safer, reducing the risk of slips and falls and saves maintenance time for our operatives. In addition, the dispensers are far more robust than models we have used in the past, which means we are not having to replace them so frequently. On the whole it is a better, cleaner and more efficient system, which has also proved to be highly economical.”

How you refill your dispensers is another important area for schools and colleges to consider, as this can have an effect on hygiene and implications for their cleaning staff.  Open reservoir dispensers and refillable hand soap can contribute to cross contamination problems because they are open to the environment. A study conducted by microbiologists at the University of Arizona found that 25 percent of bulk soap dispensers contain soap with unsafe levels of bacteria.

If a refill is sanitary sealed it means that the product inside is protected from contamination because it is factory sealed and includes a fresh valve with each refill. Its hygiene and health benefits are therefore obvious – but they also make time savings for hard-pressed maintenance staff because they are so much simpler and quicker to replace.

Encouraging and maintaining good hand hygiene is important for educational establishments. Investing in the best hand hygiene solutions can help improve the wellbeing of pupils, students and employees – helping young people achieve more.

Mike Sullivan is managing director for GOJO Industries-Europe Ltd


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