DIV18/60 : Promoting Hand Hygiene (15 May 2019)

Issue Date: 15 May 2019
Ref: DIV18/60


Promoting Hand Hygiene

Around 40% of all food poisoning outbreaks are the result of poor hand hygiene and cross contamination. This link has been known for years, which is why personal hygiene and surface sanitising are both so important in any business preparing and serving food. Mistakes that lead to illness can cause suffering to customers and staff while also disrupting the business and diminishing its reputation. Diversey offers a complete set of products that enable food service businesses to maintain the highest standards.

The majority of food-related illnesses are caused by bacteria. According to the Food Standards Agency, campylobacter causes the most cases – over 250,000 a year - of food poisoning in the UK with E.coli and salmonella also affecting large numbers. Listeria monocytogenes causes the most food poisoning deaths although the numbers are very small. 

Studies suggest around 80% of all infectious diseases – including Influenza and the common cold - are passed on by personal contact or touching a contaminated surface. This link has been understood for a long time and we all learn as children to wash our hands before eating and after going to the toilet. Despite this it seems many people continue to ignore this most basic act of personal hygiene. Apparently, just 39% of us wash our hands before eating.

Encouraging more frequent hand washing is not always the simple solution it seems. In food service, for example, staff should wash their hands between tasks, including when switching between handling raw and cooked items. That can mean a lot of washing during a normal day. Conventional soaps can strip natural oils which protect the skin, leading to an increased risk of damage through conditions such as dermatitis. 

Hand hygiene products therefore need to be effective yet gentle. Modern formulations incorporate highly effective biocidal ingredients as well as emollients to preserve the skin’s natural protective barrier and keep hands soft. They should not include perfumes to avoid tainting food. Diversey offers a choice of highly effective products and can recommend the best option for any particular setting.

Whatever products are chosen, they must be available and ready to use whenever required. Dispensers should be situated conveniently to encourage regular and proper use. At the same time, they should ideally contain enough product to prolong the interval between refills and therefore minimise the risk of outages and reduce necessary restocking burdens.

Another way to encourage compliance is to monitor usage. While it is rarely desirable to monitor individuals, it is helpful to know how often a particular dispenser has been used and how much product has been consumed. In a busy kitchen, for example, comparing this with baseline information would give a reasonable indication of whether staff have been complying with agreed standards. If not, additional awareness and training can be provided and the subsequent change in usage patterns assessed.

Managing these challenges is behind the concept of Diversey’s new IntelliCare system. Its innovative dispenser can be used with a wide range of hand care products – soaps, washes and sanitisers – allowing operators to choose the one most suited to their specific requirement. Each product is supplied in the same design and size of pouch to enable interchangeability and flexibility. The pouches are larger than average which, combined with the dispenser’s excellent dosing control, ensures the maximum interval between refills. 

Alerts generated by the dispenser warn the operator before the battery or pouch needs replacing. The dispenser automatically switches between automatic and manual mode in the unlikely event of battery failure to ensure users can still access the product. 

Hand hygiene has never been more important. Infection prevention specialists now accept that some hand hygiene is better than no hand hygiene and that using alcohol-based rubs is an alternative to hand washing if soaps are unavailable. The correct choice and use of products and equipment, allied with effective surface sanitising, should help to prevent the spread of infections to protect a business’s customers, staff and reputation.