Each year, on the 5th May the World Health Organization (WHO) shines a light on the importance of hand hygiene with their SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands campaign. This year, the campaign calls on those within the healthcare community to ‘accelerate action together’ to help reduce the risk of Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs). By strengthening and empowering communities in healthcare, the WHO aims to build a culture of safety and quality in which hand hygiene is a top priority.
As a member of the Private Organization for Patient Safety (POPS) group, we support the WHO in its efforts to maintain a global spotlight on the importance of hand hygiene in healthcare and beyond.
What are the 4 Moments for Hand Hygiene?
It’s important to stress that hand hygiene is a key defence in the fight against the spread of infection - 80% of all infections are transmitted by hands. To help empower those within your facility in their efforts to reduce infection transmission, it’s crucial to underline the importance of hand hygiene at the points where it matters most.
The day-to-day of working life for healthcare staff means they are likely to come into contact with various germ hotspots. These germs may not only be harboured in patient environments, but also may be found on more commonly touched surfaces such as light-switches, kitchen appliances, or door handles.
To help prevent the transmission of germs, Public Health Ontario advises the 4 key moments where healthcare professionals should clean their hands. These ‘4 Moments for Hand Hygiene’ are as follows:
- Before initial patient/patient environmental contact
- Before septic procedure
- After body fluid exposure risk
- After patient/ patient environment contact
Thinking beyond your staff, it’s also important to bear in mind that visitors to your facility are also likely to encounter germ hotspots before spending time with patients. To help build a holistic culture of hand hygiene awareness within your facility, informative resources – such as posters – can help act as a reminder to everyone to perform best practice hand hygiene.
Our best practice guidance for sanitizing and hand washing
With the 4 Moments in mind, it’s also crucial that hand hygiene best practice is reinforced to help healthcare professionals prevent the spread of infection in busy environments.
Hand hygiene is best performed with either alcohol-based hand sanitizers or soap and water. Where staff may need to clean their hands up to 100 times over a 12-hour shift, the advantages of hand sanitizer in a healthcare environment include greater accessibility and speed when compared to hand washing, as no water or hand washing station is required.
We recommend the following guidance for good hand sanitizer practice:
- It is recommended that sanitizers are used before entering the work area, and after coughing, sneezing, wiping the nose or touching contaminated surfaces.
- Sanitizers should only be used when hands are not visibly soiled.
- Enough product should be applied to keep hands wet for 20-30 seconds.
- Enough product should be applied to cover the entire hands.
Our POPS representative and Global Research, Development and Engineering Director Dr John Hines, D.Phil explains further: “Alcohol based sanitizers work by killing germs at the time of application when used as directed, therefore it is important to sanitize your hands at the key moments when the risk of transmission of germs is high, as defined for healthcare scenarios by the ‘4 Moments for Hand Hygiene’. It's important to stick to the 4 moments to ensure patient safety and not to rely on any residual effect, even when a product may claim to provide it.”
For situations where hands are visibly soiled or greasy, hand washing with soap and water should be used in place of sanitizing. Hand washing with soap physically removes germs from the hands; soap contains ingredients known as surfactants, which break down the oils and dirt on the skin. Friction created by rubbing the hands helps the surfactants to encapsulate the dirt and hold it away from the skin – water then rinses this away.
Here are our recommendations for good hand washing using our foam soap range:
- Apply to wet or dry hands
- Make sure to rub entire hands following proper hand washing techniques.
- Rinse with water and dry thoroughly with a single use towel, using the same towel to then turn off the tap.
For resources to help raise awareness of best practice hand washing technique in your organization, head here.
Working with you to accelerate action this World Hand Hygiene Day
To help reduce the spread of infection in healthcare environments, communities including staff, decision makers, and visitors need to work together to help ensure that patients feel protected and well cared for.
 https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/health-strategies/flu-pneumonia/interventions/environmental-support.html, 2016.