How to Practice Safe Hand Hygiene

Practice Good Hand Hygiene News & Views Article Image


By SC Johnson Professional

May 5 is World Hand Hygiene Day, which is a global call for workers across all industries to slow the spread of germs by handwashing. Proper handwashing includes using soap, water and washing for at least 20 seconds. A 2011 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that washing with soap and water can reduce the presence of bacteria associated with diarrheal disease by up to 23% and slow the spread of harmful bacteria from fecal origin.

Hand hygiene may seem like common sense, but studies show this is not the case. According to a 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Health completed by Michigan State University, only 5% of people wash their hands long enough to kill germs and only two in three people use soap when handwashing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 20% of respiratory infections and about 30% of diarrhea-related illnesses can be prevented if proper hand hygiene practices are followed[1]. If workers and employers promote proper handwashing procedures and follow them diligently, it can reduce the spread of illness-causing bacteria.

The Importance of Hand Hygiene

Handwashing can prevent a variety of germs from spreading. In the restaurant industry, 89% of food borne illnesses are caused by germs transferring from improperly washed hands to the food.[2]Proper handwashing can[3]:

  • Reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23 – 40%
  • Reduce diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%
  • Reduce respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16 – 20%
  • Reduce absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness for school children by 29 – 57%

It’s critical for workers to wash their hands regularly. Workers must have clean hands to help stop the spread of harmful bacteria throughout a facility.

How and When to Wash

To prevent the spread of germs, the CDC recommends washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. While washing, lather the back of hands, between fingers and under fingernails. This creates friction, which helps effectively remove dirt and germs from skin. Finally, dry hands using a clean towel. Facilities can offer soaps that deliver antimicrobial efficacy of up to 99.999% for a variety of Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria, such as SC Johnson Professional’s Refresh AntiBac Foam

When soap isn’t readily available, make alcohol hand sanitizers available to employees, like SC Johnson Professional’s InstantFOAM Complete sanitizer with 80% alcohol. When using hand sanitizer, use similar motions to handwashing – rub hands together for at least 20 seconds and make sure hands are fully dry when complete.

According to the CDC it’s especially critical for workers to wash their hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Before and after eating food
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After nose blowing, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After touching garbage


Following these practices can help mitigate crucial danger points for germs transferring from workers’ hands to other surfaces or people. Wash hands frequently and correctly is essential to preventing the spread of germs.

By keeping these recommendations in mind, employees can help stop the spread of illness-causing bacteria and keep everyone in the facility safer.

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