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What does hygiene mean and why is it important?
The word hygiene is of Greek origin - hugieine tekhne - meaning the 'art of health'.
Keeping staff and visitors healthy has to be a priority in any business, particularly with the onset of new illnesses such as the Swine Flu H1N1. Hand washing, when done correctly is the single most important means of reducing your chances of getting sick. Click here for hand washing procedures…...
Throughout the day your hands come into contact with numerous different objects. The germs picked up from other people, contaminated surfaces, food and animals will build up on your hands and be transferred into your body by touching your nose or mouth. The simple act of washing your hands with soap and water or with a hand sanitiser significantly reduces your chances of picking up germs such as the common cold, flu, and many gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and vomiting.
A survey organised by Dr Greg Simmons, Auckland Medical Officer of Health showed that the New Zealand public are not washing their hands effectively (http://www.nzfsa.govt.nz/publications/food-focus/2008-02/page-13.htm). The survey showed that 92% of women and 81% of men made an attempt to wash their hands after toileting and only 71% of these used soap. These statistics are frightening. If we don't wash our hands correctly we are transferring a multitude of germs to our family, friends, co-workers and the wider community. Using water alone is not an effective means of washing your hands.
It is estimated that it costs New Zealand business around $2 billion a year in staff illness, injury and absenteeism.
What is it costing your business to have sick staff, either away for the day or working at half pace? A simple and effective hygiene system in place at work will save you time and money!
Behind every cold and flu symptom is a germ. Bacteria, viruses and infectious organisms are everywhere around us. They float in the air, are on our food, in our water and soil, on plants and animals and yes on our bodies too!
Many of these germs can’t harm us as our immune system effectively protects us from them. However there are many others we need to be aware of. Food borne illnesses are frequently caused by lack of hand hygiene. Food poisoning organisms are found on areas of the body that are warm and moist, particularly the hair, face/nose, hands (under nails), skin, mouth, spots and blemishes, cuts and scratches. Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterial species that is normally present on the skin. Food handlers who don’t take the necessary hand washing precautions risk passing bacteria onto food and causing food poisoning.
Maintaining a healthy work environment is essential for staff health as well as your customers. From sterilizing your equipment to sanitising your benchtops and cleaning your floors, it is important to ensure each step is done correctly. Using the correct cleaning products and strategies will avoid hygiene problems. Choosing cleaning products that best suit your needs is vital. You need to ask yourself - are you required to sanitise or clean your benches? Do you need to disinfect or simply clean your equipment? Are your staff sensitive to certain products? Eco-friendly or not? Products purchased in the retail sector are fine for at home but for heavier usage premises you need commercial grade products. Every situation is different, the right cleaning products make all the difference!
Hand Sanitisers placed in easily accessible locations around the building mean staff will always be able to sanitise their hands after toileting, sneezing, coughing, smoking or eating etc. A non-alcohol based hand sanitiser like D-Germ is gentle to use and effective against 99.99% of germs.
There are many debates over the best ways to wash your hands but it is generally agreed that it is essential to follow the 20/20 rule as outlined above. (link) Studies have shown that drying your hands thoroughly is as important as washing them correctly.
A study on hand drying methods was done by the University of Westminster in London. The results showed that using hand air dryers increases the bacteria count on your hands by as much as 255%. In contrast paper towels decreased the bacteria count by 58% and pull down cotton towels decreased the count by 45%. The study also highlighted that paper towels and cotton pull down towels were far more effective in actually drying your hands than air dryers. Air dryers were also proven to emit bacteria into the environment and onto your hands. To read more on the results of the study click on http://www.wmin.ac.uk/~redwayk/research/WADsummary98.htm.
Environmentally the question of whether paper towels or hand air dryers have a greater impact is a hard one to answer. According to the study done by J. Joanaz de Melo, L. Macedo & A. Galvão for the New University of Lisbon, Caparica, Portugal http://www.irbdirekt.de/daten/iconda/CIB11676.pdf there is very little difference between the two. Of course every individual uses a different amount of paper towels or dries their hands for different lengths of time. These variations are very hard to take into account when performing studies. However this study looked at the entire process from manufacturing through to disposal of the paper towels and the air dryers after their recommended lifespan of 5 years. The conclusion was that paper towels and electric dryers have very similar environmental effects.
Other studies have shown that Hand Air Dryers are better for the environment. Without truly consistent results we can’t make an informed conclusion so it is really a question of personal preference and personal costs.