Amid the most recent infectious disease outbreak, employers have had to reassess their workplace illness prevention protocols. Hand-washing has always been one of the most practical and effective safety measures. 

How do you know if your employees are in compliance with the CDC’s hand-washing standards?

At Eco Bear, we can help you establish effective hand-washing and illness prevention protocols in your workplace. After years of working with biohazards, we’re delighted to say that hand-washing is and always will be one of the most economical, easy, and efficient steps that you can take to stop the spread of infectious disease at your business. If you’re in a rush, check out the CDC’s hand-washing videos here. Otherwise, follow along for essential workplace requirements.

When to Wash Your Hands

The CDC has issued a comprehensive list of when workers should be washing (or at least sanitizing) their hands. The list, as posted on the CDC’s website, is as follows:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food 
  • Before eating food 
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea 
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Revised Hand-Washing Recommendations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the nation copes with the pressures of the COVID-19 crisis, the CDC has revised its hand-washing recommendations. 

At this time, the CDC has advised people to wash their hands after touching any item or surface in public places. After all, high-touch surfaces, such as gas pumps, ATMs, pay stations, handles, and doors, are all places that can transmit the coronavirus. 

At the same time, the CDC has also advised individuals to wash their hands before touching their eyes, noses, or mouths. According to recent studies, people automatically touch their faces as many as 25 times per hour. 

How to Wash Your Hands

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has developed clear workplace standards for hand-washing. 

1. Wet your hands with clean, running water. One your hands are wet, turn off the tap and apply soap to your palms. 

2. Lather your hands with soap. Make sure to get the backs of your hands, the areas between your fingers, and the areas under your fingernails. 

3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. The CDC recommends that workers sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Consider posting the lyrics alongside CDC issued signage.

4. Rinse your hands with clean, running water. Water may be cold or warm. 

5. Dry your hands with a clean paper towel or no-touch air dryer.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what a compliant hand washing station looks like.

According to the California Health and Safety Codes, hand-washing stations may be permanent or temporary. They must have an adequate supply of water, soap, and single-use paper towels or a warm-air blower. Hand washing sinks must be separate from dishwashing sinks. 

How to Sanitize Your Hands

What should employees do when they can’t access soap and water? Hand sanitizing is a reasonable alternative to hand washing. The CDC recommends the use of a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Be sure to check the label of your hand sanitizer to ensure that it complies with the CDC’s standards. 

Keep in mind that hand sanitizer is not an effective alternative when it comes to removing dirt, grease, chemicals, and other substances.

When sanitizing your hands, follow CDC recommendations listed below:

1. Apply some sanitizer to the palm of one of your hands.

2. Rub your hands together to spread the sanitizer.

3. Rub the sanitizer over the fronts and backs of your hands. Be sure to go over the areas between your fingers and under your fingernails. The entire process should take at least 20 seconds or the same amount of time it takes you to properly wash your hands. 

Tip: Do not attempt to wipe off any remaining hand sanitizer. Substances with at least 60% alcohol should dry on their own. 

The CDC recommends that individuals use hand sanitizer whenever they cannot wash their hands. However, hand sanitizers should not be used in place of soap and water. What’s more, it should never be used on visibly dirty or greasy hands. On top of that, proper hand sanitizing should be always followed by proper hand washing, especially after sneezing or coughing. If you know you are overdue for hand washing, get to a sink as soon as possible. 

Healthcare Providers

The CDC has approved the regular use of hand sanitizers in healthcare facilities. This is because healthcare workers maintain regular contact with high-risk individuals and germs. With no-touch hand sanitizing stations set up around healthcare facilities, healthcare workers can limit the spread of germs between them and their patients. 

Food Service Employees

Hand washing is a cornerstone of good food service. If you run a food service establishment, your workers must be washing their hands before preparing or serving food. Remember, gloves do not replace the need for hand washing. These hand protectors can harbor bacteria. Be sure to wash your hands before donning protective gloves. 

Why Is Hand Washing Effective

Hand washing is highly effective in stopping the spread of infectious diseases and germs. Let’s talk about the science behind hand washing. According to one recent study, hand hygiene reduces the spread of infectious disease by 21% (respiratory illnesses) to 31% (gastrointestinal illnesses).

When hands are not washed regularly, they become vehicles for germs. A person may touch an infected object or surface and then touch their eyes, mouth, or nose. Unwashed hands can also transfer germs to food, objects, and surfaces. For this reason, hand washing has become an essential guideline for all workers. 

During a public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, hand washing is one of the easiest and most effective ways that community members can keep each other safe. Frequent and proper hand washing can help us to stop this disease in its tracks. 

How can employers ensure that their employees are complying with hand-washing standards?

First off, make sure that your staff has all of the supplies they need to wash and sanitize their hands. 

Keep bathrooms and hand-washing stations well-stocked with soap and paper towels. Place hand-free sanitizing stations throughout your place of business. 

Establish and maintain sanitizing schedules. 

Clean and sanitize plumbing fixtures, sinks, drains, air dryers, soap dispensers, and paper towel dispensers to prevent the spread of germs. 

What’s more, display CDC-issued hand-washing signage near every hand-washing station.

Antibiotic Resistance

The CDC has plenty of good reasons to establish occupational hand-washing standards. One of the lesser-known reasons is antibiotic resistance. As we all know, antibiotics are used to treat a wide variety of infectious diseases. When antibiotics are used excessively, diseases establish a resistance to them, leaving patients with little to no medicinal options.

As we mentioned before, good hand hygiene is proven to reduce the spread of disease. With fewer people needing antibiotics, healthcare providers can continue to antibiotics to treat their patients. 

Why Promote Hand Washing in the Workplace?

As an employer, it is your job to maintain a healthy and safe environment for your employees and customers. Proper hand washing protocols are inexpensive and easy to enforce. Science shows that they are highly effective in preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Why deal with chronic absentee problems and staff shortages when you can take a few simple steps to prevent these adversities? 

Don’t assume that your employees are washing their hands correctly or at all. During a recent public health study, researchers found that only a percentage of adults washed their hands after using the restroom. The statistics also established an alarming discrepancy between female and male hand-washing. Only 61% of women in the study washed their hands after using a public restroom. As if that wasn’t alarming enough, only 37% of the men in the study washed their hands after using a public restroom. 

A common lack of hand-washing isn’t the only problem. Here are some other common mistakes people mistake when washing their hands:

  • Many people fail to use antibacterial soap when they are washing their hands. 
  • Many people do not wash their hands for a full 20 seconds.
  • People do not wash their hands when they should. See the CDC’s recommendations above.
  • Employees do not follow hand-washing standards outside of work. As a result, they are more likely to incur and spread diseases in the workplace. 

Hand washing statistics are nowhere near where we need to be as a nation. We can only assume that hand washing statistics are even more alarming among children. As an employer, you must talk with your employees about proper hand hygiene. Provide your employees with the tools and information they need to make your hand washing protocols successful. 

The CDC offers free online and print media through their “Life is Better with Clean Hands” campaign. Employers are free to print and distribute these materials. They can also order printed educational material through the CDC’s on-demand publications page. Some of the material is quite fun. Right now, business owners can order trendy “Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands” posters and eye-catching static clings. 

How Else Can You Prevent Illnesses in the Workplace?

In addition to enforcing the CDC’s hand-washing standards, you must develop a comprehensive illness prevention protocol.

Ensure that your employees stay home when they are experiencing symptoms of an illness. 

Clean and sanitize all workstations, equipment, and common areas, including break rooms and restrooms. 

Take extra care when cleaning and sanitizing your establishment after an employee is reported ill. 

Place tissues around your business. Encourage employees to cover their mouth and nose whenever they cough or sneeze.

Keep hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes around your establishment. Make sure employees are not touching their faces.

What Else?

Update or revise your company’s injury and illness prevention program. OSHA and the California Department of Public Health have asked businesses to make significant changes to stop the spread of the coronavirus and other diseases. 

Learn about your responsibilities as a business owner. You may need to retrain your employees, eliminate workplace hazards, or report disease outbreaks.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put pressure on the nation, consider monitoring your patrons and employees for signs and symptoms. Some businesses are required to take their patrons’ and employees’ temperatures. 

Set up a time to discuss your company’s sick leave policy. If you and your employees are not able to gather in large groups, develop a webinar that each employee can watch on their own. 

Make sure your employees are aware of any ongoing public health situations. 

Do the Right Thing

As a California business owner, it is your legal obligation to stop the spread of germs at your workplace. Start with an education-first approach. Use signage and other materials to inform your workers of their collective responsibility in maintaining a safe and healthy occupational environment. When education doesn’t work, it may be time to approach your employees directly. 

When illness prevention protocols don’t work, hire a third-party cleaning service to help you take control of the situation. At Eco Bear, we have the experience, tools, and resources that are needed to keep employees and patrons safe during global health crises. 

If you suspect that your business has been contaminated by coronavirus or another infectious disease, give our cleaning specialists a call at (818) 358-4359. We are here 24/7, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We will thoroughly disinfect your place of business so that you and your employees can get back to what you do best.