Hand sanitiser safety

19th of May 2021 Article by Chris Wakefield
Hand sanitiser safety

Chris Wakefield, managing director UK & Ireland at GOJO Industries-Europe asks whether your hand sanitiser measures up and explains the risks of "open-refill" dispensers.

Over the past 18 months, we have seen the importance of hand hygiene in action. Awareness of the vital role it plays in reducing the spread of infection has never been greater. Indeed, nowadays, especially as society is tentatively reopening, supplying hand sanitiser for staff, clientele, and visitors is a prerequisite for success. It signals that you take your customers health seriously. After all, if people do not feel safe, they will choose to visit a cleaner, more hygienic establishment and spend their money there instead.

However, whilst we have seen a rise in hand hygiene use, there has also been an increase in sanitising solutions, which could be causing more harm than good. When hand sanitiser demand outpaced supply during the pandemic, many turned to dispensers and bottles that could be refilled from large sanitiser containers. These ‘open refill' dispensers are typically serviced by pouring product into them and are usually ‘topped-off' from gallons or drums of sanitiser that are not equipped with pumps for individual, portion controlled product usage.

According to our research, 70 per cent of businesses sometimes refill hand sanitiser system cartridges, and 60 per cent of these plan to continue those practices when supply chains return to normal, post-COVID. Although topping off hand sanitisers might not seem like a big deal, it can significantly impact the success of hand hygiene programmes. What's more, it may not be safe or effective, and can actually pose a risk to public health.

Efficacy and safety should be number 1

First and foremost, a hand sanitiser must be effective and safe to use. However, did you know that adding to large containers may cause alcohol evaporation, potentially reducing its effectiveness? Furthermore, mixing new with potentially expired formulations, and combining ingredients in unknown measures can result in contaminated product .

That's not all. When a dispenser is refilled incorrectly, it can impact on the dosage required to kill germs. The dispenser might not be calibrated for that particular product for example, it could jam the pump, or the mixed product could be diluted, meaning more than normal amounts are needed to maintain efficacy. The problem is, when products are mixed, nobody knows how many doses are necessary for the solution to be effective.

Similarly, businesses cannot be sure what product is in dispensers at any given time, nor what the ingredients are, making checking for allergies and skin sensitivities impossible! The expiration date may not be accurate, there is no lot or batch number to connect with in case of product recalls or incidents, and the contents won't match the labels. Which, quite simply, means that the product is no longer compliant with regulations.

User experience should be positive

As well as regulatory issues, topping off or mixing products can lead to a negative user experience, creating products that are too runny, too sticky, or that cause skin irritation. Whatever the issue, a less than optimum experience can put people off using the hand sanitisers provided, reducing compliance and increasing the risk of infection transmission.

Getting back on track

The pandemic prompted a surge in demand like never before. It took the world by surprise, which meant that businesses had little choice but to seek other solutions to protect people. Bulk style sanitiser systems plugged that need well. However, the risks associated with these systems mean that they should only be used as a short-term measure.

Supply and demand is back on an even keel. In fact, we have taken major steps to increase our capacity so that we can continue to serve our customers. To ensure hand sanitiser safety measures up, businesses should look for products that meet key standards, including EN 14476 and EN 12791, and that are dermatologically tested. They should also check that refills are sealed to prevent contamination.

As a steward of public health, we are committed to helping businesses return to high quality, products and practices, and ultimately, helping people re-enter the world and workforce with peace of mind.


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