Battling washroom bacteria

18th of September 2017
Battling washroom bacteria
Battling washroom bacteria

Washrooms in hospital environments can prove to be especially virulent breeding grounds for bacteria, which is why taking a stringent approach to purchase and maintenance of fixtures and fittings is key. Here Jeff Williams, category manager for commercial product at sanitaryware specialist Armitage Shanks, outlines the steps hospitals and other healthcare institutions can take to ensure their washrooms help to battle bacteria and ward off the spread of infection.

Recent research by the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene (IFH) confirms that areas featuring sanitaryware are breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses. Furthermore a report by the UK’s House of Commons on ‘Reducing Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI) in Hospitals in England’,  found that annually 300,000 people contract a HAI  after a hospital visit, creating a €1 billion additional care cost for the National Health Service (NHS). It also advises that appropriate sanitary precautions can actively prevent the spreading of dangerous germs.

Further studies by the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health concluded the role of waterborne transmission of some Pseudomonas in ICU units cannot be overlooked. The journal went on to suggest that both holistic and environmental factors are important in reducing transmission.

These findings were backed by another publication, The Journal of Hospital Infection, which found that healthcare institutions need to examine intrinsic, holistic, and engineering factors in order to reduce the risk of waterborne transmission. Amongst the steps suggested by the journal, were considering the role of disposal of waste water, the installation of new tap outlets that are redesigned either to prevent contamination or enable decontamination, the cleaning of taps appropriately, and the frequency of water sampling to identify outbreaks.

From such recommendations it’s clear that the need to effectively manage water – and the point of use fitting – is important in healthcare environments. Taking necessary precautions and making effective product choices contributes to protecting patient health and can make a measured difference in the number of cases of HAIs.

Products to battle bacteria

“There are many different types of fittings and ceramics utilised in hospitals, however all products do tend to fall into one of three categories, comprising, non-patient areas, patient areas and augmented care patient areas.

Comprehensive guidelines are in place to help hospitals identify the category each space falls into and as to how different products could help to battle bacteria. These guidelines focus on the selection of products that aim to improve water hygiene, minimise the risk of harmful bacteria via intelligent design and the installation and commissioning of water supply systems.

Effective infection control is an ongoing and ever-changing process of many components for any healthcare provider and smart product design forms only one element of this chain. It can however, when paired with a stringent cleaning regime and regular sampling, be especially effective, although this is of course dependent on the localised conditions faced by the institution.

Stringent cleaning regimes vital

As mentioned, stringent cleaning regimes also form an important part of any water management approach in a healthcare washroom. The UK healthcare sector is leading the way in increasing education around effectively instigating processes to ensure that maintenance work enhances the steps taken to battle bacteria, rather than impeding it.

Removing parts for cleaning

Armitage Shanks understands that the need to remove parts for cleaning and maintenance is of paramount importance to those managing a hospital’s cleaning regime. While the business doesn’t offer advice or guidelines on how to or how often to take such steps, as this is the prerogative of each hospital’s water safety group, it recommends taking steps to ensure that all healthcare products allow for easy sterilisation in whatever way suits the localised condition of the hospital best.

It cannot be denied that effectively managing all aspects of a washroom – from product selection, through to installation, use and maintenance – is of vital importance when it comes to taking steps to reduce the spread of bacteria in hospitals. By investigating the USPs of the products available and pairing these with the needs of their staff and patients, healthcare providers can make positive steps to helping to reduce the potential spread of HPIs.


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