Washroom dispensers - vital to hygiene

26th of November 2015
Washroom dispensers - vital to hygiene

Howard Sedgwick, managing director at Cannon Hygiene UK, explains why having the correct dispensers and service can encourage good hygiene, reduce the spread of germs in the workplace and ultimately keep people healthy at work.

The second biggest cause of absenteeism is common colds and sickness picked up by hand to surface transmission of germs. Washrooms have a significant part to play in reducing the spread of germs in any building. Without knowing it, having facilities that aren’t fit for purpose can significantly impact on business operations in all sectors.

The most obvious link is food preparation or the hospitality sector. This strong connection means it’s critical that businesses get it right since hygiene is under continual scrutiny from customers and regulatory bodies.

However hygiene is becoming an increasingly important consideration among other sectors as businesses aim to drive down absence rates caused by the presence of germs, whilst creating a positive environment for staff and customers.

Having the correct dispensers and service, tailored to specific sectors and buildings, is one of the easiest ways that organisations can ensure hands are clean and the chances of spreading bacteria are greatly reduced.

Over 130 million days were lost due to sickness absences in the UK in 2013 according to the latest data from the Office of National Statistics, with 27 million days lost due to coughs and colds and other minor illnesses.

Research has shown a strong link between hygiene standards and the cost of absenteeism, with the rapid spread of germs very easily creating spates of absence among staff in an office. In a study by Dr C Gerber of University of Arizona, a harmless virus was put on a door handle in an office. Within four hours this virus had spread to half of the surfaces in that office.

The overall cost of absence can reach up to 1,200 euros per employee every year depending on the sector, creating a significant cost for both small and large organisations. While not totally unavoidable, it’s something that businesses can help limit by improving on hygiene.

In addition, beyond the design and fit-out of premises, hygiene is of course a key factor in forming customers’ first impressions. This is what’s driving savvy firms to look at ensuring good hygiene standards throughout their workplace so that their profits stay healthy as well as their staff.

One size doesn’t fit all

We know that bacteria found on hands spreads to surfaces when touched, so good hygiene naturally starts with clean hands. As a priority every business should first of all ensure that all their dispensers are fit for purpose.

Washroom dispensers need to be reliable, always filled, and be designed with the environment in mind. A busy restaurant washroom where people are constantly washing their hands needs a dispenser that works well with high volumes and is serviced more regularly. Whereas the requirement for a smaller business will be much less, but still as important.

Businesses also need to consider the end-user. For example in a high-end hotel or restaurant, where brands aim to provide high quality in everything they do – even among the small details, a high quality dispenser that provides a foam soap containing moisturisers complements the level of service these businesses need to deliver.

No-touch units that dispense soap automatically by sensing the hand underneath reduce the potential for cross-contamination between hands. In addition it’s also important that the right amount of soap for each wash is being dispensed – too little and hands continue to carry germs after washing, too much and this can quickly become a considerable cost. This is particularly important given the cost pressures of modern procurement decision making.

Prevent cross-contamination

Having a tightly sealed refills is also another design feature that should be considered to prevent cross-contamination. Hospitals, dental practices, GP surgeries and care homes should use hermetically-sealed refills. These reduce the potential of cross contamination of bacteria in the valve, for those without this seal there is a risk that bacteria can find itself moving from the valve and into the soap reservoir, contaminating the soap and making further use unhygienic. Good services on the market also include new nozzles with each refill to further help reduce the potential of this happening.

In the food manufacturing industry, having soap in the washroom may not be enough to halt the spread of germs. These businesses require separate hand sanitiser dispensers strategically placed to ensure they quickly kill bacteria on hands as they move around the building.

With the spread of germs so closely tied to hand washing, which itself is often done incorrectly - a staggering one in three people admit to not washing their hands regularly after going to the toilet - just having a soap dispenser in a washroom won’t be enough. There has to be an intervention as people leave the washroom to break the transmission of germs. Door handle sanitisers are one way businesses can achieve this.

These are installed above horizontal or vertical door handles and spray a solution onto the handle each time the door is used. This means that those that do wash their hands aren’t then immediately picking up bacteria from others by touching an infected handle.

Clean workstations

Even if workers do not share their desk with others, by repeatedly touching their keyboard, telephone, desk surface and other areas around them, they are leaving themselves open to picking up germs. Upon leaving their area and coming into contact with others, bacteria will always be brought back to their immediate area. Hot-desk areas can be a breeding ground with up to 25,127 germs per square inch found on telephones alone.

This is why it is so important to ensure workers have access to desk and equipment wipes dispensers. Regular use will ensure that the things they touch more than anything else will remain germ free.  Creating an intervention that breaks the link between surface and hand will be crucial come break-time when they are holding that sandwich in their hands.

Given the huge cost to businesses of poor hand hygiene, whether this is reduced general perception or high absenteeism, you can see why more and more firms are re-evaluating hygiene from the front door and right throughout their premises.

Many are keen to ensure employees and visitors can enter and leave the premises assured that their hands are as clean as possible and they’ve spent their time in a hygienic environment.

Taking a tactical approach to a hygiene service in these areas can be a key part in achieving this.
For those who are being clever in the way they take an all-encompassing view of how hygiene can be improved, dispensers make it convenient for people to keep their hands clean, which is often a significant factor in how clean a building is. This is a simple and effective way for businesses to promote good hygiene and reduce the cost of absence.



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