Handwashing and Returning to the Classroom Safely

by Patrick Burke, on August 14,2020

In talking with nearly a hundred schools over the past few months, there is a common thread among all of them, which is that they all understand that handwashing is critical to their plan to safely return to in person learning during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The CDC and AAP among others have all voiced the importance of implementing effective plans for handwashing for schools returning to the classroom. Canadian Public Health Authorities (PHA’s) also released an in-depth set of guidelines for K-12 schools. We have long been advocates for the importance of hand hygiene in everyone's day to day life and want to use our expertise in this area to help advise schools during this time. Below are some helpful tips on how you can safely get back to in person learning through effective human hygiene.

Hygiene reeducation

Hand hygiene is something that we like to assume most people are knowledgeable about. However, recent studies indicate that knowledge does not necessarily translate into behavior. As students return to schools it's important to impress upon them the importance of handwashing and ensure they are aware of when and how to practice effective hand hygiene.

When should you wash your hands

There are many circumstances throughout the day when a hand hygiene event should occur. The following are examples of instances in a school setting when both students and staff should wash their hands.

  • Before and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating
  • After using the toilet
  • When coming in from playing outside
  • After coming in contact with someone that is ill
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing nose
  • After handling garbage

How and where to wash up

It is imperative that handwashing stations be available in all places where above situations call for a hygiene event. Convenience is a huge factor playing into handwashing compliance. The easier you make the process, the more frequent and effective hand hygiene events will be. If a handwashing station is not immediately available, there should be adequate signage directing them to wash their hands. Additionally, signage on HOW to wash the hands should be placed at all handwashing stations as a reminder.

When to wash versus sanitize

Using an instant sanitizer is appropriate when handwashing is not feasible and should only be for older students. Examples of where sanitizing is often done instead of a hand wash is after using shared items such as a pen at a front desk, before and after using shared toys. Bad examples are after using the toilet, after recess, and before and after eating.

Improve handwashing frequency

As mentioned previously there are a lot of situations where a hand hygiene event is needed. While making people more aware of the times when they should be washing their hands is an important step, there are other things you can do to improve frequency.

Have adequate supplies

Handwashing is likely to be done more frequently than in the past. This will likely present a problem to many school facilities as they are not used to everyone actually washing their hands as frequently and with the correct amount of soap. A study performed by the American Cleaning Institute found one of the most common reasons students are not washing their hands is lack of supplies! By closely monitoring hand hygiene supplies you should improve handwashing compliance by around 19%.

Make time for hand hygiene

In the same study mentioned above the number one reasons students were not washing up was due to lack of time. A great way to combat this problem is by specifically allotting time in your students day for them to wash their hands. Cutting out time for a handwashing event will help build up the habit so students and teachers alike actually change their hygiene behaviors.

Handwashing is a critical element in schools returning the classrooms safely. Ensure that handwashing is done at the critical times by allowing enough time and having handwashing stations available in as convenient of locations as possible. It is also important to note that some reeducation around proper handwashing steps will be necessary. Finally, ensure you don’t run out of supplies by checking in on handwashing stations regularly and keeping extra supplies on hand. Check out our K-12 Schools page for more information and resources. You can also talk to one of our team members about how Meritech can help your school achieve better hand hygiene with CleanTech® Fully Automated Handwashing Stations.

Topics:Education

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