The Importance of Hand Hygiene in Reducing Cross Contamination

Everyone understands the importance of good hand hygiene, but the reality is that out in the real world… most people don’t understand the power of hand hygiene to reduce the spread of disease.

Following proper handwashing steps is the most powerful defense against transient pathogens. Anytime there is an outbreak the first thing you hear is “wash your hands often”. Even though we know that it is the best defense, 50% of foodborne illness is directly attributed to ineffective handwashing, according to the CDC. And the World Health Organization states hand hygiene is the primary measure to reduce infections.

WHO and CDC Handwashing Guidelines

The CDC recommends cleaning hands with a precise methodology that requires at least 30 seconds to be effective. Using soap and water, the wash must include lathering for at least 20 seconds, covering all parts of the hands, including the nails, and finish by drying hands thoroughly. There also needs to be a pre-rinse and a post-rinse for an estimated total wash time of 30-40 seconds.

WHO handwashing guidelines include a six-step method that requires 42.5 seconds or 25 percent more time to complete (42.50 seconds compared to 35 seconds). So which one is better?

Do Employees Follow Recommended Hand Washing Steps? reported on a recent study of 42 doctors and 78 nurses where both the CDC and WHO handwashing processes were tested. In the report, The WHO's six-step handwashing method for scrubbing every exposed surface of the hands was better at reducing bacteria than following CDC handwashing guidelines.

CBS reported that the WHO handwashing technique decreased median bacterial count from 3.28 CFU/mL (colony-forming units per milliliter) to 2.58 CFU/mL compared to the three-step CDC handwashing method, which only reduced median bacterial count from 3.08 to 2.88 CFU/mL. Unfortunately, in the healthcare study reported on CBS News only 65% of healthcare providers actually completed the WHO recommended process.

Additionally, a study by Michigan State University in 2013, observed that out of 3,749 people using public restrooms only 5% washed their hands correctly, and in fact, only 50% of the men used soap while washing! The scariest part of this study was that the average washing time was 6 seconds and not even the CDC recommended 20 seconds of lathering.

Could these numbers be applied to the food processing industry? Would you expect the results to be the same or less in a food plant? Comment below and let us know.

Automated Handwashing Stations for Better Hand Hygiene

Study after study confirms that the act of washing hands is a behavioral task. Therefore, manual hand sinks are only as good as the user. What needs to be resolved is the behavior issue, and that’s where automation comes in. CleanTech® Automated Handwashing Stations can solve this ongoing problem in all industries where hand washing is critical to public health and safety.

For more information or to request an onsite demonstration of Meritech fully-automated handwashing and footwear sanitizing systems, fill out this form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.


Topics:Hand Hygiene Resources