The Wash Podcast: Hand Hygiene in Early Childhood Education

Welcome to The Wash, your trusted resource for the latest and greatest in public health and hygiene, where we will tackle topics like hand hygiene, best practices in footwear sanitization, creating an employee hygiene program, and more!

Today we're going to talk about hand hygiene and early childhood education and how exactly childcare centers can get back to in-person learning safely. I'm joined by Patrick Burke, the sales manager for early childhood education here at Meritech and Robert Kania from Education Safety Solutions. You can listen to the podcast using the media player or read the podcast transcript below:


Podcast Transcript: Hand Hygiene in Early Childhood Education

Joe: Hello and thank you for joining us for another episode of the wash your trusted resource for the latest in public health and hygiene this podcast is brought to you by Meritech the leader in automated hygiene technology I’m your host today joe johnson today we're going to talk about hand hygiene and early childhood education and how exactly childcare centers can get back to in-person learning safely. I'm joined by Patrick Burke, the sales manager for early childhood education here at Meritech and Robert Kania from Education Safety Solutions.

Thank you both for joining us here today. Robert, before we dive in, I would love to hear a little bit of background on yourself and Education Safety Solutions.

Rob: Thanks, Joe.  So,  we've worked with over a hundred early childhood education and K-12 institutions. Everything from launching, opening, and operations to technology and fulfillment. And we've done this seamlessly through the pandemic for a number of institutions and that was by implementing healthy and safe operating plans, for these institutions to support essential workers, and now through the reopening phase,

Joe: Great. So,  I was wondering if we could just start with talking about the importance of hand hygiene and early education.  How important of a factor is that into their day-to-day and has this increased since the COVID-19 pandemic?

Rob: That's a great, a great question and a great topic. So hand hygiene is vital and has been a regulated aspect of early childhood education for as long as I've been involved in that sector of the industry. So there are a number of times throughout the day and during different activities that both staff and children in early childhood education, so in the childcare facilities are required to wash their hands and it is a significant number and it is again, highly regulated both by the divisions in each state that oversee childcare and health departments.  So it's a significant time of the day that's taken up, overseeing and managing,  these regulated practices  and then it has also increased with the presence of COVID-19. So in addition to every time, children obviously, are touching food, going to the bathroom, and in a number of other times throughout the day now also it's the first thing that has to happen when they enter the childcare center. And they must also have hands washed right before they leave with their parents during pickup time. So in addition to the significant number of times, the children and staff are required to wash hands, now during the pandemic that has increased.

Joe: So, what are the most common ways students are currently washing their hands while at a childcare facility.

Rob:  So the most common way,  in most classrooms, in most centers, there are sinks,  that the staff can use for hand washing in. And in many cases, the children can use for handwashing. In other cases, there are banks of bathrooms and just like you would see in a school,  the teacher has to take the entire class,  to the bathrooms to wash their hands in a, you know, height appropriate sink, and then bring the whole class back overseeing the entire process, through. You know, watching each child wash their hands to make sure that they're doing it properly while trying to manage that group.

Joe: So it's often happening as a group?

Rob: Yes. Even when it's in the classroom when it's a, there's a convenience,  height appropriate sink it, you know, you have to line them all up, herd them together and then oversee to make sure that they're actually washing their hands appropriately.  You know, taking the right amount of time,  well, you know, the whole process.

Joe: Pat, I was wondering if you could shed a little bit of light into, the pitfalls that the childcare providers might run into, with manual hand washing or, the use of an instant sanitizer.

Pat: Yeah. so like Robert was saying, you know, it's a, it's a bit of a process to gather the kids. They are often doing that handwashing in a group. So with a manual hand wash, it's a lot of the same, scenarios that we face for adults. You know, the manual hand wash is a little bit more time-consuming. There's definitely some supervision involved with,  making sure that kids are doing it properly, hitting all the steps. And the variability of the behavior from child to child, you know is a pretty big deal.  You might have some children that do the hand wash perfectly, and then other ones that are a little bit more of an issue. And handwashing, believe it or not, there's, there's a lot of different steps to do a proper hand wash, you know, to hit the fingertips, to, to fully work through all the fingers, to use the right amount of soap,  rinse.  So,  manual hand washers just inherent kind of pitfalls there.

With the hand sanitizer in,  childcare facilities. It's detrimental to the health of the skin. So the natural oils on the skin that protect and keep your hands healthy,  it gets damaged by the alcohol and then, it can create cracks and allow pathogens to be in the hands. And so ultimately, you know, kind of ineffective in, you know, cleaning the hands.

Plus, children, like putting their hands in their mouths. Having an alcohol-based sanitizer, you know, being used too frequently, you know, you've got that risk, of alcohol poisoning. It's a, it's a real risk and, and I've seen it,  you know, brought up numerous times of, you know, being aware of, overusing that alcohol sanitizer. So definitely,  some things to watch out for in a childcare facility.

Joe: So before going any further, Pat, I would love for you to just give a brief overview, for those who may not be familiar, of CleanTech®.

Pat: Yeah, absolutely. so yeah, if you're not familiar with CleanTech®, so Meritech is the maker of CleanTech®, which is the world's only fully automated handwashing system.

I like to think of it as a, it's an ecosystem. We are the provider of the perfect hand wash. so the systems are touchless. When you stick your hands in the cylinder, a photo-eye detects the movement, and it begins, cylinders that are going to spray the hands with a mixture of our uniquely formulated hygiene solution. The pressurized water, sprays from fingertips all the way up to the wrists, removing, 99.9% of pathogens. Clinically backed, got multiple studies on that. Zero contact points, zero cross-contamination the systems use less water than a traditional sink produce, less waste. All of our systems are made in the United States and, Yeah, so kind of describing the full ecosystem so CleanTech® ultimately is, you know, these systems that provide the perfect hand wash each and every time, all of which, the hand-wash, duration, it's a 12-second hand wash. So it's a really awesome system.

Joe:  So there's obviously a lot of benefits for any application. Could you speak specifically to, the benefits that a CleanTech® station could have in a childcare facility?

Pat: Yeah, kind of some of the pitfalls surrounding, you know, was the fact that it's a there's that variability of human behavior. So it takes that away.

Our systems each and every time, you know, it standardizes the process of the hand wash that's it's 12 seconds hand-washed, and you can expect the same 99.9% pathogen removal on each and every one. It's fast, right? As compared to a manual hand wash. We have that water savings each and every bit, you know, just over a half a gallon, and each and every hand wash, it touches the hands. So, you know, unlike a manual sink, turn on the faucet and water is running down the drain. When you stick your hand in our systems, all of the water touches the hands and is used for washing the hands. so when you get in a hand wash to CleanTech® system, it's good for the skin. Hands feel great.

Joe: so what CleanTech® model, would you recommend works best for childcare?

Pat: We have  a number of systems,  four of our commercial systems typically work best in  childcare, that ELF models and then the 500 models.

They're both of our, more compact models that, would typically go into a childcare. we have a wall Mount system and then a  cabinet mount, counter mount. There's just a couple things that we'll typically talk about, you know, with what would work better. But, but yeah, basically those two models, fit great in childcare applications.

Joe: So, Robert, we talked about this briefly, but I was wondering if you could just shed a little bit more light into the different times throughout the day and where these events are taking place  in childcare for hand hygiene.

Rob: Sure. So, it's actually, regardless of where it takes place, whether it's in the classroom or if, they have to take all the children and round them up and line them up and take them to the bathroom to wash their hands.

Obviously there's a lot of time, to do a proper hand wash to monitor each of these Childs, so it's happening in the classroom, where we've seen that elf model work really, really well. You know, it installed at the appropriate height for that classroom, whether it be toddlers or preschoolers, whatever the age, you know, and that allows the teacher in that room to not be overseeing the actual hand wash because, pat, I believe it's 12 seconds.

I mean, it's a very fast process to get the perfect hand wash. So you're moving the kids through that process a lot faster, which brings programming time,  back into your day. You're talking about early childhood education has grown significantly with their curriculum requirements, and what's expected developmentally in these childcare centers every  year and teachers are constantly looking to get more time back into their programming between meals and naps, handwashing and all these things that have to be done. And when you think about how often you're washing hands with the children, If you're dropping that, from a dozen kids to 12 seconds every time, right in their room  you're putting 20, 30 minutes back into your programming day. So, so it's really beneficial, the entire way around from taking the human error out of the hand washing process to bringing time back into the programming of the day. You know, it, it, there's a huge benefit. So whether you're taking them out into a bathroom or a hallway to wash their hands, or whether it's right in their room, you're saving a lot of time.

Joe: Could you speak further about the regulations that childcare facilities follow?

Rob: Sure. So, they're regulated in every state. A lot of times through the department of health and human services or department of education. For staff it's every time that, they're really moving surfaces.

So if they're helping children in the bathroom, if they're helping children with their meals, if they're going from art supplies to a different surface touch, they're washing their hands. But  the children it's the same. So every time there, is there a bathroom break or every time that they're touching food, every time they touch their faces, as we know, so it really stacks up, you're looking probably at a minimum of a dozen times a day, probably more closer to 20 times a day for the children. And even more than that for the staff.

Joe: I mean, we've definitely talked a lot about the time savings for the kids. But, the amount of time saving that that would afford the educators and the caregivers is just mind boggling.

Rob: Exactly. And like we said, the, it goes right back into programming all the time that you're saving.

So when you can pick up time from mealtime, when you can pick up time from hand hygiene, which you don't want to look at it, like you're picking up time from it because it's important and it has to be done.  There's no way to make it go faster if you're washing your hands in the sink, but with the elf system, as we've seen in, in childcare centers. That  12 seconds is, great. So it's a huge improvement.

Joe: So there's obviously been a lot of, reactive measures specifically for COVID like masking and social distancing recommendations. But Robert, I know you mentioned earlier that hand washing has always been and will always be a massive part of childcare center operations. So to both Pat and Robert, I'm just wondering, what type of longterm benefits would implementing a solution like CleanTech® offer?

Rob: from my clients in early childhood, you know, in September you start to ramp up your staff for the flu epidemic. So, you know, we've normalized cold and flu season every year, we just deal with it. But, in, in the early childhood world, it wipes out centers. You know, you have teachers, off for a week or two weeks at a time. So you have staff and you have children missing time because of the flu, and if children are missing, childcare time because of the flu, that means the parents aren't going to work.

So, this is a longterm investment, while, while it responds to the COVID-19 threat, it also addresses your annual, health threats that, that we deal with every year. so I see it as a, as a longterm of health and safety improvement to any childcare center. that's going to impact these problems that we see every year.

Pat:  I've heard that numerous times in talking to, customers and, you know, people calling in about our systems is, is the fact that, yeah, it is something that the, you know, the flu season, is something that they deal with yearly.

And it, and it's very serious and you said they we've normalized it. But it's  actually a really big deal and it affects childcare facilities. And I'm a parent of two kids and I'm very familiar with, you know, when the season comes like, you know, really wish they were doing more hand washing, you know what I mean?

Just doing everything they can, to, to minimize the spread of pathogens in those, you know, in their facilities, but yeah, just everything you said. Totally agree.

Joe: I think another great benefit of CleanTech® is just that, the ease of use that it affords. I know you mentioned this earlier, how, so much of hand hygiene and childcare requires supervision when it's manual. And by automating that process, you're introducing a hand hygiene method that does not require supervision, that children could go and use whenever they feel they need to wash their hands. And humans are creatures of habit. And so by making handwashing a more common aspect of their day-to-day, I really see it carrying over into the rest of their life of just genuinely wanting to wash their hands more often because it's become so much a part of their life while they're in the classroom.

Rob: Sure. And if it's easy and it doesn't need to be supervised, if, if a teacher can direct the child, even at, even at an older toddler age, it's time to wash your hands and they, you know, walk up to a height appropriate, elf unit in the wall.

You know, they can, they can oversee the process without having to manually assist them. so it's great. Like you said, it, it, it just becomes more a part of, of your culture. You know, part of, what we're doing here as a response to covid is we're implementing best practices. So while this in early childhood has been a regulated practice for a long time,  the act of perfecting it and the need to increase the frequency is something that's going to be a longterm culture change for us that we're going to see in early childhood education.

Joe: And so, Robert, I know that in previous discussions that you've mentioned, you've been a part of the conversation surrounding  special funding for early childcare, to support improved hygiene because of COVID. Could you speak a little bit more about your involvement in that process?

Rob: Sure. So, there were a significant amount, of funds distributed in the first cares act. we're going to see, probably more, distributed again, in the near future. I would think it could happen by the end of the year.

I know that discussions are already ongoing, and it's going to be to safeguard, Early childhood education facilities, not just from the threats of COVID, but, long term. Will protect us against the next threat or, or the cold and flu that, that we've already discussed. So, with that funding, you know, early childhood education groups that, that I work with will be looking at systems that will have a, longterm return on the investment. like a CleanTech®, the ELF system, which is perfect for early childhood. you know, it's, it's a marketing benefit for these centers to say, you know, we've perfected the handwashing our staff and our, and the children in our care.

So, in that sense it has another return, but, you know, the number one reason is health and safety. The companies I work with, that's their number one priority. And,  we'll be implementing systems that drastically increase and improve health and safety.

Joe: Great. Thank you both for providing our expertise on this subject, this was a great discussion.

Rob: Well, thank you, Joe.

Pat: Thank you.

Joe: If you would like more information about CleanTech®, automated hand washing stations, please visit our website There we have tons of information about her early childhood education and great webinars where our CTO and nd head engineer paul barnhill goes in depth on everything you need to know about CleanTech® we'll link to all these different resources that we mentioned throughout this podcast and you'll find it on thank you again for joining us for another episode of the wash your source for the latest and greatest in public health and hygiene.

This podcast is brought to you by Meritech, the leader in automated employee hygiene. Meritech offers a complete line of fully-automated hygiene equipment that provides the only clinically-validated, technology-based approach to human hygiene in the world. Meritech’s line of CleanTech® Automated Handwashing Stations perform a fully-automated 12-second hand wash, sanitize and rinse cycle, removing over 99.9% of dangerous pathogens while wasting zero water or solution. Meritech delivers employee hygiene, contamination control, and infection prevention programs within a wide variety of markets, including food production, food service, cleanroom, healthcare, medical, theme parks, and cruise lines. For more information call 303-790-4670.

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