A Hands-on Approach

Chris Wakefield, Managing Director UK & Ireland, GOJO Industries-Europe Ltd, discusses how care homes can enhance washrooms to boost hand hygiene compliance.

Washrooms and bathrooms are arguably the most dangerous spaces within care and nursing homes. There are many potential hazards, from the risk of hot water burning residents’ delicate skin to the danger of slips, trips, and falls due to wet floors and surfaces. But what about the threats you can’t see?

They are prime germ hotspots so, as well as ensuring washroom facilities are safe from a physical viewpoint, it is essential that an effective infection control strategy is implemented to prevent the spread of pathogenic microorganisms. Especially at this time of year, when seasonal viruses like coughs, colds, flu, and norovirus are rife.

As well as introducing newer measures like social distancing, the pandemic has helped to reinforce existing infection control systems. For example, good hand hygiene has always been a non-negotiable aspect of infection prevention. Hundreds of studies over the past 20 years have proven that washing or sanitising hands can break the chain of infection.

However, this simple, yet effective act relies on compliance – from staff, residents, and visitors. So how can care facilities optimise washrooms to ensure proper hand hygiene is maintained?

CONSIDER SKIN HEALTH Firstly, the choice of soap or sanitiser is crucial – it must have proven antimicrobial efficacy. Ensure it meets key norms EN 1500, EN 14476, and EN 12791, which provides assurance that it is safe for use in healthcare settings. Just as important as its power against germs, is its effect on the skin – did you know that one of the most common barriers to hand hygiene is skin health?

In fact, making sure that products are gentle on the skin is a high priority for care settings. Care home residents are likely to have fragile skin, so require mild formulations that are

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pleasant to use and nourish hands. Similarly, because busy staff are required to clean their hands much more frequently, soaps and sanitisers must not dry out or irritate skin.

Recent research has shown that 59% of healthcare workers in occupational skin disease clinics set up during the COVID-19 pandemic, were affected by irritant contact dermatitis due to an increased use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and frequent hand washing. Although there are no official figures available, it is highly likely that such statistics are mirrored in the care sector, where workers also need to don PPE and practise hand hygiene repeatedly during their shiſts.

CHOOSE DISPENSERS CAREFULLY Soaps and sanitisers must be housed in simple-to-use dispensers. Touch-free systems have become increasingly popular as they are not only incredibly easy to operate, but also help increase hygiene levels. Intuitively sensing the presence of hands, they dispense just the right amount of product without the user physically having to touch it. Since they release the exact dose of product, there is less wastage – and, crucially, less mess, that could lead to slips and falls.

If people have not washed their hands properly, bacteria and viruses can be spread onto the door handle and other surfaces that they touch when they leave the room. Offering another opportunity for hand hygiene, by positioning additional sanitising dispensers by the washroom doors, can help prevent this.

By making a few small changes, care home settings can optimise washroom hygiene, and ultimately, ensure a healthier environment for residents and staff alike.

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