Washing your hands helps ensure you don’t get sick, and it reduces the spread of germs to others. In an office setting where many coworkers share the same workspaces, bathrooms, and office supplies, it’s incredibly important that each person does their part to keep their hands clean. A DIY hand washing station doesn’t take much effort to set up and maintain, and it could save lives.
It is critical that employees wash hands frequently and correctly for the safety of everyone. Continue reading to learn more about the importance of hand washing, how to set up hand washing and sanitation stations, and find a selection of free printable signs to promote hand washing at your workplace.
This article is part of a series from Blue Summit Supplies dedicated to getting you the information and resources your office needs surrounding COVID-19. It is critical that offices across our nation take swift action to protect their workers and prevent the spread of illness. The decisions we make have a direct impact on the health of those around us. Though it will be a challenge, changing our behaviors could save the lives of our friends, neighbors, and coworkers. For more, read our guide to Social Distancing at Work: What it Means and Proper Practices.
The Importance of Hand Washing
Washing our hands and keeping them clean is one of the most important things we can do to avoid getting sick or spreading germs to others. Diseases and conditions are easily spread from person to person when we do not wash our hands with soap and water. With the threat of COVID-19 showing no sign of abating, washing our hands thoroughly and regularly is our best defense against the spread.
No one wants to think about feces (poop, excrement, caca, etc.) being on our hands or the hands of the people we interact with, but it does happen—and a lot more than you may think. Feces from human beings and animals is a huge source of germs, such as E. coli O157 and norovirus, that cause respiratory infections and diarrhea. These kinds of germs get onto our hands after using the washroom, changing a diaper, or even handling raw meat.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “A single gram of human feces—which is about the weight of a paper clip—can contain one trillion germs.”
Germs also get onto our hands after touching an object that has been coughed on, sneezed on, or otherwise contaminated. If we don’t wash our hands regularly, we can pass these germs onto others, who then pass them on to more people. Think about how many of the same surfaces or objects you, your coworkers, and your children touch or handle in a single day. Now think about how many times you touch your face. Do you wash your hands just as often?
The CDC states that keeping ourselves and our community educated about the importance of hand washing:
- Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-40%
- Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%
- Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%
- Reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57%
DIY Hand Washing Station Requirements
Having accessible and visible hand washing stations in your workplace is vital to your health, the health of your family, and the health of your coworkers and their families.
There are some important requirements to include in a DIY hand washing station. A hand washing station must provide:
- Hot and cold water
- Continuously available clean towels or a hand dryer
- Garbage container (if using disposable towels)
- Clearly visible signage that informs staff to wash their hands before returning to work
Hand Sanitation Station Questions
Which Is The Correct Order For Hand Washing?
Many of us probably don’t consider the order in which we wash our hands. But there is, in fact, a correct order of steps.
- Wet your hands with hot running water (at least 100°F/38°C).
- Apply soap.
- Scrub hands and lower arms vigorously for 20 seconds, making sure to clean underneath fingernails and between all fingers.
- Rinse thoroughly under running water.
- Dry hands with a single-use paper towel or hand dryer.
- Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet.
- Use a paper towel to open the door.
Touching sink handles or the door on your way out can contaminate your hands seconds after you’ve washed them. Keep in mind that every surface in a bathroom could hold germs, including invisible particles of feces.
How Long Do You Need to Wash Your Hands?
It’s best practice to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. This ensures that the germs on your hands are eliminated and cannot be spread to others. As you wash your hands, count to 20 or sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Not a fan of Happy Birthday? Pick a 20 second section of one of your favorite songs to keep you occupied while you scrub.
Wash Your Lyrics generates hand washing infographics based on the lyrics of any song. Simply type in the song title and artist you’re looking for, and the site will generate a hand washing poster for the song.
Soap or Hand Sanitizer?
Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to clean your hands, but hand sanitizer will do in a pinch. According to the CDC, “alcohol-based hand sanitizers (with at least 60% alcohol) can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.” Although hand sanitizers are very effective at removing a majority of microbes, many people do not use hand sanitizer correctly—people may not use a large enough amount, or they may wipe off the sanitizer before it has dried.
Hand sanitizers are also much less effective at cleaning your hands if they are excessively oily or greasy, such as when handling food, playing sports, or camping. In these cases, thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water is recommended.
To use hand sanitizer correctly, read the label of the product before using it. Apply the specified amount to the palm of one hand and rub the sanitizer all over the surface of your hands until your hands are dry.
Best Type of Soap For Hand Washing
Antibacterial Soap vs. Plain Soap
Outside of healthcare settings, you don’t need to buy antibacterial soap over plain soap.
The American Medical Association says, “There is no evidence that antibacterial soaps are more effective than plain soap for preventing infection under most circumstances in the home or in public places.” And not only that, to actually see the benefits of antibacterial soap, it must be left on your hands for two minutes before any effect is had on the bacteria.
Plain soap is usually easier to find and less expensive than antibacterial soap, so stick with that for your workplace.
Liquid soap is generally recommended over other types of soap as it’s easy to use and won’t spread germs to others. Many liquid soaps on the market also include moisturizer in the formula, so your hands won’t dry out as quickly as a result of frequent hand washing.
According to a study conducted at UCLA’s School of Medicine, foam soap is not as effective as liquid soap at eliminating bacteria that can lead to infection. This is thought to be the case because foam soap already comes out of the pump as a lather as opposed to liquid soap, where a lather has to be created through the process of hand washing. The amount of soap in a single pump of foam soap is also significantly less than is found in a pump of liquid soap.
Bar soap is not recommended for use outside of the home. It may seem counter-intuitive, but germs can actually grow on a bar of soap and be easily spread from one person to another.
Plain liquid soap is the best type of soap for the office.
Best Hand Sanitizer Dispenser
A tabletop hand sanitizer is portable, handy, and unintrusive. Keeping a small plastic bottle on your desk next to a box of Kleenex is a good way to remind yourself to sanitize your hands after blowing your nose or sneezing. They also work well in boardrooms, and the small size means you can have several evenly spaced out along a desk during meetings where clients or coworkers may be expected to shake hands.
Wall Mounted Sanitizer
A wall mounted hand sanitizer isn’t portable, but having a few around the office will free up desk space if you’d rather not have a tabletop sanitizer in your personal work area. Automatic or pump options are available, with the automatic wall mounted sanitizer being the most hygienic option. With an automatic sanitizer, you only need to stick your hand underneath the sensor to receive the liquid as opposed to touching anything.
Mobile Hand Sanitizer Station
A mobile hand sanitizer station helps if you don’t have the wall space for a mounted sanitizer station. The mobility means you can carry it into the boardroom if you have a meeting, take it to the breakroom around lunchtime, or leave it in an area of the office that receives a lot of regular traffic.
Printable Restroom Signs and Other Sanitation Signs for the Office
Printable Bathroom Sign
Use our bathroom etiquette signs for office restrooms to promote hand washing, requirements, best practices, and proper etiquette.
Printable Hand Sanitizer Sign
Use our hand sanitizer signs around your office and at sanitation stations to promote frequent hand sanitation in between hand washing.
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