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Food Safety: Your Health (& Others) is in Your Hand Hygiene

Posted by Chris Meyer on May 3, 2019 1:35:00 PM
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By: Chris Meyer  |  May 3, 2019

Each year on World Hand Hygiene Day (May 5), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) campaign to spread awareness about the importance of hand hygiene in healthcare environments.

While the importance of hand hygiene in healthcare can’t be understated, it’s not just healthcare workers whose hand hygiene practices could potentially pose a serious health issue for others. Foodservice workers’ hand hygiene, or lack thereof, also has a significant impact on the health of the public. 

So, just as the CDC and the WHO have done for healthcare workers, WAXIE is aiming to bring awareness of the need for hand hygiene improvement in the foodservice industry too on this year’s World Hand Hygiene Day. 

Towards that end, this post will illustrate the importance of hand hygiene in the foodservice industry and demonstrate how your organization can start implementing best practices for improving hand hygiene immediately.

Read: Handwashing – The Do-It-Yourself Vaccine

Poor Hand Hygiene and Foodborne Illnesses

Each year, foodborne illnesses cause “48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths.” And more than half of the foodborne illness outbreaks are caused by food from restaurants. 

“The spread of germs from the hands of food workers,” according to the CDC, “accounts for 89% of outbreaks in which food was contaminated by workers.” In other words, when food is contaminated by workers, the vast majority of the time it’s because those workers didn’t properly wash their hands. 

For reference, an “outbreak” is when two or more cases of an illness from the same organism are caused by the same restaurant or the same food or drink product.

Despite this, in an observational study, the CDC found that, after work activities “for which hand washing is recommended,” foodservice workers attempted to wash their hands after just 32% of these activities. Even worse, they only washed their hands properly after 27% of those activities.

Put another way: just over a quarter of foodservice workers practice proper hand hygiene.

What Can Be Done?

Several factors help to increase the chances that food workers will wash their hands. Food workers are more likely to wash their hands in restaurants that have:

  • Food safety training
  • More than one hand sink
  • A hand sink in plain view of workers

While the current state of hand hygiene in food service is less than ideal, it’s clear that by improving training and providing the right equipment in right place, there’s quite a bit that managers and their employees can do to improve hand hygiene.


Emphasizing Hand Hygiene Education

As we’ve mentioned before on the WAXIE Blog, washing your hands properly is a quick and simple activity. Yet, as studies have shown, not everyone knows this, and education can make a significant difference. 

To make it easy to remember for employees, break hand washing down into three steps to make hand hygiene as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Wash hands with soap and clean water for 20 seconds—wet, lather, scrub, and rinse.
  2. Dry hands with clean paper towels or air dry.
  3. Apply hand sanitizer.

Also, make sure that employees understand that it’s not just how you wash your hands that’s important. It’s also important to know when you should wash your hands. The FDA recommends hand washing before making food and after:

  • Going to the restroom
  • Handling raw meat
  • Eating, drinking, or using tobacco
  • Handling dirty equipment
  • Blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Touching your body
  • Handling garbage

View WAXIE Select Foam Handwash Dispensing Systems

Finding and Placing the Right Equipment

As simple as it sounds, just having the right hand washing equipment in the right place increases the chances that foodservice workers wash their hands when they’re supposed to. What’s more, the simple act of sourcing and placing the right equipment was proven to reduce the number of healthcare insurance claims tied to hand hygiene preventable illnesses, according to a study by the Medical Mutual of Ohio and GOJO.

If you need help sourcing and positioning hand washing equipment, WAXIE Account Consultants are well-versed in determining not just the right mix of hand washing products, but also where to place those products to facilitate a healthier workplace.

Your Customers Are Depending on You

Much like the safety of patients depends on nurses and doctors practicing good hand hygiene, the health and safety of customers in restaurants, breweries, diners, and any other establishment depends on the hand hygiene of servers and cooks.

On this year’s World Hand Hygiene Day, and beyond, WAXIE is here to support you with innovative hand washing systems, ongoing education, and expert advice to help you deploy (or redeploy) a comprehensive hand hygiene program that improves employee and customer wellness in the foodservice industry.

Chris Meyer is content writer for WAXIE who leverages his background in facilities technology to discover and deliver educational insights to readers who want to make the world a cleaner, more efficient, and sustainable place. Chris has Bachelor’s Degrees in English and Finance from University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Topics: hand hygiene, Food Service, infection protection

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