When working in certain job roles, your hands may come into contact with a number of contaminants. Some of these may be fairly obvious, such as grease, oil, and general dirt – however, there are many unseen contaminants that you may come into contact with on a daily basis without even realising it. This can be especially dangerous if you work in a commercial kitchen or in a medical environment.
For kitchen staff, handling raw meats can carry a number of rather nasty bacterial surprises, such as Salmonella and E.Coli. These bacteria will transfer from a workers hands onto any surface they touch, from doors and drawer handles to plates and cutlery. Also when other foods are handled, there is a significant risk of cross-contamination. For this reason alone, it is essential that hands are sanitised and cleaned in the correct manner, in order to minimise the risks of this happening.
So when should you wash your hands?
• Before eating or handling food;
• After using the toilet;
• After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
• After touching animals or animal waste;
• After handling rubbish;
• After changing a nappy;
• Before and after touching a sick or injured person;
• Before and after visiting a hospital ward (remember alcohol-based hand rubs are also provided).
Can’t I just wash my hands with water?
Just rinsing your hands with water on its own is massively ineffective in comparison to using soap. This is because the bacteria and pathogens lodge in the natural oils in our hands. It is also important to make sure that you dry your hands correctly, as wet hands make for an excellent transmission medium for bacteria. Once the soap is applied to hands, it’s recommended to wash them for at least 20-30 seconds to make sure you lift all the dirt and bacteria first and then rinse.
If you’ve ever used a hand sanitizer product before, then you may have been left with hands which feel like they may be even stickier and dirtier than to begin with. This can lead to you questioning the effectiveness of your hand care product, but the reality of it is you may just be not applying it correctly. Warm water and soap is by far the most effective way to keep your hands clean and safe from bacteria, however, for those times when you just don’t have the time – this is where a hand sanitizer is perfect.
Ensure you use an alcohol based product, with at least 60% alcohol to enable it to destroy bacteria and germs. Be thorough with its application to the hands, working all over until it dries up. If your hands are heavy soiled, then you will need to life this dirt first before using hand sanitizer.
Cleaning your hands is essential for keeping them free from bacteria, but there are also products out there which allow some protection from the get go. Barrier creams will help to prevent the spread of pathogens, and will help keep hands from losing moisture through trans-epidermal water loss.