Clean hands, thriving workplaces


…the impact of handwashing on your company

Maintaining good hygiene is not only essential for overall health, it also plays a pivotal role in the workplace. While the significance of handwashing might seem obvious, it is surprising how often employees overlook this simple yet highly effective practice. Establishing a culture of regular handwashing in the workplace is not just a matter of cleanliness; it is a crucial factor in maintaining a healthy and productive environment. We will delve deeper into why handwashing is indispensable in the workplace, and explore how it can be encouraged and integrated seamlessly into daily routines.

Reducing the spread of illness

The workplace is a hotspot for the exchange of germs and pathogens. One striking example is the flu virus, which can linger on various surfaces such as door-handles and countertops for up to 48 hours. When an infected person touches these surfaces and subsequently interacts with colleagues, they unknowingly become vehicles for transmission of the virus. Regular handwashing becomes a critical defence against this invisible enemy. By washing hands frequently, employees can significantly reduce the spread of germs; thereby promoting a healthier workplace.

Protecting against foodborne illnesses

In Ghana, as in many parts of the world, diligent handwashing plays a pivotal role in minimising the risk of foodborne diseases within the workplace. The pathogens responsible for these illnesses can easily spread through contaminated hands, particularly in settings where food is prepared or handled. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Ghana Health Service have established specific guidelines for safe food-handling practices in the country. These guidelines emphasise the importance of regular handwashing with soap and clean, running water.  Employees who handle food must wash their hands regularly to prevent cross-contamination and safeguard the health of both colleagues and customers.

Mitigating absenteeism

Absenteeism due to illness is a significant disruptor in the workplace. When employees fall ill, it not only affects their own productivity but also disrupts workflow, increases the workload on their colleagues and hampers overall business operations. Encouraging regular handwashing can help reduce absenteeism by preventing the spread of contagious illnesses within the workplace. A healthy workforce is a productive one, and by emphasising the importance of hand-hygiene, employers can contribute to improved attendance and, subsequently, increased productivity.

Fostering customer confidence

Customers are more discerning than ever when it comes to choosing where they do business. In an era when health and safety concerns are paramount, the sight of employees diligently practicing hand-hygiene can make a significant impression. When customers witness these measures, it sends a powerful message that the establishment cares about their health and well-being. This can lead to increased customer loyalty and repeat business, as clients are more likely to return to places where they feel their health is a priority.

Encouraging a culture of handwashing

To instil and uphold a culture of handwashing in the workplace, education and training form the bedrock. Employers should implement comprehensive training programmes that equip employees with the knowledge and skills needed for proper hand hygiene. These programmess should emphasise correct handwashing technique, the use of soap and warm water and the importance of adequate drying methods.

To reinforce these practices, strategically placed posters and reminders in common areas, restrooms and kitchens can serve as constant visual cues. Leadership plays a vital role in setting the example, with managers and supervisors demonstrating proper hand hygiene and actively participating in training. Recognition and feedback mechanisms should be in place to applaud/reward employees who consistently adhere to handwashing standards, creating a sense of pride and encouraging others to follow suit.

Access to handwashing facilities

Adequate access to handwashing facilities is essential. Employers should ensure that there are well-maintained sinks with running water and a supply of soap and paper towels readily available to all employees. Additionally, hand sanitisers with at least 60% alcohol can be strategically placed in high-traffic areas for moments when handwashing is not immediately possible.

Lead by example

Leadership plays a pivotal role in fostering a culture of handwashing. Managers and supervisors should lead by example, consistently demonstrating proper hand hygiene practices. When employees see their superiors prioritising handwashing, it reinforces the behaviour and sets a positive precedent for the entire workplace. In addition, acknowledging and rewarding employees for their commitment to hand hygiene can further promote a culture of cleanliness. Recognising individuals or teams who consistently uphold handwashing standards can create a sense of pride and encourage others to follow suit.

In conclusion, handwashing is not just a basic hygiene practice but a critical element in maintaining a healthy and productive workplace. It reduces the spread of illness, protects against foodborne diseases, mitigates absenteeism and demonstrates care for customers’ health. By fostering a culture of handwashing through education, access to facilities, leadership and recognition, employers can create a workplace where hygiene is prioritised, resulting in a healthier and more successful business environment. Remember, the power to prevent illness and promote well-being is literally in our hands – so let us wash them!

The author is a registered midwife and dedicated healthcare professional, advocating holistic nursing care.

LinkedIn: Judith Esi Gyan

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