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Hand hygiene: Make it easy not to forget

06 November 2016

Paul Jakeway, marketing director at Deb comments on the need to make correct ha nd hygiene difficult to avoid! 

Imagine you work in a food-handling environment. You know that regular handwashing is important. That’s what you’ve learned; that’s what your employer told you when you started. But you haven’t heard much about it since then and anyway the handwashing facilities in your workplace aren’t exactly the most accessible.

One day, after a lunchbreak that lasted a bit longer than expected, you rush back to the production line and it is only hours later that you realise you haven’t washed your hands. What can you do? It’s too late now.

Neglecting hand hygiene in any food-handling business can have serious consequences. Even one instant of forgetfulness can result in cross contamination. If you’re lucky, nothing will happen; if you’re not, a customer might end up with food poisoning resulting in product recalls.

It’s not surprising that food processors take the issue of hand hygiene seriously. In the light of this, the bakery chain Greggs has dismissed an experienced baker who did not wash his hands before returning to the food production area. After a disciplinary process, Greggs took the decision to dismiss the employee – who has worked in the baking business for 11 years – because of its zero-tolerance approach to breaches of its hygiene rules.

The case should serve as a reminder to all food-handling employees of the importance of correct hand hygiene in the food environment.

While employees clearly have a responsibility to make sure they wash their hands regularly – it is also the responsibility of employers to help them comply. This means that reminders about hand hygiene should be prominently placed at the entrance for food production areas and easy-to-use dispensers, filled with cleansing products that are effective should be used. Everything has been designed in a way that makes it almost impossible for staff not to wash their hands.

Consider conducting regular staff meetings to discuss the importance of hand hygiene – which will serve as a further reminder about its importance.

The combination of ongoing staff education and accessible, easy-to-use facilities, can make a big difference to hand hygiene compliance and prevention. While forgetfulness can never be ruled out completely by making skin care a clear priority employers can go a long way to help their employees do the same on theirs – minimising the risk for everyone.

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