Have you ever thought about the role that your hands play in transferring germs? In a day, we come into contact with multiple surfaces, many of which may already be contaminated. We go about our day touching our face, eating food, and so forth - spreading bacteria that can lead to illnesses.
Handwashing is the easiest and most effective way to prevent cross-contamination. Below are five reasons why the practice of good hand hygiene is essential:
1. People don't wash their hands; do you know where others’ hands have been?
Studies have shown that sixty percent of all South Africans do not wash their hands with soap and water* and that one in ten people do not wash their hands after using the toilet.
When one considers that a single gram of human faeces can contain 10 million viruses and one million bacteria, it’s easy to make the link between unwashed hands and bacteria-laden surfaces like office desks and shared equipment.
2. Sharing is not caring
Dr Charles Gerba from the University of Arizona conducted a study in 2002 which concluded that the average desk harbours about 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
Dr Gerba's study found that - on your desk at the office - the top 3 bacteria-infested areas were your telephone, followed by your desk then keyboard. Now consider how many times have you borrowed a pen, quickly used your colleague's telephone, or lent your stapler to an office buddy.
So even though sharing office equipment seems harmless, you are picking up bacteria from multiple sources, spreading them, and taking them home to your family.
You may also be interested in reading: 6 office hygiene stories.
3. Bacteria can make you ill
Contaminated hands can transfer germs to up to seven separate surfaces; including telephones, desks and keyboards, and these germs can live on a surface for up to 48 hours. This cross-contamination increases your risk of contracting illnesses such as respiratory infections and diarrhea.
4. Handwashing saves lives
By washing your hands with soap and water for 30 seconds you are eliminating potentially harmful bacteria and preventing it from spreading.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 5.9 million children under the age of 5 died in 2015. More than half of these deaths could have been prevented or treated if there was access to simple affordable interventions. Handwashing is one such intervention as it eliminates harmful bacteria.
Not sure if you are washing your hands correctly? These toddlers demonstrate the way to wash your hands to ensure safe and hygenic hands during an event for Global Handwashing Day.
You may be interested in downloading our handwashing technique steps poster.
5. Handwashing saves you money!
By washing your hands you are minimising cross-contamination in your home and office which means that you, and you family, are less likely to get sick. This means there are less costly trips to the doctor and the pharmacy.
If you are an employer, promoting good handwashing habits in the office could also reduce absenteeism, which will keep your productivity constant and reduce work days lost.
From the 5 reasons above, keeping good handwashing habits top of mind can be handy.
Why not download our comprehensive handwashing guide to get all the resources you need to help remind people to wash their hands.
DID YOU KNOW: 15 October is Global Handwashing Day, an annual opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of proper handwashing and hand drying habits to help prevent the spread of infection and reduce sickness.
* Life Health Care South Africa