In the first of a series on articles on prevention, Tatjana Ahmed, Housekeeping Manager, Grand Hyatt Dubai, talks about hand hygiene.
We know that protecting our employees and guests is our number one priority and that an illness caused through an infection in our hotel will seriously damage one’s reputation and cost the business millions of dollars! As global travels constantly increase, we are exposed to risks from travelers who potentially could spread infections from the country they last visited. It is our responsibility as housekeepers to provide a safe environment for our employees and guests, which includes adequate infection prevention and control procedures. Taking precaution and ensuring that we have the right tools and equipment to avoid illnesses and infections is the key.
One of the first steps for us as housekeepers is hand hygiene. Exposure to dirt is inevitable. Germs and bacteria will be a big issue. A global survey revealed that 65% ‘agreed’ that washing hands with soap and water is something they automatically do – however 26% ‘somewhat agreed’ and 8% ‘disagreed’. Hands are one of the most common vehicles to transport microorganisms to high risk products, which can be contaminated in a number of ways. Lack of hand hygiene in the work place can often, therefore, be the root cause in many cases of sickness.
Unless bacteria are removed effectively, they are likely to spread from hand to food contact surfaces, thereby presenting a cross contamination risk. In fact, 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch. Touching food with contaminated hands spreads foodborne illnesses like Salmonella, E. Coli, Staph, and diarrheal infection. Proper hand washing can reduce diarrhea rates by 40%.
Most bacteria on our hands are on the fingertips and under the nails. The number of bacteria on our fingertips doubles after using the bathroom. Most people wash the palms of their hands and miss everything else. Damp hands are 1000x more likely to spread bacteria than dry hands Only 20% of people dry their hands after washing. Re-usable cloth towels harbor millions of bacteria. Disposable paper towels are the most sanitary means of drying hands. Hand washing and hand hygiene initiatives greatly reduce the number of absences, sick leaves, and lost productivity A study on school children showed that those who washed their hands had 24% fewer sick days due to respiratory illness and 51% fewer sick days due to upset stomach.
The distribution of soap in primary schools resulted in 54% fewer sick days. The use of hand sanitizer in classrooms resulted in 20% fewer sick days across 16 different elementary schools.
Let’s not leave hand hygiene specifically for hospital personnel and let’s work on bettering the environment for our guests and businesses!
Precaution: Provide anti-bacterial hand wash, sanitizing hand wash gel and hand wash training to all your staff!