Global Handwashing Day

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Get involved in Global Handwashing Day

15 October is Global Handwashing Day, an annual opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of proper handwashing habits to help prevent the spread of infection, reduce sickness and save lives.

This advocacy day has been held since 2008 with different themes each year. “Our Hands, Our Future!” is the theme for 2017 and aims to remind us that practicing good hand hygiene not only helps to protect our own health, but to also be able to build our own futures as well as help other communities and indeed the world build theirs too.

Our futures are in our own hands, so let’s take care of them!

Why is Global Handwashing Day important?

Hand hygiene may not be new, but it is important.

Studies reveal that primates practiced hand hygiene by rubbing hands with sand, grass, leaves, bark or ash and passed on these rituals to subsequent generations.

Anthropologists and sociologists suggest that the we are hardwired to remove visual soil and experience disgust at feeling unclean.

So, why do we need to be reminded to wash our hands?

Hands are a natural breeding ground for germs, in fact they are one of the principal carriers of disease-causing germs.

Our hands are usually the host to a variable but large number of microorganisms, most of which are harmless, some are beneficial and a minority can be infectious, leading to the cause and spread of diseases.

Nearly 80% of infections are spread by hand, so encouraging good hand hygiene behaviours is an effective way to stop germs spreading. However, because these microorganisms are not visible to the naked eye, it can be easy to believe that our hands are apparently clean, where in fact, this may not be the case, especially if hands have touched multiple public surfaces.

The CDC recommends at least 20 seconds to scrub your hands thoroughly with soap, but as this video shows, it can take 60 seconds or longer to remove most of the bacteria from your hands.


It is for this reason that initiatives such as Global Handwashing Day are so important. Its agenda is to “increase awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.”

Quite rightly, it serves to remind us that there is no room for any complacency, and that it is still important to wash your hands properly, whether you live in the developed or developing world.

Global hand hygiene: what the numbers say

It has been estimated that good hand hygiene, if implemented correctly and universally, could have the following positive outcomes:

  • The number of microorganisms on the hands would reduce with the potential for a 3 log reduction (99.9%)
  • The number of diarrhoeal diseases would reduce by 50%
  • The number of respiratory diseases would reduce by 25%

Did you know?

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 80 percent of all infections are transmitted by hands

  • The simple act of handwashing can reduce the risk of getting a stomach bug by 47%

  • Research by Initial in 2015 found that 42% of women and 35% of men surveyed did not close the lid when flushing the toilet

  • A single gram of human faeces can contain one trillion microbes! When these are not washed off, these could pass from person to person

What is good hand hygiene?

Good hand hygiene enables people to be able to keep their hands clean and sanitised and as obvious as this question is, there’s more to good hand hygiene than merely providing staff with the basic facilities but it’s a good place to start.

As businesses, how can you ensure that your staff are practicing hand hygiene compliance? How could you increase compliance levels and ensure that these stay high?

Optimising organisational culture

Leading by example could help to encourage staff at all level across your organisation to improve their hand hygiene habits. Ultimately, initiatives like Global Handwashing Day are there for helping your staff to prioritise hand hygiene as not only important for the business that they are working in, but also for their own personal health.

Holding meetings, having publicity material placed strategically in the premises (e.g. washrooms, kitchens, corridors, lifts, etc.) can trigger reminders to your colleagues to remember to wash their hands thoroughly.

This is one of the founding purposes of Global Handwashing Day itself - i.e. to spread awareness and inculcate good handwashing habits in people.

Assessment and monitoring can help organisations determine whether their hand hygiene training and communication is effective by establishing hand wash compliance. It can also help motivate individuals and encourage behavioural change.

Optimising hand hygiene facilities

As a basic requirement, your organisation needs to have the right provisions in place so that your staff and visitors can practice good hand hygiene in the first place. Keep the washroom clean and well-stocked with the appropriate products, equipment and consumables that encourage good hygiene practices - i.e. access to clean, running water at an optimal temperature of 38°C, soap and suitable hand-drying methods.

Providing touchless fixtures in the washroom can also help promote high levels of hygiene best practice and comfort. By simply eliminating the need for any contact with washroom appliances, this no-touch technology can help reduce the transmission of germs.

Using washrooms within commercial buildings need not be a mundane, dull experience. Different colours [be it in the decor or the appliances] can have a psychological appeal that could bring about positive, welcoming and pleasant hand hygiene experiences for you and your staff.

By enhancing your washroom facilities, you are taking a positive step towards encouraging your staff in continually improving hand hygiene compliance and developing a positive hand hygiene culture that is collective, stable, learned and consistent in its approach.

Let this year’s Global Handwashing Day be the advent of your campaign to improve hand hygiene compliance in your organisation!



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