Global Handwashing Day: Get involved in good hand hygiene

It’s 15 October! Every year today is marked as Global Handwashing Day, led by WHO and UNICEF, to promote awareness of the importance of handwashing with soap to help prevent the spread of infections, reduce cross-contamination and save lives. This year, as the world unites in fighting over COVID-19 pandemic, the theme “Hand Hygiene for All” further amplifies the importance to achieve universal hand hygiene. 

Why is Global Handwashing Day important?

This year's theme means action for hand hygiene must become a priority for everyone – for the general public, businesses and all government agencies – to help control the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hand hygiene is one of the key pillars of infection prevention to protect people from person-to-person transmission via hand contact and via contaminated surfaces. Hand hygiene facilities need to be accessible for all, even in developed countries, and there needs to be a society-wide approach to improve both facilities and hand hygiene behaviours.

Of course, in many developing countries, the problems are far more serious.  A significant proportion of the global population are unable to wash their hands with soap and water due to lack of basic facilities.

  • Only 60% of the world’s population have access to basic handwashing facilities while in rural regions is 34% only
  • Within countries there are also great disparities. In Nepal, only 38% of the poorest people have basic handwashing facilities compared to 95% of the  wealthiest in the country
  • Only 53% of the world’s schools provide basic facilities for students, meaning 900 million children can’t wash their hands
  • In Malaysia, 20% of the employees chose not to wash their hands due to shortage of soap and paper towels in the toilet

Our hands naturally host a large number of microorganisms, most of which are harmless and some which are beneficial. However, a minority are pathogens and can be transmitted to others by poor hand hygiene. Our hands also have transient microorganisms, which are picked up from our respiratory system and faeces as a result of poor personal hygiene or from contaminated surfaces that we touch in our daily lives. However, studies have shown that good hand hygiene, if implemented correctly and universally, could have positive outcomes such as reducing the number of diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory diseases, transmission of dangerous pathogens and so on.

Making good hand hygiene part of your business’s culture

Leading by example could help to encourage employees at all levels across your organisation to improve their hand hygiene habits. Ultimately, initiatives like Global Handwashing Day help your employee to prioritise hand hygiene not only because it’s important for the business they’re working in but because it protects their own personal health.

Placing informative educational materials strategically in washrooms, kitchens and lifts helps to remind them to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds – as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice — and then rinsing and drying your hands properly. Lastly, sanitise your hands for extra protection and reassurance. 

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

Global Handwashing Day 2020


Optimising hand hygiene facilities

As a basic requirement, your organisation needs to have the right provisions in place so that your employee and visitors can practise good hand hygiene in the first place. Keep the washroom clean and well-stocked with hand soap, dryer and sanitiser could encourage good hygiene practices. Providing no touch solutions will help to further reduce the risk of germs spreading and also promote high levels of hygiene best practices in your premises.

Initial Hygiene Malaysia is promoting good workplace hygiene through Hygiene Detective Campaign. Besides practicing good hand hygiene habits, you are also in treat to enjoy up to 20% rebate for Initial Workstation Sanitation. Find out more: Cultivate good hygiene at your workplace and 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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