The purpose of a hand-washing policy and procedure in the workplace is to promote hygiene and prevent the spread of germs and infectious diseases. Having a posted policy in place for such a basic function may seem silly to some, but in many industries having the proper acceptable procedure in plain sight in a rest room or anywhere hand washing takes place may make a big difference in the percentage of people who get it right.
There is no better example of an industry in which hygiene is important than health care. The reason that doctors and nurses do not stay sick all the time despite being around contagious people every day is partially due to rigidly enforced hand-washing practices.
The University of Texas Medical Branch has a hand hygiene policy for all its health-care workers. The policy states that hand washing must be completed before any work is done, after trips to the bathroom and prior to leaving work. In addition, hand washing is mandatory following each contact with a new patient. All employees are required to wash rinse and dry their hands or use an alcohol hand rub.
You certainly do not want disease spread to you in your food, but without proper hygiene policies in restaurants a lot of cross-contamination would occur and instances of food poisoning certainly would be on the rise. In addition to Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), which is a system used to cut down on incidences of food-borne illness and cross-contamination, restaurants also typically have a strict hand-washing policy for all employees.
National Restaurant Association information says that employees should wash their hands after any potential contamination, such as handling food, using the washroom, touching their hair or clothing, sneezing, coughing, eating, drinking, smoking, taking out the trash and busing tables. The wash should take at least 20 seconds.
In schools, the staff comes in contact with many children who may or may not have great hygiene practices. Also, many parents send their kids to school whether they are well or not, and the spread of disease happens more quickly in schools than just about any other place in society.
The policy set by a Head Start in the Umatilla Morrow district in Oregon states that staff members, parent helpers and volunteers should wash their hands at the beginning of the school day and after using the bathroom or helping a child use the bathroom. Kitchen staff should wash hands before handling food or cooking utensils. Everyone should wash hands after eating, and children should wash hands immediately before being seated at an eating table. Obviously, hand washing is required after any contact with bodily fluids, including vomit, drool, blood, stool or discharge from the eyes or nose.
Hand washing is required after handling any pets or animals, after coming inside after recess, after cleaning activities and at the end of the school day. In day-care settings, hands should be washed just before and just after diaper changes.
Routine Hand-Washing Procedure
While hand-washing policy changes from industry to industry, the procedure is usually pretty standard. The University of Texas Medical Branch's routine hand-washing procedure explains it in the following way:
First use warm water to wet hands, and then apply lotion soap (antimicrobial soap or alcohol rub may be substituted). Work up a good lather and apply with vigorous contact on all surfaces of the hands. Wash hands for at least 15 seconds then rinse. Avoid splashing and keep hands down so runoff will go in the sink instead of down the arm. Dry the hands well and use the paper towel to turn off the faucet. Discard the paper towel into the appropriate container.