COVID-19: Managing Your Operations - A Discussion About Hand Hygiene [Videocast]
[HOST] Welcome to today’s videocast which is part of a series on Managing Your Operations in a COVID-19 World. I am your host, Jesse Matthews. In each videocast in this series, we focus on specific topics that have been on many of our minds as businesses resume operations. In this discussion, we’ll be focusing on hand hygiene practices. Today I have two panelists joining me, Bill Shoemaker and Beth Regan both from the Travelers Risk Control organization. Thank you both for joining me today.
[HOST] To start us off, Bill could you tell us why hand hygiene is so important for limiting the transmission of COVID-19?
[Bill] Sure Jesse…honestly, most of us were taught good hand hygiene in Kindergarten, even if we didn’t understand why it was so important.
The virus is spread by the droplets that people expel when they talk, sneeze or cough - and those droplets CAN land on surfaces and objects; doorknobs, desktops, keyboards, cell phones - the things we touch with our hands all the time. When we touch those with gloved or un-gloved hands and then touch our mouth, nose, or eyes - that’s how the virus can be transmitted. That’s why good hand hygiene is so important, and why we are taught to wash our hands with soap and water from an early age.
[HOST] How frequently should people be washing their hands? And, are there any things that we can think of as “triggers” for hand-washing? In other words, if THIS happens, I should wash my hands?
[Beth] Oh yes, let’s talk about those “triggers” some are obvious right? Like after using the restroom. But it’s also a good idea to wash your hands before and after eating, after petting animals and after handling the trash. You should also wash your hands after blowing your nose, sneezing (into elbow preferably), and certainly before touching your face. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands after coming into close contact with others, after removing your face covering, and after touching any shared surfaces. We probably don’t realize how many of those “high touch” surfaces we all touch throughout the course of a day! Things like light switches, elevator buttons, and door handles, because remember, reportedly, the virus can live on all those surfaces for days. Bill, do you have anything to add?
[Bill] You know Beth, I’ll bet you we will all touch our face with our hands during this discussion, and most of us won’t realize it. That’s why frequent hand washing is so effective in breaking the chain of virus transmission.
[HOST] Sounds like good advice. Now that we have some more context around how often we should wash our hands, let’s talk about HOW we should wash our hands. What is the most effective way to wash our hands thoroughly?
[Bill] First get your hands wet with water. Then, apply soap and rub your hands together to create a lather for at least 20 seconds (typically is takes about 20 seconds to hum Happy Birthday song TWICE. Or find your favorite song and sing it for 20 seconds. I like to sing my ABCs—including that part “now I know my ABCs”
Also make sure to scrub beneath fingernails, between your fingers and the back of your hands. Then rinse your hands under running water to remove the soap and dry.
[HOST] With hand sanitizer being in such high demand, many of us are wondering, what is more effective, soap and water or hand sanitizer?
[Beth] Soap and water really is the best way to achieve adequate hand hygiene. But there’s not always a sink with running water around when you need it. So when you can’t use soap and water to wash your hands, you can use hand sanitizer as long as it contains at least 60% alcohol. Do you agree with this Bill?
[Bill] Yes, we really should only be relying on hand sanitizer as an alternative when soap and water isn’t available. And it may only be effective IF enough is applied and evenly distributed on the hands.
[HOST] We’ve heard that some people are using recipes for home-made sanitizer? Is it acceptable? What are your thoughts on that, Beth?
[Beth] Good question, Jesse. Since the COVID-19 outbreak we’ve seen quite a few recipes for homemade hand sanitizer solutions being circulated through social media and news outlets. The bottom line is…you may run the risk of your home recipe not working as well as the “real thing” and it simply may not be effective at killing germs. In addition, alcohol, which is a flammable liquid is often a standard ingredient in most of these recipes.…… You could be creating a significant and unanticipated fire hazard during your do-it-yourself mixing process.
[HOST] Another factor to consider may be that many employees, as a part of their jobs, share tools and equipment. For example, in warehouses where more than one person may operate a pallet jack, or on a construction site where workers are sharing tools. It sounds like this could be a big issue in maintaining hand hygiene. Bill?
[Bill] Yes, it sure is. Where possible, companies should try to avoid the need to have employees share of tools and equipment. If that’s just not possible, and more than one person must be using the same tools or equipment, then they should be cleaning and disinfecting those tools and that equipment before and after each use.
[HOST] What about gloves. Beth, are they an acceptable alternative to keeping up with hand hygiene?
[Beth] Well Jesse, Gloves really are NOT a substitute for thorough and frequent hand washing, in fact, gloves may give a false sense of protection. You see, infectious materials can contaminate the gloves just like they can contaminate your hands - if you touch your face with a dirty glove, whatever is on that glove can land on your face and then in your mouth, your nose, or your eyes. There are certainly situations where it is appropriate for wearing gloves, such as food handling or healthcare, but this does not replace the need for good hand hygiene practices. In fact, it is a common practice for healthcare professionals to thoroughly wash their hands AFTER they remove their gloves.
[HOST] This has been a great discussion regarding hand hygiene. And you have given listeners various options to consider as business operations resume. Thank you for listening and stay tuned for other videocasts in this series. Please also remember Travelers has additional resources for COVID-19 to help support and guide you and your organizations.