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Keep hands clean in schools to stay healthy

January 29, 2020, 10:43 GMT+1
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  • Chris Brooks examines how to prevent illness outbreaks and promote hand hygiene in primary schools...
Keep hands clean in schools to stay healthy

With the winter months often comes a spike in cases of norovirus, sometimes known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’. How can school business managers and staff manage the spread of illness and prevent against it?

It is crucial that the spread of germs is minimised and that good handwashing habits are taught from an early age. In fact, the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) programme for Key Stages 1 and 2 specifies that pupils should be taught how to maintain personal hygiene and improve their health and wellbeing.

According to the Health Protection Agency, almost one million bacteria can be created by one person in a school day, and hands are the main vehicle for germ transfer, either by person-to-person contact or touching everyday surfaces.

Hand hygiene is by far the best method of infection prevention in schools. Norovirus, for example, can survive outside the body for several days according to the NHS. Washing hands with soap and water is one of the simplest and easiest ways for schoolchildren to protect themselves and others from a range of illnesses.

Resources such as child-friendly posters and activities can help raise awareness amongst pupils. Teaching materials such as presentations and activity sheets can also help highlight the basics of handwashing and its importance, as well as how, why and when to wash hands.

However, it is within the school itself where hand hygiene compliance can be most effectively targeted. Bespoke, colour-coded dispensers can help pupils learn which product to use when, as well as being simple reminders to use soap for example. Bright and attractive dispensers can bring handwashing to life in the washroom and help engage pupils.

Washroom foam soap provider, SC Johnson, make bespoke decals for their dispensers which gives an opportunity to get pupils involved in the design of the images, helping to raise the importance of hand hygiene in a constructive and participative manner.

School business managers should also look at the types of dispensers installed; hygiene compliance can be an irrelevant factor if the washroom itself is unhygienic. Bulk-filled, open soap systems are most commonly seen in washrooms, but in reality they can present a serious hygiene problem.

Airborne germs and bacteria can enter the soap reservoir, risking contamination. According to a study by Chattman, Maxwell and Gerba, 25 per cent of refillable bulk soap dispensers are contaminated with unsafe levels of bacteria and can actually leave the hands with a shocking 25 times more bacteria after washing.

Sealed cartridge soap dispensers will bring maximum hygiene, with a measured dose of fresh product dispensed each time. The maintenance of washrooms has a significant impact on hand hygiene, and with a more readily replaceable cartridge, this is made easier and simpler for cleaning professionals.

Chris Brooks is a Technical Product Manager at SC Johnson Professional.