How Washing Hands Can Lead To Fewer Sick Days

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Having a good custodial team is crucial to the success of many hygiene and cleaning programs. The following are some tips and ideas for custodial executives to consider for leading their departments and becoming a huge influence in the school-wide effort to promote hand-washing.

(1). Making Having Clean Hands Easily Do-able and Accessible – Custodians can make sure there is always warm water available, that the dryers work properly, there are plenty of paper towels, and the soap dispensers are full. Anything that could prevent someone from washing their hands should be addressed ASAP.

(2). Shine a Spotlight on the Problem – Make sure people are aware of the importance of washing their hands. Cleaning is a necessity, not just something nice to do. See that there is information in plain sight concerning the seriousness of cleanliness. Draw attention to both problems and solutions.

(3). Keep Health and Hygiene Information Updated – Always keep the custodial staff updated on the latest information about hygiene and cleaning.

(4). Set a Good Example – Practice what you preach by engaging in good hand-washing practices yourself. Teach students the proper way to wash their hands, even if you have to take the time to address them during class time, one class at a time.

(5). Educate Everyone About Cleaning Their Hands and Why – Keeping clean hands is right at the top of best ways of avoiding the spreading of germs. Promoting good hand-washing habits should be among the key issues for custodial managers. These practices are given by the programs mentioned above, which are –

Prevention and Healthy Schools.
Centers for Disease Control.
It’s a SNAP.
Healthy People.

(6). Educate Them About When They Need to Wash Their Hands – Let them know when it is especially important, like-

(a). Before and after they care for a sick person/people.
(b). Before, During, and again after they prepare food.
(c). Before and again after treating wounds or cuts.
(d). Immediately after sneezing, coughing, or blowing their nose.
(e). After they use the toilet.
(f). Before and after they eat.
(g). After coming in contact with garbage.

hand-washing-sick-daysInstruct Them on How to Wash Their Hands Properly – Here is the proper technique:

1. Wet their hands with running water and apply soap.
2. Rub their hands together until they lather, scrubbing them well, on the back as well as the front and between the fingers and under their nails.
3. Rub their hands for no less than 20 seconds.
4. Rinse hands front and back under running water until soap is gone.
5. Dry their hands completely with air dryer or clean paper towel.

What to do when there is no soap or clean running water – Whenever these things are not available, then the custodian can make sure there is enough alcohol-based sanitizer solution for everyone to use.

The CDC has recommended that sanitizers be applied this way – Place a generous dab in the palm of a hand and rub both hands together. Do that for no less than 30 seconds or until you can feel that your fingers have dried. Using an alcohol-based sanitizer won’t kill all germs, however, they can significantly reduce how much of them are on the hands under certain circumstances. They also don’t work as effectively when dirt or grease are visible on the hands.

Hand hygiene studies and programs, along with the experts involved in them, all agree that practicing good hand hygiene is one of the best defenses against infections being able to spread. Students may be harder to convince on the subject, and might need a more aggressive education in that area (like pictures or videos of diseases that can be spread from unclean hands).

Custodial executives are always working on strategies that will get the attention of students, and help them get their message across about the importance of clean hands. They should work effortlessly at ensuring their students are always supplied with the products they need to practice good hand hygiene. They are the unsung heroes ‘behind the scenes’ that are improving the overall health of the schools they work in.

Some custodial executives may find it a difficult undertaking to build up a solid hand hygiene program. Fortunately, there are already some great programs out there that can be copied and replicated and be very effective. Here are some examples:

(1). Dorsett Shoals Elementary in Douglasville, Georgia – This school initiated a program they named ‘Two Thumbs Up For Healthy Hands’. The goal was to reduce school absences in the cold and flu season. They put up hand-washing posters that they actually let the students make in their Art class. They even set up some first-hand lessons, like the ‘glow in the dark’ example, where students were able to see the amount of germs that were missed after they had washed their hands in soap and water.

(2). At Litchfield High School in Minnesota, there were 3 students who created their own multi-media hand hygiene educational campaign. They made a video after collaborating with the local health officials and called it “Hand Washing Horrors: Germ Revenge”. In addition to the video they brought in new information concerning germs and hand hygiene at school. They took surveys, showed how germs can be transferred by showing it under a black light, and performed science experiments.

Their pro-active efforts made a real difference and helped to get the message across. They even utilized social media to help them by sending out weekly hand-washing messages along with procedures and statistics.

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