Good hand hygiene is the primary, most important method of preventing cross contamination and the spread of bacteria. This is particularly important when carrying out cleaning in food preparation areas, care homes, schools and hospitals and you should never underestimate the importance of hygiene in the home.
It is normal practice throughout the cleaning and catering industries to provide protective gloves to staff when carrying out most tasks. What should not be overlooked is the fact that hands should be thoroughly cleaned before and after gloves are worn.
Why is hand hygiene so important? Effective hand washing removes or destroys harmful bacteria picked up by the hands and also reduces the amount of bacteria that is normally present on the skin.The aim of good hand washing practices is to ensure your own protection and prevent the transfer of any harmful bacteria to other people. The important thing to remember is that good technique is more important than the type of hand cleanser used.
Remember ALWAYS wash your hands whenever:
- you have had contact with any bodily fluids
- you have used or cleaned the toilet
- you have handled or cleaned up after any animals
- you have sneezed, blown or wiped your nose
- you have covered your mouth with your hand while coughing or sneezing
- before eating, handling and preparing foods
- your hands feel or look dirty
When considering hand washing techniques, the following points should be included and adopted by all staff:
1. Remove any jewellery from the hands and wrists to allow for effective cleaning.
2. Ensure any cuts and abrasions are covered using a clean waterproof plaster and that the plaster is properly secured.
3. Always wet the hands before applying hand cleanser.
4. Apply enough cleanser to ensure it produces a good, thick lather.
5. Ensure the lather covers all areas of the hands and wrists, paying particular attention to the areas between fingers and finger nails.
6. Rinse of all traces of lather under running water, or with fresh, clean warm water in a bowl or wash basin.
7. Dry hands and wrists thoroughly using clean, dry paper towelling. This will prevent dry or chapped skin which can harbour bacteria and damp hands that will encourage bacteria growth.
8. Avoid touching the bin when disposing of paper towelling.
What hand cleanser should I use? Try to avoid using tablet soap. If you must use it, make sure that the soap is cleaned and dried and changed regularly. Also, soap dishes that retain fluid should not be used under any circumstances.
Liquid hand soap from a dispenser is the best form
of cleaner and JANGRO provide a vast range from which customers can select the product that best suits their needs. Contact us if you need further advice on selecting the correct product and installation of dispensers.
What other steps should be considered to maintain good hygiene?
The regular application of hand moisturising cream will help prevent hands becoming chapped. Staff should be instructed to wear all personal protective equipment provided to protect their hands.
Finally,any cuts or abrasions to the hands should be covered with a clean water-proof dressing, which should be replaced regularly until fully healed
All germs, bacteria and viruses are, in most cases, invisible to the naked eye.Although we cannot see them, we all know they are there. We also know that if they are not removed or destroyed effectively, they will multiply or mutate, increasing the likelihood of an outbreak of infection.
Therefore, it is important that the products that are utilised as part of the overall cleaning regime are effective. We must also ensure that the products that are used do not cause damage to the surfaces and materials that make up the physical washroom environment.
Some products that can be utilised to kill germs are made of highly concentrated and strong acids and alkalis and will destroy all micro-organisms effectively. However, these will invariably damage surfaces and would be considered far too dangerous for general use by cleaning operatives.
As a result, cleaning products have been developed that contain specific chemical disinfectants in varying concentrations. The most common types are:
• Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QUATS or QAC’s)
Let us look at each of these types of disinfectants in more detail.
Halogens or Halogenated disinfectants take a number of forms. The most common of which is chlorine based bleach or sodium hypochlorite to give its proper name. Originally discovered over 200 years ago, it is still in widespread use today.
Chlorine bleaches are effective disinfectants but must be handled with great care. They should never be mixed with other products such as toilet cleaners.When this is done, chlorine gas is released which can prove fatal. In fact, to give you an idea of just how dangerous it is, it was used as ‘mustard’ gas in the First World War!
In addition to this, it must be remembered that bleach does not clean and should never be used as a cleaning agent. Cleaning operatives the world over will swear by bleach and its ability to clean... unfortunately for them, they are all wrong!
On a soiled surface, the hypochlorite present within the solution will act on the soil first, leaving very little to deal with germ killing.For this reason bleach must be used in conjunction with a cleaning agent, or be incorporated within a cleaning solution that carries out the cleaning function. However, these types of solutions are difficult to formulate and manufacture. All of these considerations have led to a gradual reduction in the overall use of bleach throughout the cleaning industry. In fact, the development of cleaners with bactericidal and disinfectant properties have rendered the use of bleach in many areas redundant.
When produced in powder form, the chlorine used is obtained from sodium dichloroiocynurate, which produces sodium hypochlorite when dissolved in water.
Chlorinated isocyanurates, developed in the 1950’s, provide a more efficient and stable, solid source of chlorine. They are used in swimming pools and some floor cleaners, in detergents for dishwashing machines, and in toilet rim and cistern blocks. They are also used in hospitals to absorb and disinfect spills of blood and body fluids, which may be very dangerous if they contain HIV, hepatitis, or similar viruses.
Most often, the bactericidal effect of active chlorine is best in a neutral or weakly acidic condition (pH 5 to pH 7), but the chlorinated alkaline cleaners also have an excellent bactericidal effect against all groups of microbes. Many tests, according to various methods, have proved that chlorine renders a very fast kill on viruses, bacteria, yeasts and moulds. The activity against spore forming bacteria is slightly slower.
The use of chlorine-based disinfectants on stainless steel and aluminium is not recommended as they can corrode the surfaces during cleaning.
Advantages of Chlorine-based sanitisers:
1. They are unaffected by hard water limescales.
2. They are non-filming.
3. They can be used at cool water temperatures without affecting their activity.
1. They precipitate when used in iron-laden water.
2. They have a short residual effect after disinfecting. Generally, if chlorine is used for sanitising equipment, the equipment should be used within one hour of the disinfecting procedure being carried out. Chlorine bleach is an oxidising agent. Another oxidising disinfectant is hydrogen peroxide.This is also a bleach. However, it is less powerful and kills fewer types of germs than hypochlorite.
Phenolics Phenolic based disinfectants tend to be associated with the more traditional varieties such as pine disinfectants. The very first types of disinfectant contained pine oil, which contains phenols. This explains the almost universal association with the smell of pine with disinfection.
The performance and effectiveness of phenolics is measured using the Rideal-Walker (RW) coefficient. Without over complicating matters, it measures the germ-killing capability of a phenolic-based disinfectant against that of carbolic acid, which is given a RW coefficient of 1. Given that other types of disinfectant cannot be measured using this method, comparison of their performance with those not containing phenolics is difficult.
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats or QAC’s)
Modern commercial and domestic disinfectants contain specific kinds of surfactants known as quaternary ammonium compounds.These are more commonly referred to as “quats” or “QACS”.Quats are more commonly used as they are highly effective at dealing with a wide range of micro-organisms and have little or no odour. In addition to this they will remain active on the surface being treated for some time after application.
Also, they can be more easily incorporated within cleaning compounds and are generally kinder to the surfaces being treated than other kinds of disinfectant.
How Quats work
Like all living things, bacteria are made up of groups of individual cells. In general terms, cells are made up of lipids (fats), proteins, a cell membrane and enzymes. The aim of an effective disinfectant is to kill the cell or micro-organism which it achieves by destroying the structure or functionality of any of these component parts.
The cell walls surrounding the cell carry a negative electrical charge while quats hold a positive charge and are attracted to the micro-organism. As the quat itself is a surfactant it gradually dissolves the lipids in the cell wall following contact with it. The chemical properties of the quat allow it to break through the wall of the cell and attack the enzymes and proteins within the cell, changing the ways in which they act. This leads to the chemical bonds within the coiled-up protein being broken and causing it to unravel. These bonds can be broken with the use of heat or by chemical methods; either way, the cell is destroyed.
It is important to note that viruses do not have a lipid coating but they can be destroyed by the chemical effect of quats.
Advantages of Quats:
1.They are stable and have a long shelf-life.
2.They are active against a wide range of microorganisms.
3.They form a bacteriostatic film.
4.They are non-corrosive and non-irritating to skin.
5.They are stable in the presence of organic matter.
6.They remain stable when subjected to temperature changes.
7.They have good penetration qualities.
8. When they are combined with non-ionic wetting agents, they form good detergent sanitisers.
Disadvantages of Quats:
1.They are relatively expensive.
2.They are incompatible with common anionic detergent components.
3.They are slow to dissipate and can form residues.
4.Their germicidal efficiency is varied and selective.
5.They tend to foam when applied mechanically.
These are used almost entirely within the food and pharmaceutical industries. They are particularly effective in dealing with fungi, yeast and viruses but have no effect against bacterial spores.
They are compatible with a wide range of detergents and as such they can be incorporated with cleaning solutions in the same way as quats. However, they are less affected by water-hardness and can be easily rinsed from surfaces. Again, like other disinfectants described in this section, they can only be applied to previously cleaned surfaces as they can be rendered ineffective when in contact with soil.
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