Hand Wringing Over Hand Washing

December 12, 2001 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Employers stand to lose millions of dollars in productivity this winter as workers stay home to battle colds and flu, yet more than half of employers in a recent survey don't do anything to encourage hand washing in the workplace - the most important means of preventing germs from spreading, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the 2001 Soap and Detergent Association’s National Cleaning Survey, 40% of American workers don’t wash their hands often enough – more than five times per day is recommended, or often enough – 15 seconds or more.

Results of the survey show that while 93% of employers stock their washrooms with soap and towels, employees need to be reminded to use them. Evidence that encouragement and compliance are directly correlated, in the 41% of businesses that post hand-washing reminders,

  • almost three quarters of employees wash their hands five or more times a day, and
  • close to 40% wash their hands more than 10 times a day

A person’s place of work also plays a role in hand washing practices. According to the survey, some 65% of maintenance and construction workers, and almost 50% of office and customer service workers wash their hands less than five times a day. And half these workers wash their hands for only 10 seconds or less.

Employers in these groups are also less likely to post reminders. The survey found that:

  • employers at 73% of offices and customer service facilities do not post reminders,
  • along with a similar percentage of employers at maintenance and construction operations

In contrast,

· almost 90% of medical facilities have signs posted, and
· two thirds of food service facilities encourage hand washing with signs

In addition,

  • some 86% employees at medical facilities wash their hands more than seven times per day, and
  • almost 70% of this group wash their hands for 15 seconds or more

And, close to 70% of  food service employees wash their hands more than seven times per day,  while over three-quarters wash their hands for 15 seconds or more

The sample for the 2001 SDA National Cleaning Survey, performed by Opinion Research Corporation, comprised 1013 adult Americans, 18 years and older.

Read the Soap and Detergent Association’s hand washing tips at www.cleaning101.com .