The official voice of  The Cleaning Show

Give hygiene a hand

Published 28th July, 2023 by Neil Nixon

Give hygiene a hand

Chris Wakefield, VP European Marketing and Managing Director UK & Ireland, GOJO Industries-Europe Ltd, shines a light on the hand hygiene challenges faced by workers in heavy industries.

As we enter holiday season, we think about keeping our hands clean in theme parks and other leisure facilities, as well at airports and in holiday resorts. In the workplace, we often think about light or no soil environments, such as healthcare facilities, schools, and shops.

Granted, these are all key places where hygiene needs to be upheld, with many people visiting, touching surfaces and potentially transferring germs – but what about workers in other, heavier industries?

Hand hygiene is equally important for engineering, construction sites, garages, workshops, and factories, where heavy soils are regularly sustained. As well as looking and feeling unpleasant, dirty hands bring the risk of spreading grime, stains, and germs to other surfaces.

When it comes to the tough soils that workers in these industries experience, sanitising gel and regular soap and water just aren’t up to the job. They are not effective at cleaning the grease, oil, paint, carbon black, paint, caulk, graphite, tar, sealant, adhesives, and other dirt, with which they come into daily contact. As such, it is standard practice to remove these materials by scrubbing vigorously or using products that are laden with harsh chemicals.

However, both methods pose significant risk to hand health, causing or exacerbating occupational dermatitis. In fact, according to the Health & Safety Executive[i], painters and decorators, carpenters and joiners, and those in the construction and building trades suffer from more than twice the ‘all industry’ rate of contact dermatitis.

Of course, when you consider the punishment that their hands regularly take, from small nicks and scratches to contact with an array of harmful substances, it is not surprising. However, occupational dermatitis is not merely a slight irritation that staff can work through. Skin can become red, sore, irritated, cracked, and blistered. Not only painful, but this can lower productivity.

Additionally, people with damaged skin are more likely to abandon handwashing practice altogether, concerned that harsh hand cleaners will aggravate their condition. This, in turn, can lead to widespread illness across the workforce, once again, causing productivity levels to fall.

Ensuring that hand hygiene protocols do not compound the problem but are protective of skin health is a must! It’s not only the right thing to do for the workforce wellbeing – or even for business productivity – but it is a legal duty.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) require employers to adequately control exposure to materials in the workplace that cause ill health. This includes controlling exposure to materials that cause skin diseases and to materials that enter the body through the skin and cause problems elsewhere.

Therefore, employers need to give careful thought to the products they provide. However, with so many products on the market and different solutions offered for different types of dirt and grime, it can become all too confusing for the purchaser. For the worker too, having access to a myriad of different hand cleaners makes the hand cleaning process more difficult.

Looking after the tools of their trade

The days where there was no choice but to dunk hands into buckets of harsh chemicals have gone. Today, there are specialist hand cleaners, which have been specifically designed to remove tougher dirt and grime, without irritating skin.

Rather than applying excessive chemicals onto existing soils, the latest products use plant-based scrubbers to remove medium and heavy-duty soils, such as grease, carbon black, caulk, graphite, adhesive, paint, sealant, and tar with minimum fuss. Purchasers should also look for products that are hypoallergenic, pH neutral and enriched with moisturising agents, for assurance that they will protect skin health too.

Once a good quality hand cleaner has been selected, businesses need to ensure that they are easily accessible. Put simply, they need to be readily available when and where they are needed. Robust, durable dispensers are essential for these settings, helping to release the correct dosage, minimise wastage and ensure that there is no risk of cross contamination.

Innovation in this market continues and hand cleaners are now available in different formats – for example, there are now hand and scrubbing wipes on the market. These offer the ultimate in convenience and are a quick and handysolution to remove heavy dirt and grime from hands, arms, tools, materials, and surfaces, quickly and effectively – and without the need for water.

Hands are arguably the most essential tool of all when employed in skilled trades, so it pays to invest in specialist cleaners that are not only strong enough to defeat heavy dirt and grime, but that are also kind to skin. This, ultimately, benefits both employer through lower absenteeism and increased output, whilst knowing that they are meeting health and safety obligations, as well as the workers themselves, who can live and work free from irritation.


Sign up to our newsletter

The weekly news e-cast – its unrivalled content places it way ahead of any other publication in the field.