Washroom hygiene has come a long way in recent years, helped by advances in technology and design. Mike Sullivan, Managing Director for GOJO Industries-Europe, explains how the latest systems can help achieve even higher hygiene standards.
Advances in terms of technology and materials have the power to change many aspects of our lives. History is littered with landmark moments when a new idea, manufacturing method or scientific breakthrough helped to re-shape the way we live and work. In public washrooms, for example, we stopped using bars of soap as safer, cleaner and more sanitary options became available.
No organisation would expect their employees or visitors to leave the washroom with more germs on their hands than before they washed them – and this is why the method used to refill dispensers is such a crucial consideration. Yet, despite breakthroughs in hand hygiene, millions of people worldwide are using refillable bulk soap dispensers, even though scientific evidence shows 1 in 4 of these dispensers is contaminated.
Although they are an old fashioned hand washing method, bulk soap dispensers are commonly found in schools, restaurants, office buildings, health clubs, shopping centres and other public places, exposing people to an unnecessary health risk. Organisations, including the World Health Organisation, have recognised the bacterial contamination risk of filling up these bulk soap dispensers and have issued guidelines against it1.
A bulk fill dispenser is one where the soap is poured from a bottle into an open reservoir at the top of the unit. Because the reservoir is open to the environment, bacteria can contaminate the soap, which leads to the formation of a biofilm on the inside of the dispenser. Biofilms are groups of bacteria that coat surfaces and are difficult to wash off or ‘kill’. Because the biofilm is formed on the inside of the dispenser it leads to contamination of any new soap that is subsequently added to the dispenser.
Countless employees and other unsuspecting hand washers are washing using this method every day, potentially putting themselves at more risk than using the outdated bar of soap. Hands can have 25 times more germs after washing with contaminated soap. This can make people sick from fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, or eye infections due to the level of pathogens found within the soap. The young, elderly and immunocompromised are at greatest risk.
So can the dispensers be disinfected?
Recontamination can occur even after cleaning and soaking the bulk soap dispenser in bleach, so it’s not a case of simply disinfecting the dispensers to remove the risk. A study found that, after multiple cleaning methods, including bleach based products, contaminated bulk soap dispensers became re-contaminated within 2 weeks of cleaning. Biofilms were found in both plastic and stainless steel bulk dispensers and the dispenser would need to be replaced to eliminate the contamination.
The health of washroom users and the image of building owners is put at risk
Companies invest millions in technology, innovation and recruiting the right people to gain competitive advantage, and it’s easy to understand why attention to these areas is so important. Sometimes however, the significant difference a relatively small investment in providing access to effective hand hygiene systems can make is overlooked.
Washroom facilities are a major source of complaints in office buildings, with extreme temperatures (47%) and unclean / understocked washrooms (32%) being the top two grievances. Upgrading health and hygiene facilities provides building owners and managers with a clear opportunity to increase overall tenant satisfaction and will leave users with a positive lasting impression.
Refillable bulk soap dispensers are messy, labour intensive and prone to environmental and deliberate contamination. Time and effort is required to pour the soap and clean up spills, drips and stains. Parts can wear out or break and need to be replaced. Permanent nozzles can easily clog, causing complaints that the soap has run out. Once bacterial contamination occurs, dispensers must be replaced. All these factors work against efforts to create a healthy, productive building environment.
The right refills
This doesn’t make for comfortable reading, but there is an alternative. Sanitary sealed refills are increasing in popularity because the product inside is protected from contamination, as it is factory sealed and includes a fresh valve with each refill. All GOJO and PURELL® refills are SANITARY SEALED™. This means that the soap is never open to the environment and so cross contamination from the air or other sources is prevented. The hygiene and health benefits are obvious – and in addition they also make for efficient use of time for hard-pressed maintenance staff, because they are so much simpler and quicker to replace.
By investing in the best hand hygiene solutions, organisations not only protect their facilities, but also demonstrate their commitment to improving the well-being of end-users, and their dedication to providing the very best service.More