You can spot unhealthy overworked hands a mile away. The skin is red and chapped. They are dry and cracked and look painful and uncomfortable. Good skin hygiene only occurs where there is good skin health and vice versa. Contact irritant dermatitis is ranked as a top skin care concern and is one of the factors contributing to poor hand hygiene practice. This condition can include redness, inflammation, extreme dryness and chapping often caused by frequent handwashing or sanitizing with damaging and caustic chemicals and detergents.

The harmful effects to hands can result in decreases in hand hygiene compliance across the board. Even more worrisome, excessive dryness of hands can cause skin lesions, which promotes the growth of bacteria, or excessive skin dryness that presents the risk of higher bacterial colonization. No one wants to wash their hands when they are chapped and painful, and soaps and alcohol can irritate cuts and lesions. In turn, diseases are spread more rapidly. It’s a frightening but all-too-common cycle.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, though a necessary part of the infection prevention process, are known to have irritating effects on the skin. Alcohol hand rubs work by stripping the outer layers of the skin, thus destroying the germs present on the skin. Overuse will inevitably cause dry and abraded hands and effect skin health. Therefore, a combination of handwashing with antimicrobial agents and application of alcohol-based sanitizers is recommended by most governing bodies and infection control experts, including the CDC. Automating the hand hygiene process with automated handwashing stations eases the negative effects of excessive manual scrubbing and overuse of alcohol agents.

Six Steps to Great Hand Hygiene
Hand hygiene doesn’t have to be a complicated task. Making handwashing easy improves compliance, reduces the risk of infections, and keeps staff safe. By creating a realistic step-by-step program, your business is sure to see positive results. And your employees will wash their hands more often.

1. Soap. Antimicrobial soaps should be available at all wash stations. Closed dispensers and automatic dispensing systems are recommended to prevent the spread of infection. Counters are necessary to track handwash performance.

2. Water. Temperature is an essential factor to encourage handwashing compliance. The ideal temperature will be warm, around 100F, to assist in pathogen removal. CleanTech systems are set at a comfortable 105F. Exceedingly hot or cold temperatures are not recommended as they are known to cause dryness and irritation.

3. Towels. Blow dryer systems have a tendency to leave hands damp, if they are even used at all. Damp hands readily transfer germs. Providing single-use paper towels or an automated paper towel dispenser promotes cleanliness by adding friction and thoroughly drying hands.

4. Sanitizer. Instant hand sanitizers or wipes should be used only when handwashing is not immediately available. Additional sanitizers, such as the CHG 2% used in CleanTech automated handwashing systems, provide a residual effect to continue killing pathogens after the wash cycle has finished. Meritech’s CHG-based solutions provide a six-hour persistent effect.

5. Schedules and Guidelines. Hand wash guidelines should be established based on health department and/or HACCP recommendations. Meritech can assist in determining the optimal wash schedule for your staff and your facility.

6. Time and Convenience. Handwash stations should be conveniently located throughout the facility. In food production plants, multiple handwashing stations should be installed at the facility’s entrance and in high-risk areas to prevent cross-contamination. In kitchens, handwash stations should be placed in easy-to-reach locations, including prep areas and near the line. Cycle time is also important. Meritech’s CleanTech systems provide a simple 10-second wash, sanitize and rinse cycle that kills 99.9% of dangerous pathogens with each and every cycle. Manual handwashes should be between 30 and 60 seconds for maximum effectiveness, and longer if debris is present.

Why Our Systems and Solutions?
Meritech’s specially formulated CHG-based solutions are effective and gentle on the skin, containing mild skin conditioning agents that promote skin health. Studies have shown that CHG is the least irritating and most effective antimicrobial solution available (Infection Control Today). Plus, CHG provides a six-hour residual effect when applied and rinsed, without inducing microbial resistance, something that alcohol and similar agents do not deliver. CHG also has a cumulative effect. The more it is used on the hands, the more it increases the skin’s ability to fight off dangerous pathogens.

CleanTech systems do not require abrasive scrubbing of the skin, and the handwash cycle is reduced to only 10 seconds with the use of our systems—which also provides a massage-like handwash experience through the use of 20 high-pressure water jets in rotating cylinders. Our systems provide less irritation and, therefore, inspire more frequent handwashing. Handwashing compliance has been shown to increase up to 300% with the introduction of our systems into a facility.