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Break the chain

11 January 2021

Hand hygiene is playing an important role helping to break the chain of infection in your facility, says SC Johnson Professional.

THE COVID-19 pandemic has brought infection transmission, control and prevention to the forefront of our collective consciousness, in all contexts - from schools and universities, to offices, shops and transport hubs. As a result of widespread government guidance campaigns, most of us are aware that social distancing, face coverings and hand hygiene are the essential recommended behaviours for keeping ourselves and others around us safe.

With many organisations now trying to manage people safely in their facility - whether working, visiting or learning, there is an increasing requirement for health and safety managers to take an even more proactive role in helping and encouraging people to adopt safe behaviours in workplaces and public facilities, as part of the measures they take to make them as safe as practically possible. But of course, there is also a need for clear messaging to the people who visit or work in a facility to understand that their role is vital.

Behaviours, not surfaces

There is a misconception that, to break the chain of infection, frequent cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces is the solution. While regular disinfection of frequently touched surfaces does play a role in managing risk, it cannot alone create a safe environment since re-contamination may occur frequently. Instead, it is the behaviour of people who come in to contact with each other and commonly touched surfaces that present the moments of highest risk of transmission.

Therefore, to break the chain of infection the aim should be a sharp focus on the moments when infection can be passed, either by direct person-to-person airborne transmission, or by transfer via hands and commonly touched surfaces. By enabling individuals to take targeted hygiene actions at these moments, we can help reduce the risk of infection transmission.

Last line of defence

One of the primary modes of infection transmission is via the hands1. Infected individuals spread pathogens from their hands to other people, either directly or via touching shared surfaces. Once contaminated, other people that contact these surfaces with their hands can then become infected themselves by touching their mouth, eyes or nose. Even with frequent disinfection, a commonly touched surface can become re-contaminated straight after cleaning if the next person that touches it is carrying infectious pathogens. To prevent this, we need to combine cleaning and disinfecting hand touch surfaces with effective hand hygiene at the high-risk moments when hands can become contaminated or cause contamination.

This Targeted Hygiene approach is already widely used to promote effective hand hygiene in healthcare through the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended ‘5 Moments for Hand Hygiene’2. With the aim of reducing healthcare associated infections, the 5 Moments encourage hand hygiene practice when and where the risk of transmission is highest and in conjunction with other critical control measures during patient care3.

Implementing Targeted Hygiene in Workplaces and Public Facilities

SC Johnson Professional have collaborated with leading hygiene expert, Professor Sally Bloomfield, to create guidance called ‘8 Moments for Targeted Hygiene’ for any workplace or public facility. This guideline builds on the principles for targeted hygiene in the home and everyday jointly published by the International Scientific Forum for Home Hygiene (IFH) and the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in their 2019 ‘Too Clean or Not Too Clean4’ report and policy paper.

The guidance for workplaces and public facilities identifies the following 8 key moments when at work, or visiting a public facility where the risk of infection transmission is highest:

  • Touching common surfaces

  • After coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose

  • Returning to and leaving your workspace 

  • Getting food prepared 

  • Eating food 

  • Toilet use 

  • Entering and exiting the building

  • Disposing of waste

By enabling and encouraging good hand and surface hygiene practices at each of these moments, facility owners and health and safety managers can help break the chain of infection.

Bloomfield commented, “Having worked to introduce the concept of Targeted Hygiene at home with the 9 Moments for Home Hygiene, we realised that creating a similar concept for ‘away from home’ environments provides the means to develop effective hygiene to prevent spread of COVID in public spaces.

“In the current climate especially, it is hoped that the ‘8 Moments for Targeted Hygiene’ will help to drive behaviour change around hand and surface hygiene. The moments approach is designed to prompt people to recognise the moments of risk when targeted hygiene is called for, rather than giving them a written set of “rules” about when to act, which they may or may not remember.”

Targeted hygiene actions include both good hand hygiene practice, through the use of hand sanitisers and hand washing to kill or remove pathogens that may be present on the skin, along with frequent disinfection of commonly touched surfaces. 

Targeted Hygiene Programme

To help health and safety managers and facility owners manage the risk of infection transmission, SC Johnson Professional have applied their extensive expertise in hygiene to develop the Targeted Hygiene Programme, which combines essential hygiene products with impactful education. This forms a simple, practical approach to improving hygiene practice and helps support creating safer workplaces and public facilities.

The Programme starts with a site survey, either conducted by an SC Johnson Professional hygiene expert or by using the dedicated SC Johnson Professional Targeted Hygiene Site Self-Survey Tool to identify where the moments of highest risk of infection transmission are likely to occur in a facility. The result of the survey enables health and safety managers to determine the appropriate hand and surface hygiene infrastructure required to drive behaviour change and to help break the chain of infection. 

All users of the programme benefit from SC Johnson Professional’s high-quality, trusted Deb hand hygiene systems and trusted and recognised Mr Muscle and Duck surface hygiene products, supported by extensive educational materials - including videos, information sheets, signage and posters - designed for training staff and maintaining awareness amongst all facility users. 

John Hines, director of research and development at SC Johnson Professional, added, “As a company, we have many years’ of experience working in a variety of sectors to help improve hygiene compliance. We do this by providing products that people like to use, that are available where they need to use them and by ensuring that users know why, when and how to use them. Whether it be staff in hospitals, workers in food processing facilities, industrial workers or people working in offices, the fundamental purpose is the same: to improve hygiene behaviour and to help reduce the spread of potentially harmful infections.

“However, whilst the recent COVID-19 pandemic has heightened awareness that hand and surface hygiene is essential, helping to break the chain of infection can only be achieved by providing a robust infrastructure that enables the right products to be used at the point of need, combined with frequent hygienic cleaning of high risk surfaces. This then needs to be fully supported by health and safety managers, through education and training, to encourage the right behaviours for the safety of all users of their facility.” 

The current and post-pandemic climate calls for a new approach to hygiene – one supported by science and evidence – to help break the chain of infection. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the scale of risk, alongside the potential consequences, if our collective approach to hygiene is not improved with better, more focussed behaviours taken at the right moments.