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Hand Hygiene


Thousands of people die every day around the world from infections acquired while receiving health care. Hands are the main pathways of germ transmission during health care. Hand hygiene is therefore the most important measure to avoid the transmission of harmful germ and prevent health care-associated infections.

Download our guide explaining the simple steps you can take to improve hand hygiene in the workplace.

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Hand hygiene compliance


To support compliance with hand hygiene in the workplace, health care workers should observe the following guidelines while working.

Nails. Keep nails short, clean and polish free. Do not wear artificial nails or nail extensions

Jewellery. Avoid wearing wrist watches and jewellery.

Rings. Avoid wearing rings with ridges or stones (a plain wedding band is usually acceptable, but refer to local policies).

Cuts. Cover any cuts and abrasions with a waterproof dressing.

Sleeves. Wear short sleeves or roll up sleeves prior to hand hygiene (refer to local dress code or uniform policies).

Skin. Report any skin conditions affecting hands (for example, psoriasis or dermatitis) to your occupational health provider for advice.

Source: HSE. (2012). The Use of Gloves. Available: www.hse.gov.uk/biosafety/blood-borne-viruses/use-of-gloves.htm#what-gloves-should-be-worn.

Hand hygiene and glove disposal


It is important to remember that glove use is not a replacement for effective hand washing. The two should work together to protect the wearer and others, such as a patient or client being treated. Key requirements are:

1. When using disposable gloves, your hands should be washed and dried thoroughly before putting the gloves on.

2. Where client or patient treatments are involved, a fresh pair of single use examination gloves must be worn for each procedures and must be disposed of between procedures to avoid cross-infection. Never wash and reuse disposable gloves.

3. If you need to stop work temporarily (e.g. to answer a phone), always remove and discard the gloves you are wearing and replace them when you continue working.

4. Always wash your hands after glove removal – gloves are not a replacement for hand washing.

5. Moisturising hand cream, applied after hand washing, can help prevent skin drying after frequent washing. Such products should never be relied upon as a physical barrier to protect the skin from infection.

Source: Royal College of Nursing (2012). Wipe it Out: Essential Practice for Infection Prevention and Control. RCN Guidance for Nursing Staff.

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