Infection Control in Public Buildings Must Start With Hygiene

by Albany Facilities - Date: 2010-02-14 - Word Count: 981 Share This!

It may seem obvious that infection thrives in dirty places, and finds it tougher to survive in freshly cleaned places, but a large proportion of the population does not seem to have grasped it. Despite endless publicity on the dangers of inadequate hygiene, the majority of people do not clean their hands after going to the lavatory, do not ensure that they use a tissue when they sneeze and, even if they do, do not dispose of the tissue hygienically after the sneeze.

People bring infection on their hands into work- it has been shown that the majority of public transport commuters have traces of human faeces on their hands when boarding buses and trains. Bacteria and viruses are smeared constantly over office entrances, reception chairs and staircase handrails by staff and visitors alike. During the day, pathogens are added to desk surfaces, the arms of office chairs, keyboards and equipment.

It is no better in leisure centres, swimming pools and gymnasiums - in fact, where pools are concerned, it is arguably worse, as some infections are at their best when water-borne. Outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis, a parasitic bowel infection, have been frequently associated with swimming pools in recent years. Even public libraries fare no better. Although the Public Health Act of 1935 forbids anyone taking 'out of the library any book for use by any person suffering from a notifiable disease (i.e. cholera, plague, relapsing fever, smallpox or typhus' or returning 'to the library any book which has been exposed to a notifiable disease', none of the legislators seems to have thought of insisting that people about to read a library book should clean their hands.

The essence of the problem seems to be that, if the public is unwilling to change its behaviour, the efficiency of daily cleaning must be stepped up in all public buildings - and that daily cleaning, however efficient, is not enough in times of crisis. Staff in public building's are going to have to contribute to reducing contamination, partly by cleaning their own hands frequently, but also by using disinfectant wipes for frequent rudimentary disinfection of furniture and equipment.

Recent increases in the scale and frequency of outbreaks of infection have made managements more aware of the crucial role of cross infection in causing illness and staff absence. That in turn has made it essential that those in charge of cleaning look again at the real purpose of what they are doing.

There has to be a shift of emphasis away from 'polished and tidy' and a move towards 'clean and infection-free'. Cleaning companies and teams have to become more aware of the less obvious sources of cross-infection, such as the handles and finger-plates on doors, the receptionist's desk and computer keyboards. People working in public buildings must stop regarding disinfection as somebody else's job, and use disinfectant wipes during the day. People must be made to realise that they do not clean their hands thoroughly enough or often enough.

A key approach to improving matters is to expose people to good hand hygiene practice at an early age.

The Albany Healthy Schools Programme

According to Mike Burton, Managing Director of Albany Hygiene Facilities, the government's National Healthy Schools Programme currently enables four million pupils to enjoy the benefits of attending a healthy school.

"Unfortunately, this programme does not sufficiently cover the hygiene of the built environment that the pupils, staff and teachers inhabit" he said in mid-October when launching his company's Albany Healthy Schools Programme. "The government programme also fails to encompass the critical area of infection control within the school".

The Albany Healthy Schools Programme has been launched to help children to understand about viruses and bacteria that cause illness and how thorough and frequent hand washing and drying can help to keep everybody well. Albany is making learning about infection and hand cleaning fun for children by running the Albany Max Road show, which has been touring independent preparatory schools since 19th October with a live animated character - Albany Max - to get the message across to the children.

Albany Hygiene Facilities is also offering schools a free A+ Hygiene Audit, which includes a report highlighting non-compliance with legislation, recommendations for hygiene improvement and suggestions for saving water and energy.

Flexibility in the preferred suppliers list

Without wishing to seem heretical, it could be that it is time for local authorities to be a little less doctrinaire than usual where its list of preferred suppliers is concerned. The usual principal is that, once a firm is on the preferred suppliers list, little short of treason or an earthquake can dislodge them. That, where the control of infection is concerned, may have to change.

Local authorities should consider asking all cleaning contractors to provide details of how their aseptic measures can be improved to reduce the risk of reservoirs of infection in public buildings transmitting disease. Cleaners should perhaps be required to detail their quality control measures (for example the use of ultraviolet lamps to show where there is organic matter in places where it should not be), and to use them consistently. There is nothing like lighting a freshly cleaned lavatory pan with a UV lamp to convince people that traditional cleaning methods can be unreliable.

In short, the effectiveness of cleaning and asepsis, particularly in kitchens and washrooms, should be closely and continuously monitored, and quality control procedures should be defined and practised.

With norovirus and swine flu at the forefront of people's minds as winter sets in, maintenance of washrooms, lavatories and kitchens in near-aseptic condition is vital. Efficient modern washrooms are easier to clean and keep infection-free than older ones, but whatever their age, they must be maintained effectively to minimise infection. The essence of infection control is more frequent and more efficient cleaning and disinfection of frequently used surfaces. Make sure everybody takes a role in doing just that.

See how our Albany Max programme can encourage hand washing hygiene at your school by arranging a visit today.

Albany facilities provides its customers with expert hygiene consultancy and washroom solutions throughout the UK. They impart adept advice and knowledge on sustainable washroom equipment, design, maintenance and education. Their mission is to raise hygiene standards by supplying cutting edge commercial washroom equipment and insight to make the UK's washrooms a better place. For more information visit www.albanyfacilities.comn
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