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The Importance of Hand Washing

Why should I care about hand washing?

There are many reasons to wash your hands at work. We may think of washing our hands when they are dirty or after we have used the restroom, but we also need to wash our hands at work before breaks, lunch and at the end of the shift. We have many germ-related reasons for washing our hands, but there are other sources of contamination to consider.

In settings where tasks include welding, painting, sanding, soldering or chemical use, there are other potential sources of contamination.

Getting into the habit of simply washing your hands before leaving work areas and prior to breaks can prevent your accidental exposure to contaminated materials via hand to mouth contact, as well as reduce the exposure of those around you, whether at work or off-site.

Needed controls:

  • Some metals and chemicals can have adverse effects on those who are exposed. Minimizing exposure is essential to preventing the effects of hazardous materials.
  • The most direct way to reduce the hazard is to substitute the hazardous material for a less hazardous one.
    • If substitution is not possible, work practices, personal protective equipment (PPE) or engineering controls can be used to limit exposure.
  • The most common way to limit the potential for skin contact on your hands with hazardous materials is to wear proper gloves.
    • The right kind of gloves along with other PPE can help limit employee exposure.
    • Unfortunately, gloves can become contaminated and may provide a false sense of security when it comes to potential contaminant exposures.
    • The materials used to construct the gloves offer different degrees of protection for various tasks and chemicals.
    • A hazard assessment must be performed to identify the proper PPE associated with each task involving contaminants.

Personal hygiene practices:

  • Follow the Hazard Communication training regarding proper PPE requirements and other controls for workplace tasks, and be aware of any hazards associated with materials used in your work areas.
  • Familiarize yourself with the required personal hygiene practices at your facility and make sure you follow them before breaks, at lunch and at the end of the day.
  • If you are working with or around hazardous materials or materials that may have been subjected to chemical or other contaminants that present a hazard, wash before you eat, drink, use tobacco products or apply cosmetics.
  • Start by washing your hands, and then wash your face. In addition, decontaminate your hands, arms, face and personal items, such as clothing, before leaving the workplace.
  • Work clothes can become contaminated, which could cause you to expose others to the contaminant.

Correct hand washing procedure:

  • Turn on the water, and adjust the temperature.
  • Wet your hands and wrists.
  • Apply soap and rub vigorously between hands and fingers, generating lather.
  • Keeping your hands in the sink, interlace fingers and rub the front and back of your hands, paying special attention to the fingernails and the area between the fingers.
  • Assure that all areas have been scrubbed and are covered with lather.
  • Keeping your hands in the sink, allow the water to run down your hands into the drain.
  • Use paper towels to thoroughly dry your hands.
  • Use a clean paper towel to shut off the water faucet, avoiding any residual contamination.