“Viruses can go right into your body through your eyes, your nose or your mouth,” explains Jim Arbogast, Ph.D., vice president of product development and skin health science for Gojo Industries Inc.
Studies suggest that we touch our faces 15 to 20 times an hour. That might seem innocuous at first blush. But when we’re talking about the flu – a contagious respiratory illness – it becomes a risk factor.
And they can spread “like lightning” through the workplace, Dr. Charles Gerba has found in his years of research. In one study, it only took a few hours for a virus placed on the front door of an office building to spread to half of the touch surfaces and workers’ hands.
“This is the touch generation – we’re touching more surfaces to get work done than probably any other generation in history,” says Gerba, a professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona’s College of Public health.
CDC advises people to frequently wash their hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, the agency recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
To encourage good workplace hand hygiene, employers also should:
• Make sure that all hand-soap dispensers are in working order.
• Place hand-sanitizer dispensers near restroom exits to give workers another opportunity to clean their hands.
• Ask custodial services to give extra attention to cleaning and disinfecting high-traffic surfaces such as fax machines, photocopiers and break-room appliances.
• Consider providing disinfectant wipes to encourage employees to be proactive.
“It’s all a game of trying to stay below the infectious dose – those whopping loads of virus or bacteria that can make us sick,” Arbogast says. “If we can keep those down with good hand hygiene and environmental cleaning, it makes a huge difference.”