Does your company seek to help employees stay healthier by recommending annual flu shots? If so, good for you. We invite you to take the fight against the flu virus one step further this year by encouraging your employees to engage in regular handwashing. Recently released research cited by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) suggests that routine handwashing with soap and water is more effective against the flu than alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Researchers have long suspected that hand sanitizers don’t do the best job against the flu virus. Now they have the evidence to back up those suspicions. According to OSHA, the study in question backs up data from previous research that seems to suggest an inherent weakness in alcohol-based hand sanitizers: They don’t do well against mucus. And unfortunately, mucus tends to shield the flu virus.
To better understand how hand sanitizer affects the flu virus, researchers exposed the latter to the former under two different conditions. In one scenario, the virus was suspended in a saline solution combined with 80% alcohol hand sanitizer. In the other scenario, the same amount of hand sanitizer was used, but the virus was suspended in mucus.
The hand sanitizer effectively dealt with the virus in the saline solution in about half a minute. It took nearly four minutes for it to do the same job in the mucus sample. That gave researchers an inkling of what they were dealing with. They then ran another experiment with human volunteers.
Researchers applied virus-laden mucus to volunteers’ fingertips. Once the mucus was allowed to fully dry, participants applied hand sanitizer. It took about 30 minutes for the sanitizer to do its job. Researchers repeated the process; only this time the mucus was not allowed to dry. It took the sanitizer the same four minutes as demonstrated in the previous experiment.
On the other hand, having the volunteers place their hands under running water while rubbing them together eliminated the flu virus in half a minute — and that was without soap! Simply put, rubbing the hands together under hot water is more effective against the flu virus than using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
It is clear from the research that alcohol-based hand sanitizer is not the panacea many people believe it to be. So why do people use it? Researchers say it’s a matter of convenience. It is a lot easier to put a dab of hand sanitizer on your hands, rub it in, and get on with your day. Washing hands with soap and water takes more time and effort.
We compel you to set convenience aside on behalf of your employees this flu season. In addition to giving them hand sanitizer, which works well against the cold virus, it’s best to properly outfit your washrooms and then encourage your employees to regularly wash their hands.
Our washroom supplies include just about everything you need to offer your employees a clean environment. Contact us to learn more about fixtures, air-freshening systems, and other washroom supplies. Properly outfitting your washrooms is one of the most effective ways you can help your employees minimize the risk of catching the flu virus at work.
In the meantime, regular handwashing should be a priority for everyone. We use our hands to do all sorts of things, making them more than capable of picking up germs and spreading them around. The good news is that simple handwashing can stop the spread of germs in their tracks. It’s so simple and easy that there is no reason to not encourage regular handwashing.