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Hand Dryers - A Good Measure Of Hand Hygiene?

Hand Dryers - A Good Measure Of Hand Hygiene?
04th February 2020
 

The first Monday in February is traditionally known as National Sickie Day, the day where employee absence is at its most prevalent. The cynical amongst us might cite a mixture of Dry January hangovers or post-Super Bowl fatigue as reasons for this year’s predicted spike. 

However according to research by The Elas Group, the top 3 employee absence reasons in 2019 were:

  • Gastrointestinal issues – 23.98%
  • Cold, cough and flu – 16.34%
  • Headache – 7.39%

Sickness linked to workplace hygiene?

 

Logically it would seem now would be a good time for employers to review hygiene practices in the workplace – particularly hand washing habits. Hand dryers, in particular, have come under fire in the national and international press, with headlines such as "The bacterial horror of hot-air hand dryers" from Harvard Medical School or “The reason you might want to stop using public bathroom hand dryers for good” from MSN.com.

A report from Intelligent Hand Dryers suggests such a link might be little more than scaremongering:

“There is certainly a need to question whether hand dryers are hygienic and if there is a safer way to dry the hands. Especially because there seems to be constant headlines in the press aimed at why hand dryers are unsanitary…” states the 2019 report, written by Intelligent Hand Dryers researcher James Marvin.

“The most important aspect of hand hygiene is the hand washing process to actually remove germs, then making sure they are fully dry before touching anything else. Whichever method you use as long as they dry, then that’s the main point”

– James Marvin

Researcher and Content Creator, Intelligent Hand Dryers

 

Some workplaces will favour a preferred method, whether that’s due to issues with noise (paper towels are, of course, much quieter and therefore better for certain industries) or the environmental impact of waste disposal.

TWinFm previously reported on Kimberly-Clark Professional’s 2018 “The Disgusting Truth about jet air dryers” campaign, which cited research that they claim proves paper towels as the more hygienic choice:

“Drying with paper towels reduces bacteria on fingers by up to 77%. An article published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings concluded paper towels are the best hand-drying option in locations where hygiene is paramount. The rubbing process of paper towels physically removes bacteria along with moisture. Single use paper towels are critical to hand hygiene and are recommended as the hand drying method by the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care”.

Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels

 

However, Intelligent Hand Dryers argue that this may be a misnomer, as Marvin explains:

“But are paper towels hygienic? This is something that doesn't get a lot of media attention yet there are studies conducted on paper towels from independent sources which have found that paper towels and their dispensers harbour a significant amount of bacteria and pathogens. Why wouldn't they, they're not made in sterile areas and they live in the same washrooms hand dryers do. Neither is a harmful method of drying….yet it doesn't follow logic that paper towels can be considered a more sterile and hygienic choice over hand dryers.”

The report shares insights from Dr. Pritam Jagansing Pardeshi’s 2018 study on “A comparison of effect of three hand drying methods on washed hands” for The Global Journal For Research Analysis, amongst others.

This study concluded “warm air hand dryers, of the type used in this study, are a hygienic method of drying hands and therefore appropriate for use in the healthcare [industry]. Both warm air driers and paper towels gave acceptable and comparable results.”

You can read the full report from Intelligent Hand Dryers here: 

https://www.intelligenthanddryers.com/blog/hand-dryers-are-they-hygienic

Picture: A typical workplace washroom with hand dryers

Article written by Ella Tansley – published 04th February 2020

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