Hugs, high-fives, handshakes, fist bumps – touch is a way of communicating trust, appreciation and familiarity. But these popular signs of affection tend to obscure one important fact: Our hands are filthy.
And that’s why we wash them with soap and warm water whenever possible – or, at least, we should. It’s not only good etiquette but also a life-saving necessity. One study estimated proper handwashing routines could prevent more than 1 million deaths worldwide annually.
What places in particular should make certain their facilities and staff take handwashing seriously?
In recent years, hand sanitizer stations have popped up in elementary, middle and high schools around the country. But while scientists have linked the efficacy of alcohol gel sanitizers with a marked reduction in school absenteeism, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assert these substances are an imperfect replacement for regular handwashing.
That’s exactly why school administrators should supplement these valuable germ-killing resources with school-sponsored handwashing initiatives and an investment into better plumbing equipment and fixtures. Also important is moderating the temperature of the water young children use to wash their hands. Tankless hot water heaters warm water right at the source and can be programmed within 1 degree Fahrenheit to prevent scalding.
2. Hospitals and health care clinics
People trust doctors to make them feel better, not worse. Unfortunately, a survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed 1 out of every 25 U.S. hospital patients are infected while under care. By the CDC’s estimate, that amounts to 2 million people – and 90,000 don’t survive as a result.
Bacteria such as Clostridium difficile, commonly known as “C. diff” and hospitals’ most insidious on-site infector, can be life-threatening to the elderly or people with compromised immune systems. Health care professionals must consistently exercise excellent hand hygiene by wearing gloves and washing with soap and clean water at every available opportunity. Again, tankless water heaters can be an invaluable resource, as they can be set at the optimal temperature for ideal, hospital-approved handwashing to protect workers, patients and even visiting loved ones.
Is an “All employees must wash their hands” sign enough to keep our favorite eateries clean? The Food and Drug Administration reported that about 1 out of every 6 Americans – today, more than 50 million people – suffer from foodborne illnesses every single year, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. As astounding as this figure may appear, what’s more troubling are the 250 different cataloged bacteria, viruses and parasites that fall under the title of “foodborne illness.” Thanks for that information, CDC.
So if you’re feeling nauseated, it probably was something you ate.
Restaurant owners should make it their mission to drill staff on proper food handling methods and preventive handwashing techniques, as well as install tankless hot water heating systems around their businesses. Not only can these devices prevent the passage of pathogens, but because tankless water heaters only heat the water used – instead of tens of gallons of potentially unused water like tanked systems do – restaurateurs will save money on energy.