As this decade comes to a close, encounters with severe illnesses remain on the rise, including cases of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), H1N1 virus, Asian bird flu, and Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). These burgeoning diseases should incite fear in most people, and at the least, make everyone more aware of the need for high-level, proactive germ control.
As a response to such daunting maladies, we’ve seen government health agencies warn citizens to cover their mouths when coughing and issue other awareness initiatives, such as Global Handwashing Day, which stresses the importance of germ prevention and cleanliness through proper handwashing practices. However, studies continue to show that people may not be listening to all of the personal hygiene recommendations.
A study conducted by the American Society for Microbiology found that 57% of men and 46% of women do not wash their hands after using the washroom. Washroom visitors who walk away with dirty hands leave germs and bacteria on every surface they touch, including the washroom door handle. One study in the Journal of Hospital Infection showed that at least 14 people in a row could be contaminated after just one person with dirty hands touches the washroom door handle. This cross-contamination is a leading cause of the spread of infectious agents. The study did not even take into account the germs that were already on the door handle prior to the cross-contamination contact.
“Although washrooms take up less than five percent of a building’s space, they receive more than 40% of a building’s waste load,” said Megen Boswell, director of sales at Sani-Giene LLC, the Daytona Beach, Fla.-based inventor and maker of the touch-free door opening system. “The washroom ends up being a catchall because it has tremendous foot traffic and is a place where various water sources and germs converge to create an unintended lab that breeds bacteria and germs.” Of the approximately 120 million children born in the developing world each year, half live in households without access to improved sanitation, according to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund. Poor hygiene and lack of access to sanitation contribute to about 88% of deaths from diarrheal diseases, accounting for more than 1.5 million diarrhea-related deaths each year of children under age five, as reported by Unicef. When compared to adults, children suffer disproportionately from diarrheal and respiratory diseases and deaths, according to the report.
Washing your hands, according to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is the single most important procedure that prevents infections from spreading. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology further supports the CDCP study by stating that hand washing significantly reduces the numbers of potential pathogens on the hands. Still, numerous studies show that as many as 25% of all restrooms users will leave the facility with some form of bacteria on their hands, if they wash them at all.
Education programmes increase consumer awareness about cross-contamination. The proof: another study by the American Cleaning Institute found that nearly 30% of people avoid using public washrooms due to the awareness of the presence of germs. So the question becomes how do we, as a society, move beyond awareness programmes and work to implement pragmatic strategies that prevent the spread of these deadly germs through cross-contamination?
Lee Irish, owner of the Draft House restaurant in the central Michigan city of DeWitt, knows all about customer perception. The Draft House installed the touch-free door opening system in each of its washrooms five years ago when remodeling the restaurant.
“Customers will perceive your kitchen is clean when they see that your restroom is clean. At the Draft House, our customers constantly tell us that they appreciate how clean we keep our restrooms,” Irish said. “One of the ways we keep our restrooms so clean is with the Sanidoor touch-free door opening system.”
Building operators should identify the critical areas in the washroom and set up effective cleaning strategies that work best for their needs. And, by far, the most effective way to eliminate the spread of germs from the washroom to the rest of the building comes with the implementation of completely touch-free systems in your washroom. Studies show that touch-free systems prevent the spread of germs that can be found on surfaces. Touch-free toilets increase efficiency and help lower your water costs. Installing touch-free faucets and touch-free soap dispensers lower the chances that washroom attendees will take germs with them from the washroom.
Building managers can then complete the touch-free washroom experience by installing Sanidoor, a touch-free door opening system that, when used effectively, can lessen cross-contamination.
“One of my biggest pet peeves is having to touch that restroom door after I wash my hands, and now, with the touch free door system, I no longer have to touch it,” Irish said. “It really takes the spread of germs out of the equation.”
Contributed by Eric Cravey. For Sanidoor Systems, UK