While hand sanitizers offer a viable alternative to soap and water in some situations, there are times when they are not recommended. Foodservice facilities, for example, should always use soap to clean dirty hands as food proteins and fats can significantly reduce the effectiveness of alcohol-based sanitizers.

However, there are soap formulas available that are less drying than others, and it’s up to the BSC to educate end users on what these products are.

BSCs should look for products that contain emollients and moisturizers and have a neutral pH. Contractors can ask their distributors for information on how to read product labels and how to determine which product is best for each facility’s unique needs.

“BSCs want to research the products for their customers,” says Attman. “A lot of products have emollients in them, some might have Vitamin E, some might have lanolin in them, and they would be much milder on hands than products that don’t contain those things.”

However, it is important to match soaps to the institutional setting, he adds.

An industrial setting in a machine shop will require a coarse hand soap to remove oils and grease, while a hospital may require a product with specific kill claims.

“If you use the wrong product, depending on how sensitive an individual is, he or she can have an adverse reaction to it,” says Attman.

In addition, some soaps contain moisturizers that can deteriorate latex gloves or reduce its antibacterial properties. It is important that a BSC know what moisturizers to look out for and to make sure they do not recommend them in settings where this could be an issue. The CDC determines the following: If the first ingredient in a moisturizer is water, then it is probably water-based rather than petroleum-based and thus safe to use in a clinical setting.

Spec’ing soaps without fragrance can also reduce occupational dermatitis. Many of the fragrances designed to make these products smell good are also irritating and drying to the skin, particularly if a worker has an allergy. BSCs should recommend that their clients select a fragrance-free soap if occupational dermatitis is a concern.
While frequent hand washing is an important element in a healthy workforce, preventing occupational dermatitis is as well. BSCs are advised to help keep occupational dermatitis at bay for their customers and building occupants by teaching people to wash with warm, not hot water; using the least harsh soap possible; adding in a hand sanitizer; and promoting the use of moisturizers when dryness and cracks appear.

Ronnie Garrett is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis. She is a frequent contributor to Contracting Profits.

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Avoid Dry, Cracked Hands With Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer