Emphasizing handwashing to students and staff will only go so far in changing habits. Facility cleaning departments must also make compliance easy for everyone inside the school. Positioning dispensers and maintaining stock supports program objectives.
To understand where to put soap dispensers, Mann suggests following the plumbing. That theory is put into practice in the Elk Grove Unified School District in California, where Tony Almeida is area supervisor of custodial services.
“In our schools, we have a soap dispenser above every fixture — located on or near the mirror — to avoid excessive drips on the floor or excessive waste,” says Almeida. “We even have one above every sink in our classrooms.”
Almeida says that the goal is consistency. There should always access to soap, no matter what facility a person is in throughout the district.
“There should be no excuses why someone could not wash their hands,” he says. “As far as hand sanitizers, we typically do not supply them. But I know teachers and parents volunteer to bring sanitizers in as donations.”
Almeida admits that there might be times soap and water aren’t accessible. In those situations, any type of preventive cleaning — even if it is alcohol-based sanitizer — is better than nothing.
To decide where the best place is for hand sanitizer dispensers, Mann suggests following the footprints — or, in his words, “the handprints.”
“There are so many surfaces that are touched multiple times in a normal day, that hand sanitizers have become a big part of a hand hygiene program,” Mann said. “I would start by supplying sanitizers in common areas.”
Consider traffic patterns and meeting points within the facility. Any place people congregate would benefit from a hand sanitizer station.
This could be on reception counters, or in teacher lounges, computer rooms, libraries, gymnasiums and cafeterias. Sanitizers could also be positioned near high-touch surfaces such as doors handles, around copy machines, or near elevators.
“Look out for those surfaces that are used frequently and cleaned infrequently,” Mann suggests. If they aren’t cleaned well, they can harbor and spread germs. Supplying sanitizer can combat that.
Facilities can also benefit from positioning hand sanitizing stations near facility exits.
“You think about all the things people touch in a school and you realize that it’s probably not a bad idea to sanitize hands upon leaving,” says Mann.
Hicks also had some ideas for areas that could benefit from hand sanitizers. He remembers working at a hospital, and at his insistence, they put the sanitizers by cash registers in lunch rooms. Schools could also see advantages to sanitizers in these areas.
“After you go through the line, you’re handling dirty money,” he says. “And before you eat, you definitely need to wash your hands. If not wash, sanitize.”
Experts agree that washing with soap and water is best, but there are settings that would benefit from sanitizers.
For Hicks, the question of figuring out where to put these devices — as well as the dispersal system — is important. Hicks is the author of “Infection Prevention for Dummies,” a book he wrote because of what happened to his daughter-in-law. She had been working out at a fitness center and contracted an infection in her hand, between her thumb and her finger. Within eight weeks, she had passed away as a result of the infection.
“It was MRSA,” he says. “People who think that superbugs like this are exclusive to hospitals are misinformed. They are out there in the workforce, in schools, every place you shop and in fitness centers.”
In the case of athletic areas — whether in schools or workout facilities — he said sanitizers tend to be on wall mounts on the peripheries of the room. But, depending on the area and traffic pattern within the school, freestanding sanitizers in the walkways might be a better option.
“Proper placement of sanitizer dispensers encourages people to use them because they are nearby,” says Hicks. “You are limiting the use when you mount them to walls, unless it is in a walking path.”
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