Pre-COVID-19, about the only places where facilities included signage encouraging people to wash their hands were restrooms. Those signs were aimed at employees who are required to wash their hands before returning to work. During the pandemic, however, the signs have been popping up in different places around facilities, typically in high-traffic areas, as reminders that handwashing is the easiest and one of the more effective ways to avoid spreading viruses and disease.

"Food service establishments and food processors have always done a great job of posting signage and instructions," says Huizenga. "Those tools have always been offered to all end-users by manufacturers. COVID — and the potential liability to the owner of a building — has increased the requests for additional signage. As a distributor, we've created non-brand manufacturing signage that customers can personalize with their logos."

Maintex takes the process one step further with customers.

"We do an audit with people in a facility when they're ready to reopen," says Silverman. "We ask them about where their hand sanitizers should be. Where should your foam soap be? Where should we put up signs?"

Silverman says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a number of signs that facilities and businesses can download and print for free. She says the newer signs being created today are great because they don't just tell people to wash their hands. They provide advice on how to wash those hands.

With so many sign options out there, it might be a good idea for facilities to change their signs every so often. Doing so will keep the message fresh.

"If customers have signs up for a time, after a while people stop seeing them," says Silverman. "If you replace them with a different sign, people don't become immune to the same message they've seen over and over."

Handwashing Stations

The opportunities to install handwashing stations are often limited in commercial buildings, one of the reasons why hand sanitizer was such a valuable commodity during the early stages of the pandemic. Of course, a handwashing station requires rooms to have sinks, a set-up that's often only found in lower levels of schools and healthcare facilities.

"There's an opportunity to have handwashing stations in younger grades, where they'll have a sink and opportunity for soap and a paper towel dispenser," says Schneringer. "As you get into the higher grades, you get the opportunity to provide hand sanitizer dispensers, either wall mounts or stands that could potentially work for that application."

When sinks are not available, janitorial teams need to look at the higher-traffic areas to realize where they want to place sanitizing stations. Distributors should advise their clients as to where best to place these stations, such as high-touch areas like breakrooms, elevators and entrances to buildings.

Hand sanitizers aren't considered as effective at stopping the spread of germs as handwashing, but in many situations they are the best alternative to keeping hands clean.

"Sanitizing is an interim opportunity to remove the germs or bacteria on hands, but the cells are still on the hands because nothing has been washed away," says Lynch. "Sanitizer does kill germs and viruses but they do not clean hands, just reduce bacteria. Cleaning executives need to stress that the running water and soap lifts the viruses off hands and down the drain with the running water."

As for the best hand sanitizer dispenser setup, distributors suggest hands-free, battery-operated devices that can be mounted on a wall. Free-standing dispensers are also available. Where to place those sanitizing stations, in addition to helping determine which ones are best for customers, is another way a distributor can help clients keep buildings open and safe.

"More so than liquid and foam soap, hand sanitizer has been the biggest change in our industry," says Lynch. "More dispensers are being placed near facility access points. If people are coming in or exiting, they can use the sanitizer."

Dave Lubach is a freelance writer and former associate editor at Facility Maintenance Decisions, a sister publication to Sanitary Maintenance.

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Assessing Top Products For Hand Hygiene