he hand sanitizer industry has been on the uptrend for some time already. The awareness around the subject of hand hygiene has already been steadily increasing until its boom in the event of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
You might wonder–what's so intriguing about hand sanitizers? Everyone advises using them, but how much do you really need them and when can you do without them? To answer that, let’s start with…
What’s the Difference Between Hand Sanitizer and Soap?
As the user, all you care about is the effect. Guess what–it’s the same! Provided you’re using both substances correctly.
What makes soap so effective, is its molecular structure. Its head molecules bond with water but the tail avoids it, bonding with oil and fat instead. On this level, soap damages the structure of microorganisms on the surface, effectively killing them, trapping them with dirt in tiny bubbles called micelles, lifting them from the surface, and making it easy to rinse away with water.
Hand sanitizer gels act similarly on the molecular level. They break lipid membranes of microorganisms, destabilizing their structure and killing them. In order to get such characteristics, the gel has to be 60% alcohol based. As pointed out by UCI Health, lesser alcohol concentration merely reduces the growth of germs. It does not kill them immediately.
There’s more detailed data in Hand Hygiene: a Handbook for Medical Professionals by Didier Pittet, John M. Boyce, and Benedetta Allegranzi. It is stated that the most effective products are with 60% to 95% alcohol. What’s interesting is that anything below or above this concentration is less effective.
Is Hand Sanitizer More Effective Against COVID-19?
As mentioned earlier–it’s just as effective as soap, but there are certain nuances that characterize both methods of maintaining hand hygiene. Alcohol based hand sanitizers kill various kinds of bacteria and viruses, such as flu or coronaviruses, and even HIV.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the most effective for instant sanitization, especially for on the go use. This is extremely important during the pandemic. We continue to work more and more– often remotely though not in every case– and with hundreds of thousands of infected people around, we would need to wash our hands after contact with everything while commuting, at the office, as well as when doing literally anything outside. Hand sanitizers are quick and effective in such circumstances.
Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective with the coronavirus, soap has the advantage of being suitable for a slightly wider range of situations. It’s better at removing any kind of dirt and if it can’t kill the microorganisms on your skin, it surely can help get rid of them by washing your hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizers are the most effective at killing viruses and germs, but not necessarily removing them off your hands.
This is also why the WHO has put disinfectants and antiseptics on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines along with listed alcohol-based hand rubs.
How Does Hand Hygiene Helps Fight COVID-19?
COVID-19 isn’t that dangerous to most of us–at least to the state of knowledge in Q4 2020. Timothy Russel, a mathematical epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine cited by Nature believes that the infection fatality rate (IFR) of COVID-19 is around 0.5-1%. That’s 5 to 10 fatalities per 1,000 people, but we must be aware that the number can be much higher in certain groups, depending on age, ethnicity, access to healthcare, status, health conditions, and etc.
The numbers and methodologies to calculate them haven’t been peer-reviewed yet, but they show us some patterns. Another pattern which allows for open-source research publishing, but has not yet been peer reviewed is in the form of preprint. A serology-informed study on infection fatality rate in Geneva estimates that the rate for the total Swiss population is around 0.6% but tackles the age– for people over 65 years old, the IFR is 5,6%.
A deadly pandemic is effectively obstructing healthcare systems around the world. It happened in Lombardy, Italy, in the Czech Republic, in New York–even though the USA invests 17% of their GDP in healthcare which is $3.6 trillion every year!– and it may happen in many other countries if the virus continues to spread.
It’s simple–more confirmed cases lead statistically to more cases needing respiratory treatment. The number of beds in hospitals is limited, and to some extent, could be taken at the expense of non-pandemic divisions. The staff becomes exhausted which in turn makes their immune systems less effective. A confirmed case in the hospital’s staff is taking out more personnel and creating situations of personnel shortages. Those left in the field are in the hardest situation now because they need to decide who to serve. In this circumstance some urgent cases that have not been diagnosed with the coronavirus are suffering from delays that might even lead to fatalities.
Fortunately, that seems to be the worst case scenario and even though in many European countries, the numbers in November surged 4-5 times higher than in March, the situation seems to be far more under control. The risk of healthcare jams is still extremely high, but it has decreased, compared to the shock earlier in 2020.
The Benefits of Hand Sanitization Programs
There are some analogies in business. Increased confirmed cases in the office decrease productivity exponentially, up to the point in which the office has to be shut down. Along the way, there is a growing number of sick leaves and the following losses in income.
This subject has been tackled in a peer-reviewed research paper called Impact of a Comprehensive Workplace Hand Hygiene Program on Employer healthcare Insurance Claims and Costs, Absenteeism, and Employee Perceptions and Practices.
During a 13,5-month period, a randomized controlled trial has been conducted on a group of employees to find out whether hand hygiene intervention programs can impact healthcare insurance claims, work absence, and subjective workplace perception of employees.
The experiment was conducted between February 2014 and March 2015 in the insurance company Medical Mutual of Ohio, Cleveland. It was carried out in two clusters where employees worked in two buildings - one at the count of 782 employees and the second one with 604 employees. All worked full time and were not able to be transferred between the buildings.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers were located in strategic locations in the second building, as well as handed out for personal use. Both groups were briefly educated on hand hygiene and to make the data more accurate, four years of historic data on healthcare claims and absenteeism were collected and included in the study.
The study found that healthcare claims that can be prevented with good hygiene practices, such as a cold or influenza, can be lowered by over 20%. Hand sanitizers brought 5 to 7.7% less unscheduled PTOs (depending on the period analyzed.) The availability of hand sanitizers at work positively impacted the way the employer has been perceived–overall, in satisfaction over cleanliness of the office space, and the care of employee illnesses. The results has also been linked to the employer expenses, reducing the total cost of illness claims.
How Hand Sanitizers Protect the Workforce?
According to the US CDC, COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets or particles similar to aerosols produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or simply breathes. A person then gets infected after inhaling those particles after being in close contact with an infected person or after touching a surface contaminated with the coronavirus and then touching the same ways of transmission.
To stay safe from transmission through aerosols, you can only keep the suggested 2 m distance and wear protective gear such as face masks. It would be easy to say another measure should be to stop touching our faces but… studies say that we might be touching our faces 16-23 times per hour without even knowing it. If we can’t stop it, it’s extremely important to maintain hand hygiene these days.
The aforementioned study on hand sanitizers effectiveness demonstrates that hand hygiene programs and education effectively reduce the risk of infection with colds or influenza. However, we know that the COVID-19 has a lipid membrane on a molecular level which is destroyed by contact with soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer of at least 60%.
Such reduction of coronavirus transmission risks is a collective effort that on a societal level can keep healthcare from experiencing blockages. On an organizational level, it also prevents the virus from spreading between workers, contributing to maintaining productivity and business continuity if stationery office work during the pandemic is a must.
Office Hand Hygiene Programs Are Just Practical
If the benefits of introducing hand hygiene programs can have a positive impact on businesses, as well as confirming that proper education on containing viruses can help in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, along with implementing hand hygiene programs across companies has been found to be useful.
What should such hand hygiene programs include? There are no standard guidelines, but following the methodology of workplace hand hygiene research is one way to start it. You can consider implementing these points:
- Install hand sanitizer dispensers in high traffic areas: near elevators, entrances, coffee area, chill rooms, conference rooms, lobbies, reception
- Provide personal hand sanitizing bottles
- Create a sanitizer replenishment supply plan for both common and personal dispensers
- Educate on hand hygiene and illness prevention
- Promote correct technique of washing hands
Optionally, you can also consider:
- Hiring a Covid Compliance Officer or passing similar responsibilities to an employee
- Ensuring the program is effective by choosing to track key indicators such as hand sanitizer consumption or absenteeism
- Incentivizing hand hygiene by gamifying it, providing rewards, making pleasant experiences, etc.
Support the Hand Hygiene Program with Technology
Sani makes introducing a hand hygiene program even more effortless. You can place the dispensers in strategic areas and let the technology do all the rest. That means, sanitize with just the right amount of alcohol-based gel, provide data insights on the consumption in SANI AI dashboard, automate replenishment orders at the right time with subscription-based pricing model, and automatically refill bottles for personal use.
Coupled with the opportunity to lower the amount of sick days and reduce health care costs, SANI is just practical to get it for your workplace.
You can try the risk-free trial just now, just contact us.
Take Care of Yourself, for a Greater Good
It starts with taking care of your health as an individual which contributes to lowering the risk of COVID-19 spread in your organization. With more like-minded companies, this leads to making the pandemic lose its momentum.
This simple and effortless day-to-day hand hygiene protocol seems to be the way forward in the new world of working. Even if the pandemic will eventually go away, our new routines and hand hygiene programs will stay here for longer. After all, taking care of your employees’ health is beneficial to all the parties.
That’s a classic win-win!