By Todd Charlebois, Director of Sales for Charlotte Products Canada
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has left many countries with high rates of infection, and many of us wondering if there will ever be a future beyond this pandemic. Here at Charlotte Products, hope springs eternal for a healthier future where vaccination rates rise, variants stop emerging and COVID no longer disrupts our lives. Whether that will happen later in 2022, or further down the road is anyone’s guess. However, we can begin to see what the future of public health behaviors will look like.
Experts have been trying to predict whether masks will continue to be worn by the majority of the public, if social distancing will be practiced or if people will continue to dine outdoors even in cold weather. While many of those new social practices may dwindle when COVID-19 rates decrease, it is relatively clear that handwashing is here to stay. Early on in the pandemic, people quickly began to increase handwashing frequency while public buildings supported demand by installing more dispensers and signage.
These increased handwashing behaviors are making us safer and our buildings cleaner beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. But to continue to support a cleaner, healthier future, public spaces will need to keep up with the demand for handwashing products, dispensers and interventions. We’ve identified four aspects of a healthy hand hygiene program that can support demand safely and keep us healthy well into the future.
Sealed Cartridge Refills. Unfortunately, traditional refillable soap dispensers can do more harm than good. They have been shown to introduce new bacteria to users’ hands by harboring certain types of soap-tolerant bacteria. The bacteria is introduced when the dispensers are refilled with soap products. Sealed refill cartridges ensure that the soap and hand sanitizer remains pure and does not become contaminated during the refill process.
Touchless Dispensers. Research has proven time and time again that touch-free soap dispensers promote safer operation, and the public is finally catching on. The pandemic and the rising practice of handwashing has also brought with it an increased demand for touchless systems. Not only are touch-free dispensers safer and more effective but they are also becoming more trusted by the public. One comparison study looked at the frequency of use of manually operated and touch-free dispensers or sanitizer for hand hygiene and found that people were more likely to wash their hands when a touch-free dispenser is available. According to Bradley Corp, 84% of Americans believe it’s important for public restrooms to be equipped with touchless fixtures and 63% say they are more likely to return to a business that offers no-touch capabilities in its restrooms
Education and intervention resources. Education and intervention have always been key components of any effective hand hygiene program. Some exciting new technologies are coming to market to help keep hand hygiene top of mind and to ensure handwashing compliance through artificial intelligence, like badges that medical professionals can wear which remind them to wash their hands throughout the day. Whether or not your building can support an investment in advanced technology, having signage, education and intervention programs to remind occupants to wash their hands will be necessary. Clarity of expectations, accessibility of product and accountability will always remain the central component of any hand hygiene program, with or without the exciting new technologies to help ensure compliance.
Healthier hand hygiene products. Early on in the pandemic a massive demand for hand soap and sanitizer created supply shortages across the globe. Poor quality products flooded the market, creating new health risks as the public scrambled to find hand soap and sanitizer as fast as possible. Now that supply has caught up with demand, there is no excuse for providing harsh hand sanitizers or hand soaps that don’t meet regulations. But buildings should also look for healthier handwashing products that are safe for human health and the environment. As more humans wash their hands more often, it will be important to provide gentler products. To find environmentally preferable, healthier products that are effective, look for Ecologo certification or USDA Certified Organic.
The Charlotte Products Hand Hygiene Program has been designed with these four principles in mind and is now available for all facilities. This system includes your choice of product, including an organic foaming hand soap, unscented foaming hand soap, scented foaming hand soap, foaming hand sanitizer and a gel hand sanitizer. It also comes with education resources to promote handwashing in your buildings and free dispensers. Contact an expert at Charlotte to learn more.