Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hand Washing or Wringing?

Lately I have noticed that public restrooms almost always have a notice that employees must wash their hands when they finish their "potty break." The notice is often pre-printed on some sort of sticker that adheres to the exit door. Sometimes it is handwritten and taped to the mirror above the sink. There are some notices that are in English and Spanish. There is a seemingly endless variety of these signs in restrooms all across the country.

But I wonder about those notices. How effective are they? How necessary are they? Does anyone pay attention to them at all?

To begin with, if your employees need to be reminded to wash their hands after using the toilet, maybe you should re-think your hiring and training practices. Get people who are clean, conscientious and tidy. Teach people to do the right thing from the very beginning.

But beyond that, if they don't wash their hands as a general rule, why should we think that a little sign in the bathroom will make a difference? When no one is watching, no one will know. I operate under the assumption that people will get away with all that they can. No notice, no matter how impressive, threatening or attractive will cause someone who does not want to wash, to wash.

A couple more thoughts that may not be for the squeamish:
  1. There are some places that the hand washing sign is completely superfluous. Employees in a race track stable, hog farm or landfill have bigger sanitary issues than just their hands. Likewise, those who work in a car wash may find that their hands are constantly being washed while on the job.
  2. It is completely possible for some men to use the restroom without ever touching any surface that would require hand washing. (Of course, this would mean that an automatic or foot flush is needed.) Why should I wash if I touched nothing in the restroom and nothing on my body?
I will admit that today I wash my hands more often than I ever have before. I have bought into the current paranoia about viruses and germs. But let's not get carried away. Recognize that the sign in the restroom is no protection from hepatitis.

No comments: