You are here

Human Factors Applied to Washing Hands


We’ve all been taught from little on to “wash our hands”.  Wash your hands before every meal, after using the restroom, after getting dirty, etc.  Since we all have been taught and know that hand washing is important for hygiene and health why does it remain such a difficult task for us to do? Why are we are terrible hand washers?  According to the CDC, proper hand washing technique say it should take 20 seconds to complete.  There was a study done in 2013 that showed only 1 in 20 Americans properly wash their hands.  So, is 20 seconds just long of time for us to “waste”? Are we that lazy? Or are we in denial in thinking that we won't get sick or cause someone else to get sick by not washing our hands? 


How else can you explain seeing in nearly every gas station, store and restaurant bathroom signs that say “Employees are required to wash their hands before leaving the restroom”? Doesn't seeing those signs make you feel confident in knowing your server and food at a restaurant is safe to eat?--Not!  In addition, how about all of those hand washing signs in hospitals and clinics?  There’s one health system I recently completed a project for who had numerous signs up and computer screen savers dedicated to “Wash ‘em proud!”.  Hand washing in healthcare is serious business—it can be a matter of life or death.  I came across one new innovative product designed for hospitals (but I can see no reason why this couldn’t be used in non-healthcare settings as well) make hand hygiene easy.  It’s called the PullClean—a combination door handle and hand sanitizer. 


At the bottom of the PullClean handle is a bright blue paddle that when touched will dispense the sanitizer.  So as one hand is pulling open the door the other hand is receiving the dispensed sanitizer.  According to the website, “the door handle reminds staff to sanitize as they enter a room and provides them the means to do so. The powerful CountClean software (patent pending) monitors rates of hand sanitization, how much sanitizer is remaining in the handle, and when the cartridge should next be changed. The PullClean door handle provides a cost effective, innovative tool in the fight against infection and will reduce costs, suffering, and mortality.” 


Making hand hygiene visible, easy and integrated into the normal work routine of opening doors should improve compliance.  This is a great example of a product that uses principles of human factors to produce the desired function in a very convenient way and that is nearly impossible for people not to use.