Hand Washing for Healthcare Facilities

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Understanding OSHA Standards

[By Dr. David E. Marcinko; FACFAS, MBA, CPHQ, CMP™]

[By Patricia A. Trites; MPA, CHBC, CHCC, CMP™ (Hon)]

The OSHA Standards for healthcare require that hand washing facilities be readily available to employees.

Definition

Hand washing facilities are defined as a facility providing an adequate supply of:

  • running potable water;
  • antiseptic soap; and
  • single-use disposable towels or hot air drying machines.

Location

The hand washing facilities must be located where the employee will have easy access. This will ensure that the employee will be likely to use the hand washing facility and will minimize the time that the contamination will remain in contact with the employee. In those instances where the provision of hand washing facilities is not feasible, either an appropriate antiseptic hand cleaner (e.g., alcohol-based rinse, antiseptic foam, or antiseptic-impregnated paper wipes) in conjunction with clean cloth or paper towels, or antiseptic towelettes, must be provided.

Soap and Running Water

When using antiseptic hand cleansers or towelettes, the hands must be washed with soap and running water as soon as feasible. Not only must the employer provide the hand washing facilities, he or she must also ensure that employees in fact do wash their hands immediately or as soon as feasible following contact with blood or other potentially infectious material [OPIM].

The employee must also wash his or her hands immediately after removal of gloves or other personal protective equipment [PPE]. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that hand washing occurs. OSHA states that hand washing must be strictly enforced by the employer.

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Assessment

How has OSHA affected your hospital, medical practice or healthcare facility?

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