Maintaining the new normal with hand hygiene

Hand dryers

As restaurants and schools return, handwashing and hand-drying are an integral part of reopening protocols. AIA partner Excel Dryer explores the recommendations.

At the time of this publication, nearly half of the United States’ population—150 million people—have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is an important step toward “normal”: face-to-face visits, family celebrations, dining out, in-person work, and class instruction. While we all certainly deserve to take a moment to celebrate, we must remember not to let our guard down; the only way to eradicate this deadly virus is to remain vigilant, and maintain some mitigation strategies, including increased hygienic practices, especially in high-traffic facilities.

Two such types of buildings are restaurants and schools, both of which were early adopters of federal, state, and industry-specific COVID-19 protocols that altered methods of operation during the early months of the pandemic. Understandably and unsurprisingly, both now are receiving attention at all the aforementioned levels again, this time, as part of reopening strategies.

Something that may be surprising, however, are the similarities in the strategies themselves, and how, to an extent, some reopening guidelines are nearly interchangeable between the two when it comes to maintaining cleanliness in restrooms.

Food for thought: Hygiene is on the menu at restaurants

Given the number of surfaces and items touched in restaurants—door handles, menus, utensils, tables, food during meal preparation—it stands to reason that a large portion of restaurant reopening guidelines focus on cleaning hands.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has designated a section of its website to Considerations for Restaurant and Bar Operators that details what steps to take to disinfect shared objects, and when, and how, to properly clean hands.

The five steps to wash and dry your hands the right way, as identified by this leading health organization, are as follows:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of hands, between fingers, and under nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

In other recommendations, the CDC notes that both a clean towel and air hand dryers are effective ways to dry hands.

The ABCs of hygiene in schools

Like restaurants, there are a lot of shared items and touched surfaces in schools: desks, computer keyboards and mice, classroom doors, special equipment used in labs and extracurricular activities. Like restaurants, schools are urged to follow the CDC’s hand-washing and -drying guidelines, and are also encouraged to promote hand hygiene to students and staff by placing visual cues like posters, stickers, and other materials throughout the building.

Facilities professionals, teachers, and staff are also encouraged to increase the frequency and thoroughness of sanitization efforts. Already busy with day-to-day operations and now tasked with additional responsibilities, a simple change in the restroom from paper towels to hand dryers can reduce touchpoints, labor, and maintenance.

For consideration:

  1. Paper towels have to be restocked on a regular basis. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated that restocking because more people are washing their hands more frequently.
  2. Paper towels generate more trash. Many times, paper towels end up on the restroom floor or clogging sinks and toilets, creating more work for staff already tasked with extra cleaning because of the coronavirus.
  3. Paper towels are not friendly to the environment. Paper towels are made from trees. While some are made from recycled paper, paper towels have a one-use life and can’t be recycled again. One ton of virgin paper towels consumes 17 trees, uses 20,000 gallons of water, and pollutes 7,000 gallons, produces more than three tons of CO2 emissions, and requires 40 cubic feet of landfill space.
  4. Hand dryers completely dry hands, an important step in germ mitigation. When selecting a hand dryer, it is important to look for a UL marking signifying that the dryer in question has undergone relevant testing, ensuring that it is capable of completely drying one’s hands. The XLERATOR Hand Dryers, for instance, have been proven to completely dry hands in as little as 8 seconds per the Global UL Environment PCR testing standards.
  5. Hand dryers can introduce HEPA in restrooms. The HEPA Filtration System in the XLERATOR line of hand dryers was recently tested and proven to remove 99.999 percent of viruses from the airstream. Excel’s HEPA Filtration System is the only one with a removable and washable metal mesh pre-filter to block dust and particles which extends the life of the HEPA filter.

The takeaways

Proper hand hygiene has been and continues to be a critical way to prevent the spread of germs, like the coronavirus. Specifically, the CDC continues to call hand hygiene a “do it yourself vaccine” and explains that “germs spread more easily when hands are wet.” By definition, proper hand hygiene includes hand washing for 20 seconds using soap and water followed by thorough hand drying. Restaurants and schools that install hand dryers into their restrooms will not only be following CDC guidance, they’ll also be cutting down on labor and maintenance while stopping the spread of germs.

To learn more, consult the robust library of materials created as part of the Stop Germs! Wash Your Hands campaign. Or, to learn more about Excel Dryer’s hygienic hand drying solutions, visit exceldryer.com.

AIA does not sponsor or endorse any enterprise, whether public or private, operated for profit. Further, no AIA officer, director, committee member, or employee, or any of its component organizations in his or her official capacity, is permitted to approve, sponsor, endorse, or do anything that may be deemed or construed to be an approval, sponsorship, or endorsement of any material of construction or any method or manner of handling, using, distributing, or dealing in any material or product.

Image credits

Hand dryers

Excel Dryer

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