What gets in the way of washing your hands?

According to a new study appearing in the June issue of the Journal of Environmental Health, important barriers related to hand-washing in the restaurant environment include time pressure, inadequate facilities and supplies, lack of accountability, lack of involvement of managers and coworkers, and organizations that are not supportive of hand-washing – ouch!
The researchers used two focus groups (a total of 18 participants, although recruitment calls were made to 150 establishments) to interview food handlers currently employed in restaurants in two Oregon counties.
The advantage of using focus groups is to derive substantive content of verbally expressed views, opinions, experiences and attitudes that are not as easily accessed using means such as surveys. For instance, a food handler in the current study who expressed a desire for additional education and training about FBI’s that result from not washing hands during food preparation, was quoted as saying: "I am very curious. I know germs exist and they are out there. We hear about Salmonella and all that stuff. But I’m curious as to if we don’t wash our hands, what is the result? I think we should be educated because I don’t really know what happens. I mean yeah, you get sick. But what does Salmonella do to a person?" But, after having worked in the foodservice industry for several years prior to joining iFSN, one of my favorite quotes from the study regarding lack of accountability for hand-washing (because I don’t doubt that it’s a common fear in the industry) has to be: "I don’t think I could tell anyone I work with that they need to wash their hands. I’d get some swear words back in my face."
As a result of the focus group sessions, the researchers recommended that future educational and training programs include: a hands on training program that orients new employees to correct hand-washing practices and more advanced education about FBI’s; involvement of both managers and coworkers in the training; easily accessible hand-washing facilities stocked with necessary supplies; continued hand-washing training and support involving the food service industry, managers, and coworkers; and finally, involvement of health departments and inspectors in providing managers and food workers with advice and consultation on improvement of hand-washing practice.
For more pictures of hand-washing signs and miscellaneous food safety related notices that we’ve captured in our travels, check out our blog, Hygiene Aficionado.