Signs don’t work: Employees must wash hands

 Handwashing is important in preventing microbial cross-contamination. The US FDA Model Food Code requires that handwashing sinks have a sign or poster nearby that is visible to employees washing their hands.

jon.stewart.handwashing.2002This research collects and reviews existing handwashing signs and subjects them to quantitative analysis. An Internet search produced a database of handwashing signs. Lather time, rinse time, overall wash time, water temperature, water use, drying method, technique, and total number of steps were recorded.

Eighty-one unique handwashing signs were identified. Each sign had between one and thirteen steps. Thirty-seven signs indicated a specific lather time, with average time ~18 s. No sign suggested > 20 s lather, and none suggested < 10 s lather. Twenty-four signs recommended use of warm water. Two signs recommended 100°F (37.8°C) water and one recommended hot water. Sixty-two signs made a recommendation on drying hands, and fifty-three suggested using a paper towel.

Our analysis reveals that handwashing sign instructions can vary quite widely. Lack of consistent hand wash guidance on signage may contribute in part to a lack of handwashing consistency and compliance. Our study serves as a foundation for future research on handwash signage. 

Quantitative analysis of recommendations made in handwashing signs

Food Protection Trends, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 270-279, July 2015

Dane A. Jensen, Donald W. Schaffner