Public Washrooms – a Key to Health

Hygiene expert Prof. Klaus-Dieter Zastrow in an Interview with CWS-boco

Prof. Klaus-Dieter Zastrow

Diseases are often communicated from hand to hand. Especially in the winter, the number of flu infections and colds is rising and the topic of hand hygiene comes back onto the agenda. CWS-boco has talked to hygiene expert Prof. Klaus-Dieter Zastrow about how to best equip washrooms for optimal hygiene. How important can hand hygiene be in the workplace? What can happen in a company when hand hygiene habits are too lax? Prof. Klaus-Dieter Zastrow is a doctor of hygiene and environmental medicine. He is also a board member of the German Society for Hospital Hygiene and Head of the Institute of Hygiene in REGIOMED-clinics.

1. In the media, we often hear about hand hygiene in the health industry. However, the need for good hygiene in all parts of public life is rarely talked about. Do we need more hygiene education?

We don’t need more education, we need clean washrooms! In a clean washroom, people tend to wash their hands more readily instead of fleeing right after doing their business. Many people seek out the washrooms they know are clean. Dirty washrooms in restaurants, shops or companies therefore can even mean economic damage – who likes to go into a restaurant again where they have experienced a dirty washroom? The same is true on the road, where people specifically choose roadhouses and gas stations with clean, well-maintained washrooms where they can find soap, towls and hand sanitizers.

2. Is there a hygiene product that you often find missing? What product would revolutionise the hygiene situation in public washrooms?

I recommend dispensers for hand sanitizer – directly inside the bathroom stall. Let me show you a szenario: You sit on the toilet, trousers are hanging close to the floor. How pleasant it is to be able to disinfect your hands right after using the toilet paper, without first spreading germs on your trousers, shirt, the doorhandle… I want to be clear: There should be a dispenser filled with hand sanitizer in every bathroom stall.

3. Which product or technology of hand hygiene is the most important in your opinion, especially during flu season?

Hand sanitizer and dispensers for it are the most important thing. Disinfection is especially helpful during the flu season to protect oneself and others from catching a disease. In normal day-to-day life, people don’t need to fear adverse effects because sanitizers are rarely overused: Using a sanitizer a few times a day when out in public is not harmful. Even in a professional setting, in clinics, in companies and in facility management, employees are procteted by a hand protection plan just like the one that CWS-boco offers.

4. What are the effects of insufficient hand hygiene?

The risk of infection especially in flu season is significantly higher. Companies even risk a higher sick absence rate, which is why they should always have well-maintained washrooms and urge employees to use them properly.

5. When can insufficient hand hygiene become dangerous?

We should be careful in our daily lives, particularly in doctor’s offices. Some doctors have even set up a second waiting room for highly infectious patients. Offering hand sanitizers in waiting rooms so that people can disinfect their hands before touching a magazine or toy can be helpful in this setting.

Another important area for day-to-day hand hygiene is the kitchen. When making salads, antipasti or baked goods, hands must be clean. Just imagine an epidemic originating in a big restaurant or the canteen kitchen of a company. 30,000 employees sick with a stomach infection – a real horror scenario!

In clinics and other healthcare institutions as well as in food production, hand hygiene is immensely important. It can make or break a business. Think about a caterer that provides unheated salads and canapés to hundreds of people…

6. What are the most common hand hygiene mistakes?

People don’t wash their hands nearly long enough! A little water and rubbing the fingers back and forth for seconds is never enough! The hands must be completely wet and soap must be used.

Never has the range of hygiene equipment been so broad and so easy to use than today. Most people want to have clean, neat hands – they just have to use what’s already there!

The same goes for hand sanitizers: Take as much as you need to make your hands completely wet and then massage the liquid in for at least 30 seconds.

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