Are Your Hands Clean?

By Victor Shell
CSA Director of Safety and Transportation

Have you ever considered how important it is to have clean hands? Washing your hand is the single best way to keep from getting sick. Regularly washing your hands helps to kill viruses that cause the common cold and the flu.

And did you know that it is your responsibility to make hand washing available to your employees? Have your employees been informed that they must wash their hands before returning to work after leaving the restroom facilities? Should you document this information? So, I ask are your hands clean?

OSHA takes sanitation seriously, knowing that good hand washing habits are a key to preventing the spread of disease or harmful contaminants. According to OSHA’s sanitation regulations at §1910.141, all permanent places of employment must offer employees lavatories that include:

  • Hot and cold running water, or tepid running water;
  • Hand soap or similar cleansing agents; and
  • Individual hand towels (cloth or paper), air blowers, or clean individual sections of continuous cloth toweling.

The sanitation requirements for construction at §1926.51 are similar, calling for lavatories with hot and cold running water to be available in all places of employment. However, these requirements do not apply in situations where a construction site is normally unattended or mobile crews have transportation readily available to nearby washing facilities.  

OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen standard also requires employers to provide hand-washing facilities. At 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(iii) and (v), OSHA  says, “Employers shall provide handwashing facilities which are readily accessible to employees,” and “ensure that employees wash their hands immediately or as soon as feasible after removal of gloves or other personal protective equipment.”

Although antiseptic hand cleansers and clean cloth or paper towels or antiseptic towelets are allowed as temporary substitutes in some cases, §1910.1030(d)(2)(iv) emphasizes the importance of soap and water. “When antiseptic hand cleaners or towelets are used, hands shall be washed with soap and running water as soon as feasible.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, handwashing is the preferred method of infection control, and CDC’s recommended technique involves a vigorous rubbing together of all surfaces of lathered hands for at least 10 seconds followed by a thorough rinsing under a stream of water.

The right way to wash your hands, says the CDC, involves five steps:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  2. Rub your hands together to make lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Continue rubbing 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 running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Victor Shell is CSA’s in-house expert on safety and transportation issues. His services are free to members. He’s available for a phone consult or to come to your yard and do a mock OSHA or DOT inspection. He can be reached at [email protected] or (470) 514-6729.