June 01, 2011 | | Comments 1
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Mac’s Safety Space: Andy Rooney redux: Handwringing at its finest

One of the occupational hazards of my job is that I tend not to leave the job behind when I travel. I am forever looking at exit signs, blocked exit doors, testing battery-powered emergency lights in hotels, etc. One of the things that’s become somewhat the bane of my existence are certain configurations of hand washing facilities. Now I believe that if one has a manually operated sink, then one must have access to paper towels to turn off the water or risk re contamination of the hands.

Now I know the risk is probably fairly small, but it is a risk that can be managed pretty easily. I have no real preference between automatic and manual-op faucets (I tend to find the manual-op a little more reliable). But if there’s a manual-op sink, I want to see the paper towels (I refuse to use my shirt tail to turn off a faucet, toilet paper just doesn’t “feel” right, and leaving the water running is not very green). And I’ve heard about using elbows, etc. to turn off the water (try that with a knob-like fixture!), but somehow that doesn’t seem all that effective either. There’s a certain fast food restaurant (one tangential hint—its founder was the opposite of a buoyant substance) that uniformly has manual-op sinks and hand dryers in its restrooms, and it drives me nuts (a short distance to travel many days, but I digress).

In this age of superbugs, etc. (I’m writing this on May 19, so I’m assuming that some of us will still be around after this weekend’s departure on the part of whoever it is who’ll be departing: I don’t believe that I will be in that number, but if you are, I’m hoping the next plane doesn’t have as many hand washing challenges), hand washing remains one of, if not the most, effective means of protecting ourselves, and perhaps, all of humanity, from these pesky critters. So please, please, please (at this point, I have to drop to the ground, so I can don my cape) make sure that your hand washing setups are conducive to maintaining good hygiene. If you got manual-op faucets, give the washers something to turn off the faucet, and if we’re lucky, maybe the lights…

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Filed Under: Environment of care

Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.

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  1. I do the same thing all the time. And, the restroom example is a great one. You either need paper towels or the faucet should also be a no-touch, electronic one. If it has a blade handle I can at least use my elbow to turn it off when I am through.

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