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Good Hand Hygiene

Hands are the most important tool at work, whether used in health-care, in a factory, on a building site or in a hotel or restaurant. Good hand hygiene reduces the spread of bacteria and protects the worker against infection.


Correct hand hygiene is especially important for health care workers whose hands are used for many different tasks in the course of a day. They touch both clean and dirty contact points which means that they can be a central cause in the spread of infection. Correct hand hygiene guarantees a patient satisfactory care, without exposing him to the unnecessary risk of infection and the suffering this can cause.

Each worker has a responsibility to ensure that he does not spread infection. Knowledge, understanding and good routines are required in order for this to happen.

Remember These!

  • Jewellery, rings and nail polish should be removed before washing your hands so that all areas of the hand can be efficiently cleaned. Areas which have been poorly cleaned give good growing conditions for fungal infections and bacteria, both from your own skin and from others.
  • Your hands should have no sores or cuts since these can transport bacteria.
  • Don’t use your hand to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze. Use your elbow instead.
  • Use hand cream often to avoid rough and cracked hands.

Tasks and Activities

1. Hand Washing Procedures

  1. When should a health-care worker carry out hand washing procedures? Make your own list and then compare with the one below.

    Before clean work

    • Before you touch disinfected and sterile equipment
    • Before touching food
    • Before and after each time you have contact with patients
    • Before you use disposable gloves
    • Before and after working with a patient, making beds or other procedures
    • After a toilet visit or blowing your nose
    • After touching soiled equipment such as a bedpan or thermometer
    • After using gloves
  2. When should restaurant workers and others working with food carry out hand washing procedures?

2. Hand Wash and Hand Disinfection

Hand Wash: this removes visible dirt from the hands. Try this task, Handwashing instructions, before you look at the instructions below.

  • Wet your hands with water and soap from a dispenser.
  • Spread the soap thoroughly over the hands and wrists.
  • Make sure the thumbs, fingertips, the area between the fingers, the palms and backs of the hands are covered with soap.
  • Rub the hands together for at least 30 seconds and preferably 60 seconds.
  • Rinse off the soap under running, lukewarm water.
  • Dry the hands thoroughly with paper.
  • Turn off the tap with the paper or use your elbow or knee. This prevents the hands being contaminated with “new” micro-organisms.

Hand Disinfection:

  • Disinfection of the hands using alcohol-based disinfectants is the preferred method for cleaning the hands
  • The hands should be dry and free of visible dirt before using hand disinfectants.
  • Use enough disinfectant so that the whole hand is wetted, minimum 3ml.
  • Rub until the hand is again dry, at least 15 seconds and preferably 30 seconds.
  • Make sure that the thumbs, fingertips, between the fingers and the back of the hand are covered.

3. Comprehension

  1. Why is good hand hygiene so important?
  2. Why should health care workers be especially careful with hand hygiene?
  3. What are the 3 central points in making sure that a worker does not spread infection?
  4. What kind of things on your hands can make them difficult to clean properly?
  5. What are the differences between “hand wash” and “hand disinfection”?

4. Oral Task

Work in pairs and take turns explaining about hand hygiene to Peter from England.
You work in a nursery school and have to help five-year-old Peter, who has just moved to Norway, to wash his hands. Explain to him the procedures for this and why it is so important for everyone to wash their hands before they eat and after they have been to the toilet.
Use the information on this page and the related articles.

5. Research

In response to the H1N1 (swine) flu pandemic, autumn 2009, there was a strong focus on hygiene. Use the following link to find out:

  • what is a pandemic
  • what advice the health department in the UK gives with regard to hygiene in order to limit the spread of the H1N1 influenza virus

H1N1 (Swine) Flu (