Preventing Cross-Contamination

As concerns about cross-contamination increased among infection prevention professionals, industry responded, introducing touchless sink fixtures and hardware as well as soap and paper towel dispensers. In fact, an entire generation has nearly grown up around this kind of touchless environment, making it the standard for restrooms everywhere, but most notably in healthcare facilities to decrease infections.

Nichols observes, “One area where microorganisms can flourish is the restroom. Lavatory surfaces — such as faucets, toilet handles, sinks or dispensers for bathroom tissue, paper towels or soap — that are touched frequently may serve as reservoirs of microbial contamination. When hands come into contact with these surfaces, microbial agents can then be transferred to the nose, mouth, eyes or environmental surfaces via indirect contact transmission. Touchless dispensing solutions are one way to help reduce the spread of germs in a restroom. The electronic revolution that has taken place in the washroom in recent years has greatly enhanced restroom hygiene by eliminating the need to touch dispensers, faucets and toilet handles during use. These systems can help make the task of using as well as maintaining the restroom easier, more efficient and more cost-effective, while providing improved hygiene and sanitation features.”

Nichols adds, “By eliminating one potential source of germs, touchless dispensers can help reduce their spread. With these systems, restrooms visitors are not required to touch handles, levers or buttons to flush toilets, turn on water, or dispense washroom tissue and towel products. Some public restrooms continue the no-touch theme by using doorless entryways so that freshly washed hands don’t have to grab a dirty door handle on the way out of the restroom. Touchless systems can operate in different ways. Some are decidedly high-tech, with sensor-activated devices that dispense bath tissue or paper products, turn on faucets and even turn lights on and off. Touchless systems are especially crucial for hand towel dispensers, since hand towels are typically used once hands are clean, after having been washed and rinsed. The newest touchless towel dispenser are quieter and more versatile than ever — providing adjustable settings for sheet length, time delay and sensitivity.”

Nichols continues, “Not all touchless systems are electronic, however. There are also mechanical no-touch towel dispensers, with no levers to pull, that provide the same hygienic benefits as sensor-activated dispensers. Users can easily reach the sheets they need, without “fishing around” inside a potentially dirty dispenser. Other non-electronic hygienic options include folded towel dispensing systems that dispense towels one at a time so users only have to touch the towels that they need.”

Many infection prevention professionals believe that touchless technology is having an impact on the prevention of cross-contamination in the healthcare environment. “Touch-free technology is helping create a culture of healthcare workers that embrace hand hygiene,” says Beth Young, RN, BSN, CIC, an infection control consultant for GOJO Industries, with 30 years of experience in infection prevention. “As an infection control practitioner, I know and understand the importance of avoiding the possibilities of cross-contamination. For example, the simple act of turning off a water faucet can lead to hand contamination. That’s why we teach healthcare workers to use a paper towel to turn the handles.”

Young continues, “The development of touch-free dispensing technology for soap and hand sanitizer is a positive step toward reducing the possibility of hand contamination because your hands never touch the dispenser.” Young adds, “I know from personal experience that healthcare workers really like the touch-free technology. In feedback to me, they prefer touch-free dispensers because they feel this is a cleaner way to dispense soap and sanitizer.”

Touchless dispensers are not limited to hand sanitizer, of course. Georgia-Pacific’s enMotion® Touchless Dispensing System offers towels automatically to users in a speedy and hygenic manner. Adjustable settings for sheet length, time delay, sensor range and dispensing mode controls usage and increases operational efficiency, while one-at-a-time towel dispensing reduces waste and lowers operating costs.