How to use handwashing as the trigger
Culture change. The food safety culture. The culture of cleanliness. The Renaissance impact. Many books have been written and seminars given. Yes, corporate culture for centuries has guided progress on a path of continuous improvement. Culture change is regularly embraced by food and patient safety leaders as a noble and needed solution to their woes but their advocacy comes without an implementation manual.
There are many causes of the deaths attributed to infections acquired away from home - in restaurants, hospitals and nursing homes. Respectfully, those annual statistics are 3,000, 99,000 and 380,000. These numbers scream out for transformation to a culture of caring. The CDC reminds us that "Handwashing is the single-most important means of preventing the spread of infection." Poor hand hygiene is the most frequently cited contributing factor in outbreak studies.
Some historians go back to the Renaissance in Italy, where the risk of the plagues of the Middle Ages called for a large-scale culture change. Leaders stepped forward to define corrective actions. Replacing feudalism with capitalism was a key component. Cleanliness emerged as a popular differentiator, supported by sweeping changes in art and architecture.
Leadership is the key component in today’s successful foodservice and patient safety worlds but their C-suites over the years have been rewarded more for efficiency than risk reduction. Efficiency should be calculated by manpower and total costs in serving safe food, not merely measured by meals served. But without ways to monitor plated meals as “food safe”, industry is left with measuring activities well known as contributing factors like temperature control and handwashing.
The lack of leadership from the C-suites in patient and resident care operations also stems from the difficulty to measure care and connect a specific handwash as life saving or a miscue to a specific deatth.
The Handwashing Hole
Oddly enough, after all these years of evolving and improving food safety standards, there are no accepted norms for handwashing, leaving it as the #1 unresolved food safety issue, according to a review of contributing factors in food-borne outbreak investigations.
This is where the would-be food safety culture drifts off course. Efficiency has numbers and handwashing doesn’t. Reports arriving to the C-suites are loaded with comforting data but nothing on handwashing. Year after year, listening to the drum beat of the accountants, foodservice and hospitality companies have become models of efficiency but protectors of the status quo when faced with investments needed to achieve the next level in food safety and public health.
Making It Personal
Our personal work habits express our inner compass of values. Here lies the dormant energy ready to fuel needed culture change. In the foodservice and hospitality industries efficiency has been the long-term driver in seeking competitive advantage. A lot of good can be credited to the efficiency armies and the corporate cemeteries are filled with those companies who didn’t get it.
Years of unchecked handwash behaviors have raised the hurdle for corrective actions. The food handling staff must now connect their handwashing behavior to their inner compass of caring for the people they serve.
Enter Handwash Monitoring
Handwash monitoring technologies offer operators a unique opportunity to tap into staff values to trigger the needed culture shift. The workers understand the pain and suffering of illness and do not want to be any part of making their customers or colleagues sick. Their understanding of the connection between handwashing and wellness can be visually and personally dramatized with a simple self-guided instruction called ProGrade, a professional grade hand cleanliness scorecard for quality.
Handwash frequency can now be cranked up as staff can be rewarded for their good behavior and disciplined if they get off track. This is only possible with data, preferably real-time data.
Case studies are growing as electronic compliance monitoring (ECM) harnesses staff values and provides the trigger to sustainable culture change. Handwashing For life is celebrating this year's International Clean Hands Week by helping implement a Culture of Caring project at the Atrio restaurant in Carmel, Indiana, under the direction of award winning chef, Peter Fulgenzi.