Encouraging workers to maintain hygienic practices like hand-washing can help avert the spread of influenza and other infectious illnesses in the workplace. However, recent research found even if a person washes his or her hands properly, he or she can still diffuse and contract an illness if they use a hot air dryer instead of a paper towel to dry off. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand-washing is the easiest and most effective defense against developing common infectious illnesses. Taking preventative steps to reduce the spread of sickness in the workplace is important, and employers should consider the hygienic benefits of installing paper towel dispensers instead of hot air dryers.
Hand-drying methods influence cleanliness
Researchers at Queensland University in Brisbane, Australia, examined which hand-drying method is the most effective in removing bacteria and preventing illness. With 80 percent of illnesses spread from improperly washing hands, the researchers identified that hand drying may be a factor. The study included three types of drying methods – paper towels, cloth towels and hot air dryers.
The researchers concluded single-serve paper towels were better able to reduce residual water from a person’s hands and were quicker than the much slower and less effective hot air dryer method. It only took study participants 10 seconds to reduce residual water on their hands to only 4 percent with paper towels. When the time increased to 15 seconds, only 1 percent of water remained on their hands after using a paper towel. When using a hot air dryer for 45 seconds, residual water dropped to 3 percent.
The study also found air dryers disperse hand particles into the air. If the person did not wash their hands for the recommended period of time, air flow can spread fecal matter and bacteria in the restroom, according to the study.
Employers may want to consider replacing hot air dryers with paper towel dispensers to reduce the spread of infectious illnesses.