By Robert Green
from the July/August 2015 issue
On a global level, restroom hygiene is a major point of concern when promoting public and personal health—especially in high traffic areas where customers and employees are closely interacting (e.g., retail stores and restaurants). Proper restroom hygiene can help prevent spread of bacteria and illness to customers and help keep employees healthy, which helps reduce the number of sick days used per year.
Facility executives understand that restroom appearance and cleanliness can affect a customer’s perception of an establishment. Because of this impact, they should be aware of (and concerned with) restroom products and maintenance.
Whether a restroom is a new build or a redesign, facility decision makers should think about hygiene before purchasing any necessary fixtures or products. Hygiene can be easy to promote—if you know what to look for when evaluating the options. First, be aware of the most impactful touch points that affect user experience within the restroom. Then, ensure as few germs are spread as possible by choosing hygienic product solutions and properly maintaining the restroom.
Proper hand washing and drying is essential in promoting restroom hygiene. Maintenance procedures should include cleaning sinks regularly to remove standing water, checking soap dispensers to safeguard against depletion, restocking paper towels regularly, removing paper waste to avoid trash overflow, and removing water drips underneath hand dryers. Additionally, hand dryers without a sealed system should be cleaned every six months.
Because damp hands spread up to 1,000 more bacteria than dried hands, choose an effective hand dryer. HEPA filters are an important feature to consider. Traditional, clunky hand dryers can take up to 43 seconds to effectively dry hands and may not use HEPA filters to remove bacteria from the air.
Common Restroom Issues
When designing a restroom that promotes both employee and customer health, consider restroom issues that cause unhygienic situations and try to avoid these.
- Unclean bathroom stalls and hand washing stations
- Low stock of necessary products like toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels
- Improper facility maintenance and irregular cleaning
- Water on the floor near hand washing and drying areas
- Paper towel waste overflowing from trash receptacles
- Clogged plumbing from improper use and/or disposal of paper towels
Properly planning and maintaining the restroom can alleviate the stress these problems can cause and present a more hygienic experience. Create a daily maintenance plan and log to try and avoid restroom problems.
When it comes to hygiene and safety in a foodservice setting, not all products are created equal. Traditionally, hand dryers have been kept out of food preparation environments because:
- They can leave staff with damp hands, which can spread bacteria.
- They are often slow and can blow dirty restroom air back onto users’ hands.
- Their surfaces may harbor potentially harmful bacteria.
If a facility is proactively concerned with proper hygiene, decision makers will want to seek out products with certain identifiers, such as NSF International and HACCP International certifications.
For more than 60 years, NSF International (formerly the National Sanitation Foundation) has worked to protect and improve global health through the development of public health standards and certifications that help protect food, water, consumer products, and the environment. NSF provides impartial review and is one of the most respected independent certification organizations.
Since the 1960s, HACCP International has provided a systematic and scientific approach for identifying, evaluating, and controlling food safety hazards. HACCP International certification is important for food preparation safety; it provides confirmation that products have necessary control measures that reduce significant public health hazards and food safety risks.
When sourcing hand dryers, facility managers can look for units that are certified under NSF Protocol P335, for Hygienic Commercial Hand Dryers. Focused on this restroom fixture, the protocol includes four key points:
Air Filtration: Air used to dry hands must be HEPA filtered in order to remove bacteria from the air being blown onto the user’s hands.
Unheated Air: Heated air can remove beneficial oils from the skin. The maximum air temperature is only slightly warmer than normal body temperature.
Drying Time: Hands must be dried within 15 seconds, with dry defined as 0.1g of residual moisture.
Touch Free Operation: The hand dryer must start and stop without user contact, because this reduces the opportunity of coming into contact with potentially contaminated buttons.
Other requirements in P335 relate to noise levels, burn resistance, and product cleanability, plus annual facility audits to ensure the product is manufactured to the same high quality standards year after year.
Green is a senior reliability engineer at Dyson, a technology company with U.S. offices in Chicago, IL. He was recruited as a graduate designer from Bournemouth University and has worked on the Dyson digital motor V2. His current responsibilities are product reliability and engineering for Dyson in North America.