Food safety attorney Bill Marler’s presentation at the 2011 Guiding Lights Weekend in Seattle on how to lobby for the public interest in an era of divided government.

  • About 4,830,000 results were found when searching for hand washing signs in Google. There are signs everywhere. Don’t we know how and when to wash our hands? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states: “Keeping hands clean is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infection and illness”.

    In the kitchen, hands are the top cause of food contamination. Yet we still don’t wash our hands as well or as often as required.

    American Society of Microbiology studies showed:
    97% of females and 92% of males say they wash
    Of these only 75% of females and 58% of males actually washed
    50% of middle and high school students say they wash
    Of these 33% of females and only 8% of males used soap while washing hands

    How do you get the kitchen to change? Sit in the kitchen office watching how often you see the staff wash their hands. This is a great exercise to prove that the staff is not washing hands effectively.

    Times to watch:

    Starting work or shift change
    Coming back from break
    Personal contact with body, hair, sneezing etc.
    Changing tasks
    Dealing with trash or trash receptacles
    Returning from restroom

    Record each time you see the staff washing and record each time they should have washed hands. Plan on staying in the office for an hour with the kitchen leader. You and the kitchen leader should observe together. Explain to the kitchen leader that their kitchen is not so uncommon; they may be defensive or embarrassed (make sure they don’t start justifying). Let them know many kitchens suffer from poor personal hygiene.

    Even though this is so important to our health and 100 percent controllable, it is too often taken for granted. Most of us don’t know how to verify if this practice is in place. After all, few people are willing to admit to not washing their hands. Both of you may be shocked to see what lengths people will take not to be discovered that they didn’t wash their hands.

    Employees may wear several sets of gloves, peeling off the top set rather than washing hands.
    Employees wearing gloves to the bathroom
    Employees standing over the sink and acting like they are washing hands.
    When greeting each other, touching arms, shaking wrists or bumping elbows vs. hand shaking.
    Once all agree there is a problem, rule out physical barriers.

    Hand sinks are available and operational
    Properly stocked with soap and paper towels
    Now you can begin to put practices in place to modify behavior. Double check if your kitchen has the correct signs per code and the service provider’s guidelines. A hand washing sign program often has no effect on the staff’s behaviors, nor will a group training on hand washing.

    Start these actions:

    Over the next week, the kitchen leader is to take each employee (unscheduled) to a hand sink and both of them wash hands
    Explaining why we wash.
    Review the observations made from the office.
    Ask the employee to commit to washing more often and helping get others to do the same.
    Have all kitchen workers stop at the same time and line up at the hand sinks.
    Explain this behavior is non-negotiable

    Would they want people cooking their food without washing?
    There will be repercussions for those that fail to change their behavior and why.
    Place two dollar bills in the paper towel dispenser
    All will soon learn, washing hands pays
    Place reward notes in the paper towel dispenser to come see you to redeem rewards such as:
    Gift Certificates
    30 minute extra breaks
    Ask the team leaders for help in this campaign
    Let them know you expect them to lead by example and wash hands more often than needed

    Kitchen leader will repeat these initiatives about a month later to re-enforce behavior.
    Asking employees if they have noticed a difference
    Thanking them for any help in this area
    Have they noticed any improvements in other cleanliness areas in the kitchen
    After a few months, plan on you and the kitchen leader conducting the same observation. More likely than not, the behavior improved immediately, but has it remained in place? Ask the kitchen leader what steps caused the improvements or why it hasn’t improved. Ask them what the next steps are
    Hand Washing