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Flu season began picking up steam in early fall, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects it to continue for weeks or months.

That makes it a great time to remind employees to take a simple, yet effective, preventative step: washing their hands properly.

Handwashing sweeps germs away from the body. When hands aren’t washed, and people touch their eyes, nose, or mouth, germs enter the body. In addition, germs can be spread to others through handshakes or by touching common surfaces, such as doorknobs or tables.

Cleaning hands the right way

Proper handwashing involves soap, water, and time. To effectively clean your hands:

  • Wet hands with clean running water
  • Apply soap and lather hands by rubbing them together
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds
  • Clean the backs of the hands, between fingers, and under fingernails
  • Rinse hands under clean water
  • Dry with a clean towel or air dry

Scrubbing is key to proper handwashing

Research from the American Institute of Physics shows that it’s important not to rush. It takes about 20 seconds of vigorous scrubbing to dislodge germs.

One way to test the amount of time spent scrubbing is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice. The song takes about 20 seconds.

If you’re ready to rinse before you’re finished humming, that’s a warning sign that you’re typically not scrubbing long enough. Train yourself to keep scrubbing for the entire 20 seconds, or twice through the song.

Hand sanitizer an option

If soap and water aren’t available, clean hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It should have at least 60 percent alcohol. The gel should be rubbed over hands and fingers until they’re dry (this should take about 20 seconds).

When to wash?

During flu season, hands should be washed frequently. The CCDC recommends washing hands:

  • Before and after work
  • Before and after work breaks
  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating food
  • After using the restroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

Spread the word about handwashing

To make sure employees understand how to properly wash their hands, and why they should wash them, communicate with:

  • Handwashing signs placed in restrooms.
  • Posters displayed in the cafeteria and break rooms
  • Articles on your intranet that explain why handwashing is important and the right way to do it

Key to remember: Now that flu season is here, it is especially important to remind employees of the right way to wash their hands. Handwashing helps stop germs from spreading.