• Journal Article

Food worker hand washing practices: an observation study

Citation

Green, L., Selman, C. A., Radke, V., Ripley, D., Mack, J. C., Reimann, D. W., ... Bushnell, L. (2006). Food worker hand washing practices: an observation study. Journal of Food Protection, 69(10), 2417-2423.

Abstract

Improvement of food worker hand washing practices is critical to the reduction of foodborne illness and is dependent upon a clear understanding of current hand washing practices. To that end, this study collected detailed observational data on food worker hand washing practices. Food workers (n = 321) were observed preparing food, and data were recorded on specific work activities for which hand washing is recommended (e.g., food preparation, handling dirty equipment). Data were also recorded on hand washing behaviors that occurred in conjunction with these work activities. Results indicated that workers engaged in approximately 8.6 work activities per hour for which hand washing is recommended. However, workers made hand washing attempts (i.e., removed gloves, if worn, and placed hands in running water) in only 32% of these activities and washed their hands appropriately (i.e., removed gloves, if worn, placed hands in running water, used soap, and dried hands) in only 27% of these work activities. Attempted and appropriate hand washing rates varied by work activity--they were significantly higher in conjunction with food preparation than other work activities (46 versus < or = 37% for attempted hand washing; 41 versus < or = 30% for appropriate hand washing) and were significantly lower in conjunction with touching the body than other work activities (13 versus > or = 27% for attempted hand washing; 10 versus > or = 23% for appropriate hand washing). Attempted and appropriate hand washing rates were significantly lower when gloves were worn (18 and 16%) than when gloves were not worn (37 and 30%). These findings suggest that the hand washing practices of food workers need to be improved, glove use may reduce hand washing, and restaurants should consider reorganizing their food preparation activities to reduce the frequency with which hand washing is needed