WHO guidance: handwashing stations; healthcare facilities

WHO guidance: handwashing stations; healthcare facilities

WHO Recommendation on Handwashing Stations; Healthcare Facilities

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The WHO recommends the following

  1. One or several hand hygiene stations (either for handwashing with soap and water or for hand rubbing with an alcohol-based hand rub) should be placed in front of the entrance of every public (including schools and healthcare facilities) or private commercial building, to allow everyone to practice hand hygiene before entering and when leaving it.
  2. Facilities should be provided at all transport locations, and especially at major bus and train stations, airports, and seaports.
  3. The quantity and usability of the hand hygiene stations should be adapted to the type (e.g. young children, elderly, those with limited mobility) and number of users to better encourage use and reduce waiting time.
  4. The installation, supervision, and regular refilling of the equipment should be the overall responsibility of public health authorities and delegated to building managers. Private sector and civil society initiatives to support the commodities, maintenance, and effective use are welcome.
  5. The use of public hand hygiene stations should be obligatory before passing the threshold of the entrance to any building and to any means of public transport during the COVID-19 pandemic. Repeated hand hygiene whenever outside private homes can in this way become part of the routine of everyday life in all countries.
  6. All private and public health care facilities should establish or strengthen their hand hygiene improvement multimodal7 programmes and rapidly ensure at a minimum procurement of adequate quantities of quality hand hygiene supplies, refresher hand hygiene training, and reminders and communications about the importance of hand hygiene in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
  7. Local health authorities should ensure the continuous presence of functional hand hygiene stations (either alcohol-based hand rub dispensers8 or soap, water, and disposable towels) for all health care workers at all points of care, in areas where personal protective equipment (PPE) is put on or taken off, and where health care waste is handled. In addition, functional hand hygiene stations should be available for all patients, family members, and visitors, and within 5 m of toilets, as well as at entrances and exits, in waiting and dining rooms, and other public areas.9 Local production of alcohol-based hand rub formulations in national, sub-national or hospital pharmacies or by private companies should be strongly encouraged according to WHO guidance,10 especially if commercial options are limited or too costly.
  8. Health care workers should perform hand hygiene using the proper technique11 and according to the instructions known as “My 5 moments for hand hygiene”9, in particular, before putting on PPE and after removing it, when changing gloves, after any contact with a patient with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 virus, their waste, or the environment in the patients’ immediate surroundings, after contact with any respiratory secretions, before food preparation and eating, and after using the toilet.
  9. All health care facilities are strongly encouraged to participate actively in the WHO Save Lives: Clean Your Hands campaign before and on 5 May 202012 and to respond to the United Nations Secretary General’s Global Call to Action on WASH in health care facilities.13


  1. https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/wash-in-health-care-facilities-global-report/en/.
  2. Wolfe MK, et al. Handwashing and Ebola virus disease outbreaks: A randomized comparison of soap, hand sanitizer, and 0.05% chlorine solutions on the inactivation and removal of model organisms Phi6 and E. coli from hands and persistence in rinse water https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0172734.
  3. Sterk E. Médecins Sans Frontières—Filovirus Haemorrhagic Fever Guideline. 2008. http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/204/suppl_3/S791.full
  4. https://www.who.int/infection-prevention/publications/hh_evidence/en/.
  5. Where ABHR or bar soap is not feasible, a liquid soap solution, mixing detergent with water, can be used. The ratio of detergent to water will depend on types and strengths of locally available product.
  6. Chlorine hand washing solutions are not recommended because of potential harm to users and those making the solutions, as well as degradation of chlorine exposed to sunlight or heat. Soap is generally cheap and easy to find, and liquid soap solutions can also be used.
  7. The WHO multimodal hand hygiene improvement strategy includes the following integrated elements: 1) system change ensuring availability of alcohol-based hand rub products, as well as soap, water, and disposable/clean towels; 2) training and education of all health workers on hand hygiene best practices and their importance; 3) evaluation and feedback of hand hygiene infrastructure, compliance, and other indicators; 4) reminders and communications to remind all health workers as well as patients and visitors about hand hygiene; and 5) an institutional safety climate with visible commitment of senior managers and engagement of all staff.
  8. An effective alcohol-based hand rub product should contain between 60% and 80% of alcohol and its efficacy should be proven according to the European Norm 1500 or the standards of the ASTM International (formerly, the American Society for Testing and Materials).
  9. Water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH) and waste management for the prevention of COVID-19. Updated Technical brief (2nd version). World Health Organization, Geneva; 2020. https://www.who.int/publications-detail/water-sanitation-hygiene-andwaste-management-for-covid-19.
  10. World Health Organization. Guide to local production: WHO recommended handrub formulations. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2010. https://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/Guide_to_Local_Production.pdf?ua=1.
  11. https://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/Hand_Hygiene_Why_How_and_When_Brochure.pdf?ua=1
  12. https://www.who.int/infection-prevention/campaigns/clean-hands/en/
  13. https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/facilities/healthcare/en/; www.washinhcf.org
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