Alcohol-based hand disinfectants improve work productivity, study claims

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

A group of scientists from Germany claim that a study into the use of alcohol-based disinfectants proves they can help improve work productivity.

The findings of the study were published in the BMC Infectious Diseases journal, which found that the incidence of absenteeism due to common symptoms of sickness such as cold, fever and cough was significantly reduced when using such disinfectants.

The study was led by Nils-Olaf Hübner, from the Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine, based in Greifswald, and assessed 129 participants working in public administration to discover how hand disinfectants influenced absenteeism.

Diseases spread in the workplace cause significant absenteeism

It is estimated that millions of work days are lost every year in both Europe and the US due to the spread of communicable diseases in the work place that could be easily prevented through more thorough sanitatary habits.

The group of scientists wanted to assess how much of an impact improved hand sanitation would have on absenteeism, knowing that hand contact is one of the primary reasons for the spread of communicable diseases.

The participants were divided into two groups – a control group of 65 people that was asked to maintain normal hand washing behaviour and an intervention group of 64 people that was supplied with alcohol-based hand disinfectant and asked to use it five times a day while at work.

Two kinds of alcohol-based hand disenfectants

The intervention group was encouraged to use the hand disinfectant following incidences with high infection potential, including using the toilet and nose blowing.

Two alcohol based hand rubs were used in the study : Amphisept, which is an 80 per cent ethanol-based formulation, while participants with known skin allergies or sensitivities were provide with Sterillium, based on 2-propanol and 1-propanol, as well as mecetronium etilsufate.

Both products are manufactured by Hamburg-based company Bode Chemie and both fulfill standard requirements for surgical hand disinfection.

Diarrhoea and coughing significantly reduced

The results showed that, with the exception of sinisitis and brochitus, the incidence of sickness was reduced in the intervention group for all diseases tested, with a particularly significant lowering in the incidence of coughing and diarrhoea.

Over the month long period of the trial, the percentage of sick days for common cold was 2.78 in the control group, compared to 2.07 in the intervention group, while 0.92 per cent of days were reported as sick in the control group due to diarrhoea, compared to 0.11 days for the intervention group.

The authors concluded from the study that hand disinfectants are an easily introduced, cost-efficient method of improving the rate of absenteeism due to communicable diseases in the workplace.

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