Poor handwashing in most professional kitchens is recognized as a key hazard but effective handwashing remains a process out of control. There are no standards, no measurement tools and without data, the c-suite is unaware, unconcerned and uninvolved. These shortcomings, these risks, can be addressed with newly available electronic handwash monitoring technologies.
Collaboration is king when developing the strategy for adding handwash monitoring to its brand protection package. A champion is required to gather key departmental leaders and walk them through an assessment of the current situation in the context of the desired outcome.
This champion may emerge by his or her own energy, knowledge and passion for the topic of handwashing. The alternative is to recruit and appoint this leader who in turn brings together these departmental representatives with a preliminary definition of the task to be resolved.
The corporate path for growth is likely already laid out in the business’s overarching Strategic Plan. The lexicon provided by this document helps the team seek, find and understand the role of handwashing in their brand protection bundle.
One very helpful exercise is to define a hypothetical brand-damaging outbreak where handwashing is a major contributing factor. A step-by-step assessment of this food safety breakdown starts with the headlines in the media. The team walks the path back through the likely points of contamination and their intended control protocols.
The work-product of this team is an agreed statement of the Why, the How, the When, the Who and a preliminary estimate of the How Much – an early view of cost. It acknowledges that there is no perfect answer in eliminating outbreaks caused by poor hand hygiene. The summary statement either kills the initiative or is the foundation for developing an equally thorough set of tactics.
Shortcuts in the strategic process commonly end with a solution that is short-lived.
The Culture Case For Monitoring
Culture change is the best way we have found to convert time-hardened handwashing behaviors to safe levels. Years of accepting low compliance now define today’s reality. Whatcha got is … who you are!
Years of training have produced waves of temporary peaks in performance. Training without standards has proven to be both frustrating and costly as gains slip back to the undeclared norm.
Do you really want to change? From where you are on the organization chart, can you build a leadership team to get it done? The HandsOn™ System is designed to help chart this strategic move for the leaders who respond affirmatively.
Some chains have managed this culture change from one of production first to customer safety first at a unit level, usually capitalizing on the very special leadership characteristics of an individual manager. Handwashing For Life recommends each chain restaurant concept search out such a unit and develop a repeatable process model around it. Franchisees have even more incentive to lower the risk of a potentially business-ending outbreak.
This prototype facility can provide data to better value the risk of current corporate hand hygiene behaviors and determine the risk-based costs for a sustainable solution. Can it be done without raising prices? Continued nurturing can hothouse the initiative for months or years while resources are defined, acquired and aligned for rollout. Can cleanliness be a differentiator and business builder?
Monitoring, step five of the HandsOn System, is first and foremost about staff motivation. It is already a part of every foodservice operation. Informal observation by supervisory staff is the standard and in general, has proven to be inadequate. Electronic “observations” multiply the information to statistically significant levels to facilitate better management decisions.
Team vs. Individual Monitoring Solutions
Badge vs Badge-Free
The most successful foodservice operations have learned the value of teamsmanship which can serve them well when adding Handwash Monitoring to their brand protection bundle. Early experiences with individual monitoring by multiple chain concepts served as a warning to both operators and system developers. Personal identification badges were required and badge management proved very challenging in operations with high personnel turnover. This also brings with it a resistance by unions and others concerned about privacy issues. The intensity of their collective reaction resulted in the development of new team-based offerings.
Helping kitchen teams self-monitor their handwashing rates motivates enhanced behaviors. These aggregate options collect actual handwashing counts at all the non-restroom hand sinks via an electronically enabled soap dispenser such as GOJO’s SmartLink which connects to a variety of data processing and reporting technologies. The dispenser numbers are gathered wirelessly, time-stamped by location, totaled, and then divided by the number of employee hours to yield a Handwashes per Employee Hour rate, HW/EH. Tailored reporting can also provide handwashes per handsink, per hour, per unit or per meal served. This can be extended to compare different restaurant locations and be rolled up for an enterprise view.>/p>
Badge-free aggregate systems are generally lower cost and easier to install. Managers can finally have objective information to assist in their leadership role without being forced to assume the attitude of the handwashing police. The system can be paperless by posting the running numbers on monitors positioned in the staff’s workflow. This HACCP-friendly feature keeps the workers informed and engaged, being the first ones to know when corrective actions are required.
Aggregate systems have proven that they can make a significant difference when properly set up with appropriate C-Suite support and onsite shift leadership. They are a good place to start, provided there is a clear migration path to the individual option should conditions change.