Additionalstandard precautions

Washing hands to prevent infection. Washing with running water is preferable. Cross infection of organisms can be greatly reduced when additional precautions are used. These simple measures include:

• handwashing;

• asepsis; and

• decontamination


Handwashing is the single most important infection control measure in healthcare settings. Proper handwashing can limit both cross infection of microorganisms and contamination from bloodborne pathogens. Research has shown that type and availability of handwashing facilities influence how often and how adequately healthcare workers wash their hands. When procedures or tasks are finished, it is essential that health staff go directly to available handwashing facilities with running water, preferably hot. Running water from a tap or pitcher is preferred, as microorganisms can breed in stagnant water. Hands should never be dipped into bowls of water, as this may recontaminate the bowls. The potential contamination of available water should be considered whenever using water for any patient tasks. The six steps that must be carried out during handwashing, to ensure that they are thoroughly cleaned or disinfected, can be seen in the following diagram. If handwashing is not carried out properly, areas of the hands may remain contaminated

When should we wash our hands?

Hands should be washed:

• before and after any aseptic technique or invasive procedure;

• before contact with any susceptible patient or site, for example, intravenous sites or wounds;

• after contact with any body fluids, this also includes contact with toileting facilities;

• after handling contaminated equipment, waste or laundry;

• before and after contact with any patient being nursed under isolation or transmission-based precautions;

• before serving meals or drinks;

• after using the toilet; and

• at the start and end of work