Where to Wash
Food employees must perform the
washing steps in a designated hand
washing sink or an approved automatic
hand washing facility. Employees can’t
clean their hands in a sink used for food
preparation, in a ware (implements,
dishes, pans) washing sink or in any type
of service sink.
• Washing for 3 minutes actually results in greater microbial counts as
resident organisms (those present
deeper in the skin) are brought to the
• The presence of rings on the fingers
may or may not result in greater bacterial counts on the hands after
• The residual effects of antimicrobial
products depend upon the chemical
• Hot air dryers may or may not increase the bacteria population on the
• The use of single-use paper towels
and clean single-use cloth towels aid
in the reduction of bacteria.
• Complete hand drying is critical to
• Roll-type cloth towels are a source of
• Buttons, levers and crank-on towel
dispensers are sources of recontamination.
• Automatic hand washing machines
produce more consistent and
The use of gloves can lessen the frequency and effectiveness of hand
• Gloves can be as significant a source
of contamination as hands.
• Gloves tend to be changed less frequently than actually needed.
Example of a Hand Washing Poster
When to Wash
The Food Code states that employees
are to wash their hands and exposed
arms in the below situations:
• Immediately before working in food
preparation where exposed food,
clean equipment and utensils or un-
wrapped single-service or single-use
articles are present.
• After touching bare human body
parts other than clean hands or arms.
• After using toilet facilities.
• After caring for or handling any service or aquatic animals.
• After coughing, sneezing, using a
handkerchief or tissue, using tobacco,
eating or drinking.
• After handling soiled equipment or
• During food preparation to prevent
cross-contamination when changing
• When switching from working with
raw to ready-to-eat food.
• Before donning gloves for working
• After any activity that contaminates
However, research1 has shown that
washing the hands more than 25 times
per day can result in higher microbial
counts. This situation occurs because the
protective barriers inherent in the skin
are damaged. Thus, the frequency of
hand washing must be evaluated to ensure detrimental effects are avoided.
Food Handler Training
Based upon the preceding requirements, training of food handling employees regarding hand washing
procedures and monitoring of their activity are of prime importance.
Unfortunately, several barriers exist
that negatively impact hand washing activities. Employees may be pressed for
time, there may be inadequate facilities
or supplies or management may not
5 Food safety training
alone does not promote the needed level
of proper hand washing. Green et al.
showed that appropriate hand washing
was more likely to occur in restaurants
where hand washing sinks were more numerous and the sinks were in the
worker’s line of sight. Required hand
washing was less likely to occur when
employees were busy and when gloves
were utilized. In Minnesota, Allwood et
6 related that only 52% of the persons
in charge could demonstrate the proper
hand washing procedure described in
the food code. In the same study, 48%
of the food workers could demonstrate
the proper procedure. Whatever the reason, without proper routine training, supervision and commitment, employees
will not realize the importance of hand
washing, and food contamination can
easily be the result.
Employee training can be accomplished in-house by a knowledgeable
staff employee who has been previously
trained. Educational materials, including
digital video recordings, can be obtained
from federal food safety agencies, state
or local health departments or from
commercial sources. Additional visual
training aids such as “Glitterbug,” “
Ger-mJuice” and “GloGerm” provide immediate stimulus by simulating the
presence of contamination on hands
and arms after their surfaces have been
washed–unclean areas will glow! If the