Hand hygiene in the healthcare environment

Hands are one of the main pathways for germ transmission within healthcare and the community. Effective hand hygiene is one of the most effective measures to prevent the spread of infections.

There are around 165,000 healthcare associated infections nationally each year, making this the most common healthcare complication affecting patients in hospital.

Studies show that effective hand hygiene can significantly reduce the rate of healthcare associated infection.

Training is available for all healthcare workers, for information visit the Infection control education page.

National Hand Hygiene Initiative

As part of the World Health Organisation's First Global Patient Safety Challenge, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) established the National Hand Hygiene Initiative (NHHI) in 2008 to prevent and reduce healthcare-associated infections in Australian healthcare settings.

The NHHI uses a multi-modal approach to improving hand hygiene and includes:

  • alcohol-based hand rub at the point-of-care
  • ensuring consistent hand hygiene and infection prevention and control education
  • monitoring hand hygiene compliance and performance feedback
  • using hand hygiene programs that ensure culture change.

Compliance with hand hygiene according to the WHO '5 Moments for hand hygiene' is recorded by trained and validated auditors. Hospitals are required to submit data three times per year according to the NHHI schedule. The number of 'moments' required to be audited is proportional to the size of the hospital.

Facilities not meeting the requirements for national data submission may choose to utilise the SA Health observational audit tool (PDF 196KB) to estimate overall hand hygiene compliance and is in keeping with the 5 Moments for hand hygiene.

The SA Health hand hygiene competency tool (PDF 87KB) has been developed to assess staff competency in carrying out an effective hand hygiene rub or handwash.

South Australia

As per the NHHI, each hospital or Local Health Network (LHN) should have a Hand Hygiene Program Coordinator who is responsible for the governance and oversight of local hand hygiene programs.

LHN contacts

For queries related to the NHHI, refer to the ACSQHC NHHI website or contact your LHN Hand Hygiene Program Coordinator:

Policy directive, guideline and supporting resources

The SA Health Hand Hygiene Policy Directive (PDF 299KB) establishes a consistent approach to hand hygiene across the public health sector.

The associated SA Health Hand Hygiene Guideline (PDF 223KB) summarises best practice for healthcare workers in the clinical setting.

Hand hygiene compliance rates

The national and state hand hygiene target is 80% hand hygiene compliance.

The SA Health Why is hand hygiene important? infographic details the overall hand hygiene compliance rates for SA Health and LHNs; this infographic is updated annually.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) My Hospital website also provides safety and quality information for local hospitals, including hand hygiene compliance rates.

Selection of alcohol-based hand rubs

For information regarding the use and selection of alcohol-based hand rubs, refer to the ACSQHC Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Health Care.

Fact sheets, posters and promotional materials

The following fact sheets have general information on the appropriate use of gloves in healthcare.

Click on the below images to download the relevant poster.

Hand hygiene poster - So You&aposre Worred. Hand hygiene poster - Clean hands save lives Hand hygiene poster - Go ahead clean your hands Hand hygiene poster - You had me at clean hands Hand hygiene poster - Stop & Clean Before Contact Hand hygiene poster - I feel the need, the need for clean hands Hand hygiene poster - Hands clean now you must Hand hygiene poster - I see clean hands Hand hygiene poster - I&aposll be back after I clean my hands

The ACSQHC has a range of promotional materials to support the improvement of hand hygiene in Australia.

World Hand Hygiene Day

World Hand Hygiene Day, 5 May, is part of a major global effort led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and supported by SA Health annually. This day aims to support health-care workers to improve hand hygiene in healthcare and accordingly support the prevention of life-threatening healthcare associated infection (HAI). This year’s theme is to accelerate action together and save lives by cleaning your hands.

Information on the latest campaign can be found on the WHO hand hygiene and ACSQHC World Hand Hygiene Day webpages.

Further information

For further information on hand hygiene contact SA Health Infection Control Service on (08) 7425 7161.