One of the cornerstones of maintaining high standards of safety and infection control in healthcare is the implementation of standard precautions. Standard Precautions should be used when dealing with all patients at all times for all levels of care. In this blog, we will delve into the significance of healthcare standard precautions, with a special focus on the indispensable role of hand hygiene.

Understanding Healthcare Standard Precautions:

Healthcare standard precautions are a set of guidelines and practices that aim to protect both healthcare providers and patients from the spread of infections. Standard precautions reduce the risk of transmission of bloodborne and other pathogens from both recognized and unrecognized sources (WHO). They are the basic level of infection control precautions which are to be used, as a minimum, in the care of patients.

Key components of standard precautions include:

Health policy

  • Promote a safety climate.
  • Develop policies which facilitate the implementation of IPC practice.
  • Provide resources for IPC programmes and implementation of standard precautions.

Risk assessment

  • Train health workers on early recognition and assessment of risk of exposure to blood and body fluids – including
    secretions/excretions, splashes and/or sprays and contaminated surfaces.
  • Train health workers on actions to reduce the risk of exposure to infectious agents.
  • Perform a risk assessment within health care facilities related to the population they serve, level of care they provide (including common procedures) and available control measures and implement prevention measures and training based on this assessment.

Hand hygiene

  • Provide alcohol-based hand-rub at the point of care.
  • Provide handwashing facilities with clean running water and products (including soap and single-use paper or
    cloth towels).

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • Train health workers on the rationale for and correct use of PPE, based on risk assessment.
  • Provide adequate supplies of high-quality PPE that are continuously accessible at the point of care.

Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette

  • Post visual alerts at the entrance to health care facilities instructing people with respiratory symptoms to practice respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette.
  • Place hand hygiene supplies, tissues, masks and no-touch waste bins in waiting areas.

Environment and environmental cleaning

  • Provide a clean and hygienic environment, including water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and adequate ventilation (natural or mechanical).
  • Provide efficient environmental cleaning and disinfectant products.
  • Train cleaning staff on the principles and practices of environmental cleaning, including how to prepare and use cleaning and disinfection products.

Injection safety

  • Follow safe injection practices according to policy that reflects the 7 steps for safe injections.
  • Provide a policy and measures for the surveillance, prevention and management of sharps injuries.

Waste management

  • Ensure that the health care facility follows a policy for minimizing, segregating, collecting, transporting, storing,
    treating and disposing of waste

Decontamination and reprocessing of reusable medical equipment/devices

  • Make a dedicated space available for performing decontamination and reprocessing of reusable medical devices.

 

The Crucial Role of Hand Hygiene:

Hand hygiene is a major component of standard precautions and one of the most effective methods to prevent transmission of pathogens associated with health care. (WHO)
This can be achieved through:
Handwashing with soap and water (40-60seconds): Effective against a broad spectrum of pathogens, handwashing is recommended in situations where hands are visibly soiled or contaminated with certain substances.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers (20-30seconds): When hands are not visibly soiled, the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers is a convenient and efficient method of hand hygiene.
Proper hand hygiene technique: Thorough handwashing involves rubbing hands together for at least 20 seconds, covering all surfaces. Best practice is to follow the HWO 6-step had hygiene technique.

In conclusion, healthcare standard precautions, with a particular emphasis on hand hygiene, play a pivotal role in safeguarding the health and well-being of both healthcare providers and patients. By adhering to these guidelines, healthcare facilities can create a safer environment and significantly reduce the risk of infections. In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, the commitment to maintaining high standards of infection control remains paramount for the well-being of all.