Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene is recognised as the cornerstone of infection prevention. In healthcare, hand hygiene can reduce the risk of patients, staff and visitors contracting a hospital associated infection (HAI).

Hand hygiene is the act of cleaning hands with:

  • alcohol based hand rub (ABHR) in either liquid, foam or gel form; or
  • antiseptic liquid hand wash and running water;
  • Or (plain) liquid soap and running water and dry with single use towels.

Wearing gloves is not a substitute for hand hygiene.

Health workers play an important role in reducing the risk of transferring microorganisms from patient to patient, healthcare environment and themselves.

Health workers are required to perform hand hygiene:


  • Before patient contact
  • after patient contact
  • Before a procedure;
  • After a procedure or body fluid exposur
  • After touching patient surroundings.

In addition, it is recommended that Healthcare Workers perform hand hygiene:

  • Upon entering and leaving a ward (for example, at start of shift or going on a break)
  • Immediately before and after glove use
  • Between individual patients
  • Between dirty and clean sites on the same patient (in the continuum of care for the patient, the HW should attend to clean sites before dirty sites)
  • Before handling sterile products/packs
  • Before eating
  • Before handling patient food
  • After coughing or sneezing or blowing nose
  • After going to the toilet
  • After cleaning shared patient care equipment
  • After contact with animals (e.g. companion therapy)
  • Before and after smoking, including e-cigarettes.