Have you ever been anywhere that had a little bottle of hand sanitizer on the wall, or in any other way urged you to wash your hands? They are incredibly commonplace now, and for good reasons. These sanitizers are just one of the many cleanroom solutions out there, and they have made a huge difference to the world. Yet, even if people stick to the washing their hands rules, organisms continue to reside on the skin.
Cleanrooms and Hand Sanitation
When working in a controlled environment like a cleanroom, sanitation is of key important. In fact, a cleanroom is assigned a level depending on how many particulates are allowed to be present in every cubic meter of room. ISO 14644-1 standards have determine this, replacing the older Federal 209E standards. To ensure particulates stay at specific levels, cleanrooms usually use HVAC systems, HEPA filters, and humidity controls. However, this is often still not enough, because humans are the greatest contaminants of all!
The clean hands rule applies just as much in the cleanroom as what it does anywhere else. In fact, before you are able to enter a cleanroom, you should have to go through very stringent procedures. Exactly what those procedures are depends on the classification of the room, but you can expect to have to take an air shower and/or to have to wear a full body “bunny suit”, or at least a gown. Almost all of them will require operatives to wear gloves or, at least, finger cots.
Typically, operatives have to wash their hands properly before they enter the room, after which they have to put on gloves. Then, the gloves are washed using water and the right kind of soap, so that any contaminates remaining on the gloves are removed. Unfortunately, these gloves don’t breath very well, which is good because it stops contaminates from getting out, but it also provides the perfect breeding conditions for other bacteria.
Unfortunately, bacteria can stay alive underneath the fabric of sterile gloves. The longer someone wears the gloves, the more likely it is that the bacteria develop as well. This is because of the body heat, but also the moisture caused by perspiration on the hands. Put together, this means that or organisms can grow with ease. This is why it is so important that people remove their gloves in the right place, in the right way, if they are to work in a cleanroom.
Scarily enough, the majority of people don’t wash their hands the way they should, focusing too much solely on the palms of their hands. They forget to focus on their nails and cuticles, which is actually the preferred location for organisms like bacteria. One way to address this is by regularly using an alcoholic hand sanitizer. These usually contain between 60% and 70% of pure alcohol and are available in solutions, gels, or foams. They are also an absolute necessity before anyone can even consider entering a cleanroom.