Health and Safety in Education: Only 1 in 3 Adolescents Practice Appropriate Hand Hygiene

A study published this month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed that of 354,422 adolescents (13-17 years) examined, only 30.3% reported practising appropriate hand hygiene [1].

Dr Yaqoot Fatima, a researcher in the Institute for Social Science Research at the University of Queensland and the Centre for Rural and Remote Health at James Cook University said: “There was a renewed emphasis on adequate hand hygiene with COVID-19,”

“We used data from the Global School-based Student Health Survey from 92 countries across the six WHO regions to examine the prevalence and correlation of hand hygiene practices in adolescents worldwide.”

“Our results highlight that globally, adolescents practice suboptimal hand hygiene.”

The study was conducted across low- to middle- and high-income countries and showed that, even in countries where adolescents had access to appropriate handwashing facilities, they still failed to wash appropriately.

Dr Fatima explains: “Although access to soap and water was an issue, around 60% of adolescents were not practising appropriate hand hygiene even when they had access to water and soap,”

“While access to handwashing facilities and knowledge of proper hygiene is important for practising adequate hand hygiene, the study showed that the knowledge-behavior gap is a major reason for sub-optimal hand hygiene practices.”

This is a major issue for schools and higher education to implement appropriate health and safety protocols to manage infection control. |n December 2020 the UK Government pieced together case studies from Exeter and Loughborough universities, and research from other higher education institutions in England to examine trends in COVID-19 transmission in higher education.

From early August through to mid-November, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey (CIS) consistently showed that positivity rates were highest among teenagers and young adults. In early September, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned that large numbers of students travelling for study presented a “critical risk” of seeding coronavirus outbreaks across the UK, and said universities were highly likely to experience significant outbreaks [2].

WHO recently identified 10 diseases with the potential to develop into the next pandemic[3], combined with the fact that 80% of infections are spread through hand contact [4], it is critical to examine health and safety in education.

Schools and Universities need a solution that can track and manage hand-hygiene, whilst simultaneously delivering consistent education to change behaviours and encourage optimal hand washing and sanitisation.

The greatest challenge for health and safety in education is not knowing which students are practising appropriate hand hygiene and therefore understanding the risk of transmission for the whole school. The SAVORTEX® Smart Sanitiser System is a complete infection control management system that used RFID Technology to 'track and trace' students who are (or are not) sanitising. The system works by identifying a student's ID tag and informing the school in real-time if they have successfully sanitised. In addition to providing comprehensive data, the system also provides a complete hygiene overview of the building and sends refill alerts to janitorial staff when they are running low.

But what about educating students about practising the correct hand hygiene? SAVORTEX® smart sanitisers feature a full HD video screen that shows compelling messaging, teaching students about the benefits of good hand hygiene and current government guidelines. Using the corresponding app, schools and universities can also implement in-app messaging, and introduce a reward system, where students practising the correct hand hygiene can be rewarded with varying incentives, such as something from the canteen.

WHO has advised that the time to protect ourselves from the next pandemic is now. To talk to us further about health and safety in education, contact our expert team: today.


  1. Santosh Jatrana et al. 2021. Global Variation in Hand Hygiene Practices Among Adolescents: The Role of Family and School-Level Factors. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 18 (9): 4984; doi: 10.3390/ijerph18094984