Hand Hygiene in the Laboratory: attitudes, beliefs and compliance

Mrs Sarah Foster1

1Tasmania Health Service, Newstead, Australia


With an ageing population and resultant increasing demands on healthcare, professionals worldwide have identified hand hygiene as one of the leading strategies to help combat Healthcare Associated Infections. Laboratory staff who practice sub optimal hand hygiene are at risk of contracting laboratory acquired infections (LAI) which are well researched occupational hazards for these employees.


A total of 54 laboratory staff were invited to participate in the “Hand Hygiene among Laboratory workers:  attitudes, beliefs and compliance” study conducted between November 2015 to March 2016.  A number of complementary techniques including participant observation, questionnaires and focus group discussions were used to record compliance and influences on compliance.


239 hand hygiene moments were observed over a period of 25 hours demonstrating an overall hand hygiene compliance rate of 68.6%.

The return rate for completed questionnaires was 94% with two criteria generating statistically significant results.

Thematic Analysis from focus group discussions showed that participants learnt a substantial amount of their hand hygiene practices at the workplace which reinforced their “handwashing” practices as a child and that their main role in hand hygiene was to stop the spread of harmful organisms.


Hand hygiene compliance rates for laboratory staff are currently just below national target levels. When applying these levels of compliance together with questionnaire and focus group material, the outcomes highlighted areas which could be targeted in order to generate marked improvements in compliance levels

No conflicts of interest have been identified during this study.


Sarah  graduated from UTAS with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Medical Laboratory Science) in 1997.  Since that time Sarah has completed a Diploma of Management in 2004,  a Graduate Certificate of Maritime and Logistics Management in 2007 (AMC) and a Masters of Health and Human Services in 2016 (UTAS).  Sarah’s thesis for completion of her Master’s qualification was titled:

“Hand Hygiene in the Laboratory: attitudes, beliefs and compliance”.

Sarah has been employed as a Medical Scientist in the Microbiology Department of the Launceston General Hospital for 19 years and has a strong interest in Hand Hygiene and Infection Control.

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