Do you know exactly how important hand-washing with soap is as a way to prevent illness?

As it turns out – really, really important.  In fact, we would say that hand-washing is VITAL to one’s overall cleanliness and health.  When we don’t wash our hands, we risk spreading germs that will make people sick and miserable, miss work, and possibly lose their lives.  It’s basic hygiene that many take for granted until there is an infectious disease outbreak when people become more diligent about remaining healthy.

AFOP Health & Safety programs are huge proponents of hand-washing before eating, drinking, using tobacco products, after work, and before and after using the restroom.  This helps to avoid the spread of pesticides and their residues – but not only that. We as consumers and producers should all be in favor of good hygiene and proper handwashing technique and practices, because it prevents the spread of diseases like Salmonella, E. Coli, hepatitis, and more.


E. Coli bacterium. Photo credit


When working in agriculture, hand-washing is about more than your own personal cleanliness.  People frequently touch their eyes, nose, mouth, and other body parts without even realizing it, thus transferring germs from themselves to other surfaces.  In the case of farmwork, this means produce that could then transfer pathogens like E. Coli to the general population.  Germs and pesticide residues can also enter into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth making the farmworkers themselves sick, too.

We’ve become a culture of convenience, and so many of us walk around with some form of hand sanitizer within reach.  Unfortunately, certain bacteria require more than sanitizer to remove them.  Of course, if hand sanitizer is all that you have access to, by all means, partake!  But keep in mind it should be alcohol-based, containing at least 60% alcohol.  And, ultimately, washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs – especially in the case of harmful chemicals like pesticides, when hand sanitizers might not be at all effective.


Most important benefits of hand-washing:

  • Creating a safer working environment;
  • Prevention of diarrhea and uncomfortable intestinal diseases;
  • Avoidance of common eye infections;
  • Obstruction of respiratory tract infections.


So, what is the proper method to wash one’s hands? According to the Center for Disease Control we should follow these five easy steps:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.


It’s important that we all do our part and take the simple steps to wash our hands frequently and thoroughly no matter what part of the supply chain we occupy, so we can all lead safer and healthier lives.