Department of Health

Key messages

  • Hand hygiene is one of the most important strategies to reduce healthcare-associated infection.
  • Hand hygiene reduces micro-organisms on hands.
  • Hand hygiene is a national quality and safety priority in healthcare.

Hand hygiene is the practice of reducing the number of micro-organisms on the hands. It refers to two common forms of hand cleansing:

  • hand rub - application of a waterless antimicrobial agent (for example, alcohol-based hand rub) to the surface of the hands
  • hand wash - use of water and soap or soap solution (whether plain or antimicrobial), followed by patting dry with single-use towels.

The practice has been identified as the single most effective intervention for preventing healthcare-associated infection.

Hand hygiene initiative

Hand hygiene is a national quality and safety priority reinforced by Standard 3 of the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards.

The standard requires all health services across Australia to comply with the National Hand Hygiene Initiative (NHHI).

Hand Hygiene Australia is the national coordinator for the National Hand Hygiene Initiative and VICNISS is the local Victorian coordinator.

The National Hand Hygiene Initiative has been set up to develop a national program to standardise hand hygiene practice and placement of alcohol-based hand rub in every Australian hospital.

Reviewed 23 November 2021


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