Jul 27, 2020
OSU Extension adapts high-speed hand-washing technique for ag industry

More than a decade ago, Oregon State University Extension Family and Community Health faculty and staff in Deschutes County developed a technique to enable elementary school students to model good food safety behavior before sampling healthy foods in nutrition classes.

It was called High Speed Hand Washing, and it saves time and water and ensures that groups large and small can efficiently and effectively wash their hands. After successfully piloting it with fourth-graders, the technique was adapted to all grades, from pre-school through high school, and is widely used in Extension’s youth and adult programs.

Proper hand-washing in agricultural operations is essential. Photo: Stephen Ward/OSU

Extension has adapted High Speed Hand Washing again, this time for Oregon’s agricultural industry to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

OSU Extension recently released a collection of resources for farmers and ranchers and food production or packing plant supervisors to use in the workplace. The lesson plans are in English or Spanish. Posters are in English, Spanish and bilingual. A workplace training video is in production.

In late May, hundreds of the waterproof posters were included with the statewide distribution of free KN95 masks and Oregon-made hand sanitizer to Oregon’s agricultural and farmworker communities. In Wasco and Hood River counties – where cherry harvest was about to begin, 750 of the posters were distributed. The Clackamas County Extension office handed out 350 posters. Lane County Extension gave out 200. In Jefferson County, the Central Oregon Research and Extension Center distributed 100 lesson plans and 300 posters.

In addition, more than 800 of the posters – 500 in Spanish and 300 in English and Spanish – have been ordered through OSU’s Printing and Mailing Services office in the last six weeks.

Lindsey Stailing, patient support program manager at Mosaic Medical in central Oregon, was compelled to write to Extension expressing appreciation for the resources. Mosaic Medical is a network of community health centers in Bend, Madras, Prineville and Redmond.

“Thanks for sharing the high speed hand washing materials!,” Stailing wrote. “I love seeing easy to read and understand posters that communicate vital information. The visuals compliment the message and model the behaviors we want people to practice. OSU’s hand-washing materials are simple, available in color and black and white and already translated which makes them very easy to put to use.”

Glenda Hyde, associate professor of practice in Extension’s Family and Community Health program, was the recipient of Stailing’s e-mail. Hyde and colleague Beth Ann Wilson were the key developers of the quick, assembly line approach using thorough, proper hand-washing piloted for schools back in 2006.

“We all know the importance of regular hand-washing to reduce the spread of germs and prevent illness, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hyde said. “We encourage any worksite or industry with groups of employees to incorporate this practice into their workflow. The new method was piloted with workers in a packing plant facility and it was met with positive feedback and higher rates of hand hygiene compliance. As communities and states have re-opened, incorporating an effective hand-washing routine into agricultural, worksite, school, healthcare, childcare, and home practices can support communities staying healthy.”

The Oregon Health Authority posted the high-speed hand-washing posters on its COVID-19 updates page under the agricultural workers and employers tab. The link to the resources has been distributed to Oregon Department of Agriculture food safety specialists, and posted on the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences COVID-19 Resources page since early June.

Chris Branam, Oregon State University

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