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Soapbox: When dispensers go bad...
By Metsa Tissue
All manufacturers of washroom products do their best to provide good products. After all, they wouldn't get far if they said: "Here's a product that's not very good - how many would you like?" would they?
However, what they do not always take into account is the experience, priority and ethos of the people who use those products.
From firsthand experience, here's what we mean. One of Metsa Tissue's staff recently experienced a stay in an NHS hospital. The medical service was very good and all went well... until they got to the washroom. The washroom featured a twin toilet roll holder. One roll was finished, so being something of an industry expert the Metsa Tissue staff member (patient) attempted to access the second roll. Unfortunately, the mechanism was jammed. Having just had surgery (it was, after all, a surgical ward), the patient could not apply much force to the problem, but tried their hardest under the circumstances to slide the mechanism as appropriate. She was unable to.
Presented with this dilemma, she was left with no choice but to 'misuse' a hand towel. This was despite the signs around the small bathroom unit saying "Please do not dispose of hand towels down the toilet". Clearly, this had been a problem for the hospital previously, but what's a girl to do....?
So, once ablutions had been performed, the patient exited the bathroom and advised the ward sister of the problem. The response was: "Oh yes, it's been like that for months! Hang on, I'll get a new roll from store". The dispenser was locked and the key was only held by the organisation's FM company, and they had already completed their cleaning round for the day. So, the new roll was placed on top of the dispenser, where it stayed all day, open to bacteria, able to fall on the floor and handled by all patients using the facilities. With fresh surgical wounds and signs across the hospital about an outbreak of the Noruvirus they were experiencing, as well as other more general cold and flu bugs, this was all far from ideal. In addition, with a loose roll, consumption control goes out of the window and consumable costs go through the roof.
When the FM staff did their rounds early the next day, they appraised the situation, opened the dispenser, placed the 'part roll' in it, and locked it again. They were probably thinking "Well, the other roll is still there so there should be plenty to last the day."
And so, the next day, the whole story began again! As indicated by the ward sister, this had been ongoing for some time...
If the patient in this case had not been an 'industry expert', the washroom users would probably have gone on using hand towels all day - and blocked the plumbing, (and during the lifecycle of this situation, this has probably happened). With a little bit of industry knowledge, the problem can be identified, but still not resolved.
So for all the manufacturers' talk of sealed, secure dispensers, hygienic toilet roll provision and consumption control, this simple process can go wrong. Reasons might include:
- Multiple parties in the equation (as in this case), each of whom has their own priorities
- because the staff are not effectively trained
- and users are never trained
- because people do not understand the impact of washroom behaviours on hygiene
So what is the solution?
Good training of cleaning staff goes a long way - simply checking the dispenser action as part of the refill process, every time, would have solved this problem.
Extending this training to other parties in the equation (such as the nursing staff in this instance) would also help. Nurses are already overworked and won't thank anyone for giving them extra training or additional work, especially as the organisation is already paying an FM company to look after this area. However, it was the Ward Sister who had to take time to run to the store to get the spare roll in our example, so their time is being consumed anyway.
An alternative solution to user training in this scenario might be to ensure a highly visible fault report process to be in place (perhaps a sign on each washroom wall indicating how to report faulty dispensers).
However, the simplest and most effective solution is for manufacturers to provide dispensing systems which totally eliminate any need for user input. So, in a high throughput area such as a busy surgical ward, the use of a two-roll toilet system, where the second roll immediately drops into place once the first roll is finished, is the ideal scenario. This way, patients, visitors and staff have no need touch the dispenser. The user is happy; no extra workload is incurred by the staff so they are happy; hand towels won't block the toilet so the hospital is happy and cross contamination is eliminated so everyone is healthier.
T: 0845 601 8266
20th March 2014