What is the WHO Thinking?

I’ve seen this poster from the World Health Organization a few times in Europe - this particular photo I took in a bathroom at a tradeshow in Barcelona. I am completely baffled by it. Not by the visual instructions, which are excruciatingly detailed, but by the statement at the top:

WASH HANDS WHEN VISIBLY SOILED! OTHERWISE, USE HANDRUB

There are two problems here:

  1. Is the WHO seriously communicating that the only thing people should worry about is visible soiling on their hands? Most of what causes infections spread by skin contact are invisible to the naked eye - bacteria and viruses. Your hands can look completely clean, but be carrying infection. Telling people to only wash their hands with soap and water when their hands are visibly dirty seems completely counter-productive
  2. When you don’t have visibly soiled hands you’re supposed to “use handrub”. The poster doesn’t explain what this means at all, so it’s left up to you to imagine what it might be. I assume it means rubbing your hands together to clean them, but that is an extremely ineffective way to clean your hands. So who knows? It’s a mystery.

I’d love to hear more about the thinking behind this poster, because as it’s currently done it sends exactly the wrong messages.

PDF of the WHO poster >