Handwashing - the law according to R962

Back to basics on hand hygiene

By Bridget Day on 05 May 2017

Today is World Hand Hygiene Day, and although you would think that it's a simple issue, hand hygiene remains a critical issue. Many studies and reports indicate that food handlers play a significant role in the spread of foodborne illnesses, through contamination during handling, much of which could be avoided by better hand hygiene.


“Food handlers play a major role in ensuring the food safety throughout the chain of the producing, processing, storage and preparation. Mishandling and disregard for the hygiene measures on their part may result in food contamination and its attendant consequences. Food borne illness affect millions of the people each year and an unknown but sizeable proportion of these illnesses could be prevented by the actions taken by the food handlers..."  

Cristina Paiva de Sousa , The impact of food manufacturing practices on food borne diseases. (2008)


But is it the law - what does R962 say?

Note R962 has now been replaced with R638 view more

R962 clearly addresses the issue of hand-washing. The section on Standards and requirements of food premises stipulates that food premises need to have proper hand-washing facilities:

“Food premises shall have hand-washing facilities which shall be provided with cold and/or hot water for the washing of hand by workers on the food premises and by persons to whom food is served for consumption on the food premises, together with a supply of soap (or other cleaning agents) and clean disposable hand-drying material or other hand-cleaning facilities or hand-drying equipment for the cleansing and drying of hands by such workers and persons.”


But it's more than that - did you know that food handlers have a legal requirement too?


Duties of a food handler


In the section of R962 which covers the Duties of a food handler, the regulation stipulates that:


Food, a facility or container shall not be handled by any person

(a) whose fingernails, hands or closes are not clean;

(b) who has not washed his or her hands thoroughly with soap and water or cleaning them in another effective manner.


It then goes on to list when the food handler should wash their hands, this includes:

  •  At the beginning of the day or the start of a work shift
  • After a break
  • After smoking
  • After using the toilet
  • After nose-blowing, wiping sweat, touching hair, mouth or nose
  • After handling a hankerchief, money, refuse or a refuse container
  • After touching raw veggies, fruit, eggs, meat or fish
  • Before handling ready-to-eat food
  • When returning to food premises

And R962 finishes this off by stating that the food handler needs to wash his or her hands “after his or her hands have become contaminated for any other reason” – that pretty much covers everything!


So this is just a reminder that hand-washing is not just a vital part of ensuring food safety in your facility or restaurant – it is a legal requirement.


Handwashing techniques


It seems so simple that it is almost unecessary, but it is vital to train food handlers on the proper way to wash their hands in order to remove bacteria.  Here are some simple instructions provided by the FSAI.

What is the proper hand washing technique? 
Hands should be washed for at least 10-15 seconds as follows: 
• Wet hands under warm running water 
• Use enough soap to form a good lather 
• Rub all parts of hands with soap and water 
• Lather for at least 10-15 seconds, vigorously and thoroughly rubbing all hand surfaces, including the fingertips and thumbs 
• Rinse hands thoroughly with running water 
• Dry hands thoroughly





The use of gloves


Food handlers should wash their hands thoroughly before putting on gloves and when removing them.  Hands are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria which can multiply in the warm moist conditions within a glove.  This makes it even more important to ensure gloves don’t tear, and that hands are washed after removing gloves.

Also, a point to remember is to train your staff that gloves don’t remove the risks of cross-contaminations – they can still cross-contaminate while wearing gloves, and this is often overlooked.






Regulations Governing General Hygiene Requirements For Food Premises And The Transport Of Food R962 http://www.foodfocus.co.za/home/Legislation/Food-Safety/Regulations-Governing-General-Hygiene-Requirements-For-Food-Premises-And-The-Transport-Of-Food-R962


Sousa, Cristina Paiva de. (2008). The impact of food manufacturing practices on food borne diseases. Brazilian Archives of Biology and Technology51(4), 615-623. https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1516-89132008000400020

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