Normalising ‘Norms’: a guide to EN standards

Dr. Kayleigh Cox-Nowak examines which ‘Norms’ are most relevant to hospital surface and hand disinfection products, and what this means in practice.

In a clinical environment, the effective disinfection of surfaces and hands is critical to minimise infection risks. With a vast array of available disinfectants, selecting the right product for the right situation is key. Disinfectant efficacy is assessed through testing, but a difficulty faced when selecting a disinfectant is the range of different standards in use.

The most appropriate and accepted standards for disinfectants are the European Norms (EN) and they currently provide the ‘gold standard’ tests for disinfectants in the UK. However, some understanding of EN standards is required if they are to be used as the basis for disinfection selection

There are at least 57 Norms which relate to disinfection, so it is helpful to understand which ones are actually applicable in healthcare settings. Some standards are multi-industrial, including industries where high levels of microbial contamination would be expected. Others are industry specific, for example EN17122 relates to the virucidal activity of chemical disinfectants in the veterinary area only. An additional complicating factor is that standards are regularly reviewed and updated, but it is not mandatory for a disinfectant manufacturer to test to the latest standards. Therefore, even when the most relevant standards have been identified, they also need to be the latest version of the standard. 

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