If you ever need the care of paramedics, you might want to check they've washed their hands first.
A new study has found paramedics, including those in Australia, are remarkably poor at meeting hand hygiene standards.
Researchers followed ambulance workers in Australia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark and logged how often they did what they should to prevent the spread of disease.
They found paramedics were much more likely to use antiseptic hand rub or soap and water to clean their hands after touching a patient, reflecting a desire to safeguard their own health.
But they were poor at doing the same thing before touching a patient, putting the sick and injured at greater risk of exposure to microbes.
Overall paramedics met hygiene guidelines just 15 per cent of the time.
When that figure was broken down it showed where the worst of the problem was.
Compliance was just three per cent before touching a patient and 2 per cent before procedures such as giving a needle or cleaning a wound.
That rose to eight per cent after contact with bodily fluids and 29 per cent after touching a patient.
In addition, paramedics only used gloves in 54 per cent of recommended instances.
And on many occasions, ambulance workers failed to put on new gloves after touching potentially contaminated surfaces and then doing things like administering injections.
Researchers also found other forms of hand hygiene fell when gloves were worn.
The study involved Monash University and the University of Southern Denmark and tracked the habits of 77 paramedics over hundreds of hours in all four countries.
Researchers say it demonstrates the need for more detailed research on what's stopping paramedics from hitting hygiene benchmarks.
The study has been published in the Emergency Medicine Journal.
Australian Associated Press