Rugby Referee Whistle Hygiene

As we start a new decade, for referees it is important to ensure that their individual whistle remain in clean and safe condition for reuse. This short review is intended to update our refereeing community on hygiene standards for whistles, particularly with the advent of a new coronavirus (COVID-19) potentially circulating within the global community. Some background on whistle contamination. Firstly, most of the germs on and within the whistle will be your own. However, where the whistle is not regularly cleaned, then saliva, skin cells, bacteria and fungi, can and will accumulate both within the mouth piece and also within the whistle chamber. The best way to remove this biological soiling is to regularly clean and sanitise the whistle as indicated below:

    Cleaning the whistle:

A.    Make sure that the whistle is attached via a string or cord or another lanyard;

B.    Immerse the entire whistle into a warm soapy solution (normal, manual dishwashing solutions are absolutely ok for this use). The temperature of the solution should not be hot (30C is ideal, but you don’t need a thermometer);

C.    Get a new soft bristled toothbrush and gently rub around and into the inside of the mouth piece, and also the whistle air window (where the air comes out);

D.    This cleaning should be done for at least 30 seconds;

E.    Then rinse off the soapy solution under running cold water.

Sanitising the whistle

A.    Boil some water and whilst holding the whistle using a pair of tongs (so you don’t burn your hand or fingers), pour the boiling water over and into the whistle;

B.    You should pour the water gently over the whistle for at least 15 seconds if possible.

Drying the whistle

A.     Hang the whistle using the lanyard over a piece of disposable paper for at least an hour or so and allow to dry.

The goal of the process is two-fold. Firstly, cleaning and sanitising the whistle will remove biological material and existing micro-organisms that can build up and lead to unpleasant odour, unpleasant taste, and possibly lead to oral infections. Secondly, your whistle will last longer.

Greg S Whiteley

PhD, M Safety Sc, B App Sc, Dip AICD

About Greg Whiteley

Dr Greg Whiteley is the Chairman of Whiteley Corporation and an Adjunct Fellow in the School of Medicine at Western Sydney University. Whiteley Corporation is the Australia’s largest manufacturer of medical grade cleaning, disinfecting and sterilisation technologies with a TGA approved plant in the Hunter Region. Greg Whiteley is a representative on the National Infection Control Committee for the Australian Dental Association, and a former member of the Australian Standards Committee [HE023], covering AS/NZS 4187 and AS/NZS 4815 (Reprocessing of reusable medical devices). He is a Fellow of Environmental Health Australia and a Member of the Australian Society of Microbiology.

He is also a 300+ game veteran referee for NSW Rugby Referees Association.