Healthcare-associated infection (HCAI) is a major patient safety concern and is associated with morbidity, mortality and increased healthcare costs. Prevention and control requires a multi-modal approach, but the individual's accountability and rigorous application of standard infection prevention and control behaviours is at its core. The third instalment of the epic3 guidance ( Loveday et al, 2014a ) provided the evidence and advanced the importance of hand-hygiene behaviour, the use of non-sterile gloves and environmental cleanliness. This discussion considers some of the recommendations made in these areas of practice and some of the underlying complexities. Producing guidelines based on the best available evidence and transforming them into policies can be a useful adjunct to communicating the necessary standards. However, policies often erase the complexity of implementation. To strive for the best possible standard is an understandable and laudable objective, but organisations need to be mindful of the difficulties and obstacles that stand in their way, particularly in an era where the philosophy of 'zero tolerance' is gaining popularity.