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Shining a light on poor office hygiene

Published 2nd December, 2014 by Neil Nixon

Shining a light on poor office hygiene

Initial Washroom Hygiene has launched a number of videos that provide a stark reminder of the risks office workers pose to their co-workers and themselves every day when they, often unintentionally, don't practice good hygiene in their workplace. With 80% of diseases transmissible through touch, and flu virus living on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours, it's of little surprise to hear that the office is often such a hot-bed for bacteria and viruses such as Campylobacter, Norovirus and E. coli to thrive.

Recent research from Initial Washroom Hygiene highlighted how one in four office workers admitted they don't wash their hands after using the washroom. When contaminated hands can transfer viruses to 14 other surfaces, it's of little surprise to learn that 60% of employee illness is contracted from dirty office equipment. The average office keyboard carries in excess of 3000 organisms per square inch, whilst a computer mouse carries over 1600.

Stop the Journey of the Germ - video

This video demonstrates that personal items such as phones, handbags and computers come into regular contact with our hands, creating a high risk of cross-contamination and spreading germs from one surface to another. During a recent experiment, researchers found that it took just two to four hours for a virus to spread through an office building, affecting 40 to 60% of the workforce and highlighting the significant speed that germs such as Norovirus can spread. In light of this and similar evidence, Initial Washroom Hygiene is urging employees and employers alike to improve hygiene practises to prevent workplace illness.

“Poor hand hygiene is the major cause of office illness, yet it's remarkably simple to minimise the risk of spreading germs and bacteria around the workplace,” said Dr Lisa Ackerley. “Around 16% of us carry Norovirus around with us without any symptoms - you may feel perfectly fine and well but you could be inadvertently spreading the virus around the office. Just 20 seconds of hand washing can stop the journey of the germ. 47% of illness can be reduced through effective hand washing, and this is the simplest way to stop infection in the office. To be completely sure of minimising the risk of spreading viruses around the office, I'd recommend using hand sanitiser when you leave the washroom. This means if someone else has forgotten to wash their hands, you won't indirectly pick up their germs.”

Here are five tips that employees and employers can both take that will help improve hygiene standards in the office:

• Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap - washing for between 20 and 30 seconds removes more germs from hands than washing for shorter periods.
• Dry your hands thoroughly - damp hands spread 1000 times more bacteria than dry hands.
• Use hand sanitiser - if it's not provided by your employer, ask for it to be supplied. The most effective sanitisers form a gentle, long-lasting and invisible barrier across hands, inactivating germs for hours after use and protecting against a wide range of bacteria and viruses.
• Encourage other staff to stay away from the office if they contact a virus - leave 48 hours after the symptoms have disappeared, to avoid wider contamination. Lead by example and promote good hand hygiene practise.
• Ensure regular, thorough cleaning takes place in communal areas like the kitchen and washroom facilities to prevent the build-up of hidden embedded dirt and contamination, and the associated microorganisms.

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