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We spend a third of our lives at work and yet we often act as though the health and hygiene practices we insist on at home are suspended while at work.
The reality is that we are very vulnerable to health and hygiene risks in the workplace.
“Workplaces, whether they are factories or office blocks, bring large numbers of people into close proximity. In this unfamiliar environment, and working under high pressure like we all do, it’s all too easy to lose sight of some of the basics and open ourselves up to infection,” says Alan Fainman, the managing director of health and hygiene solutions provider Bidvest Steiner.
“This is especially relevant as the winter season approaches – we need to think about ways in which to minimise the risks.”
Bathrooms and kitchens are two prime areas where poor hygiene practices can create the risk of infection.
A recent survey found that 18 percent of people thought that corporate bathrooms were the cleanest public bathrooms, compared with 42 percent who thought that public bathrooms in hotels were cleanest.
Dirty restrooms regularly top the list of complaints by building tenants.
Bidvest Steiner has years of experience in providing health and hygiene solutions to businesses to provide tips for keeping oneself healthy at work.
When it comes to bathrooms, Fainman says that while hand-washing remains the single biggest barrier to infection, it is advisable to use liquid soaps from a dispenser rather than a communal bar of soap to minimise cross-contamination.
The same goes for towels that are not laundered regularly, which is where most germs collect.
It’s also a good idea to keep the toilet seat closed in order to prevent any germs from spreading when flushed.
There should be suitable containers for waste, especially sanitary waste, and they should be emptied and cleaned regularly.
“Aside from human behaviour, the correct equipment plays a huge role in basic hygiene,” Fainman notes.
“A reputable specialist company will supply the materials and equipment like liquid soap dispensers and toilet seat wipes that have been proven to reduce the risk of infection,” he adds.
When it comes to communal kitchens, it can be problematic ensuring that surfaces, crockery and cutlery are kept clean.
If the company does not provide a staff member responsible for maintaining basic kitchen hygiene, it’s probably a good idea to put together a committee of those who use the facility to make – and publicise – some rules.
The committee could impose small fines or forfeits to offenders as a way of gently creating a culture of consideration. Providing dispensers with disposable surface cleaning and sanitiser wipes can be a big help to keep the area hygienic.
“In practice, communal areas like kitchens and bathrooms really benefit from professional care, which is why many companies outsource the function,” says Fainman.
Other high-touch areas that are known to act as vectors for infection include door handles, coffee or water machines, lift buttons and photocopiers.
Bidvest Steiner advises employees to observe how the bathrooms and kitchens are used and suggest improvements to managers.
“This is an important issue. Following good hygiene practices makes sound business sense. An epidemic of swine flu or ‘runny tummy’ can seriously affect productivity, especially in today’s economy in which companies are running very lean with regard to staff,” Fainman says.