Hazards galore in workplace

Good hygiene equals productivity

Hygiene first
Hand wash dispenser for staff use
A recent study carried out by Kimberley-Clark Professional in the USA has revealed that office kitchens and break rooms harbour considerably larger amounts of germs than restrooms, prompting the company to highlight the important benefits of its recently launched Healthy Workplace Project, which is designed to reduce the risk of cross contamination of germs in offices and help employers to create a healthier more productive space for their employees.

The findings, which were officially released in May 2012, revealed that the place where employees eat and prepare their lunch topped the list of office germ hot-spots, with microwave door handles found to be the dirtiest surfaces touched by office workers on a daily basis. Kimberley Clark Professional South Africa end-user manager Nthato Malope notes that the study is one of the most comprehensive ever conducted on identifying workplace hotspots where germs thrive. “Hygienists from Kimberly Clark Professional’s Healthy Workplace Project collected approximately 5 000 individual swabs from office buildings housing more than 3 000 employees. 

The participating office buildings represented a broad cross-section of office types, including manufacturing facilities, law firms, insurance companies, healthcare companies and call centres.”Using Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) – a measurement of a living cell’s source of energy, scientists measured the biological concentration of bacteria on a number of surfaces. The study revealed that the percentage of the office surfaces tested and found to have high levels of contamination with an ATP count of 300 or higher, include; Taps: 75%, microwave door handles: 48%, keyboards: 27%, fridge door handles: 26%, water fountain buttons: 23%, vending machine buttons: 21%. 

In addition, half of all computer mice and desk phones were found to have ATP levels above 100, suggesting that while people appear to be taking more responsibility for the cleanliness of their personal spaces, there is still a need for increased awareness of the importance of hand and surface hygiene in the office.Malope stresses the fact that local office environments are similar to that of the USA, and that through tests that Kimberly Clark Professional have conducted at a number of companies locally, it has become clear that South African office workers are regularly being exposed to illness-causing bacteria in their own workspaces. 

"People are aware of the risk of germs in the restroom, but areas like break rooms have not received the same degree of attention. This study demonstrates that contamination can be spread throughout the workplace when office workers heat up lunch, make coffee or simply type on their keyboards," he continues. In order to address these health risks, the Kimberly Clark Professional Healthy Workplace Project has been launched nationwide to educate and encourage employers to help their staff reduce the risk of cross contamination of germs in typical office hot spots, through a simple wash, wipe and sanitise protocol that enhances hand hygiene in the workplace. .
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