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July 2017

Did you know: your office's water cooler could be making you ill?

Written by Lemay Rogers
Environment and Green Hygiene

The office water cooler is probably one of the ‘icons’ of the office environment. It’s where you get the latest gossip, it’s the excuse to bump into the office hottie and occasionally, it’s the place you go to when you are thirsty.

Unfortunately your office water cooler might be as dangerous as the office gossip.

Let’s do a quick test…

  1. When appointing a supplier for your water cooler, did you ask what their cleaning regime for the equipment is? (Y / N)
  2. When your supplier delivers your water do they clean the equipment? Cleaning should involve wiping the outside of the unit as well as cleaning of the tap and reservoir. (Y / N)
  3. Does your unit ever get serviced off site or replaced? (Y / N)
  4. How often do you hear comments about the water tasting stale or odd? (never / monthly / daily)

Score yourself as follows;

  • 0 points for every Yes
  • 1 point for every No
  • 0 points for “never”
  • 1 point for “monthly”
  • 2 points for “daily”

Of course we can offer you a “security blanket” and say that 2 points is ok, but what you really want is a 0.

Why does this matter?

If your office water cooler is not serviced regularly bacteria multiply at a rapid rate around the high touch areas (like the tap) and travel into the reservoir where multiplication is accelerated. The bacteria can form a biofilm that affects the water quality and taste. Not only does this bacteria put you at risk of illness, but on a more personal note, do you really want to share a glass of water with all your work colleagues?

Feeling a little grossed out? Let’s explore this a bit more. How does the bacteria get onto the cooler in the first place?

The Journey of the Germ video by Initial is a great video to illustrate how quickly germs can spread in your environment through cross contamination. As for the office water cooler, you might think that refilling your personal water bottle is harmless but if your bottle happens to touch a contaminated tap, you might be in contact with all your colleagues’ water bottles or reused glasses. Unfortunately, your colleague’s cold may soon become yours.

Now, the idea is not to send you running into the HR Manager’s office. You simply need to be proactive in highlighting any concerns to the person in charge of this supplier.

Although Initial aren’t a supplier of office water coolers, we are the experts in hygiene. We want to ensure you have relevant information that will promote great hygiene practices in your office environment to minimises illness and absenteeism.

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Lemay Rogers

Lemay Rogers

Lémay Rogers is the Marketing Manager for Rentokil Initial. When not contributing to the Initial blog, she is the custodian of all things Marketing for Rentokil Initial South Africa, and supports the Sub-Saharan African businesses. As a frequent traveller AND mother of a toddler, she is all too aware of how easily germs can travel with us, from one location to another and then back to our homes. Follow Lémay on Twitter and LinkedIn for practical advice on good hygiene practices, both at home and in the workplace.

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