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July 2020

Checklist: Is your office making your employees sick?

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Workplace Hygiene

In the 10 years that I’ve been working in the hygiene industry, hygiene has never been as popular a subject as it is right now. Business owners who may have only ever taken a passing interest in making sure that hygiene requirements are in place in their businesses are now expected to be experts, and if stringent hygiene protocols aren’t met, your employees and your business could be at risk.

Over the years we have written many blogs on hidden hygiene risks in the workplace, and have looked at some of the places in the office that you may - or may not - have expected to pose a hygiene challenge.

In this post, I’ll break down the workplace into the most common hygiene hotspots, and sum up those previous articles into a handy checklist that you can use in your workplace, to make sure that both the obvious and the not so obvious hygiene risks are being managed.

Answer the yes/no hygiene hotspot questions below to establish whether your office could be making your employees sick.

Office Bathrooms:

Office Kitchen:

  • Is shared kitchen equipment cleaned regularly and thoroughly?
    Without proper office cleaning, disease-causing pathogens like cold and flu viruses can live on surfaces for up to 72 hours. These pathogens increase the risk of employee absenteeism that in turn reduces productivity levels. Kitchen equipment like kettles and microwaves are high-use objects that come into contact with numerous pairs of hands over the course of a single day. If even one colleague is ill, cross contamination from these high-usage objects is a real possibility.

  • Does the office fridge get cleared out and cleaned regularly (if at all)?
    There always seems to be something left at the back of every fridge - be it at work or at home. Not only does this cause odour problems, but it poses a hygiene threat as well. Office fridges should be cleared out regularly and cleaned thoroughly.

Offices:

  • Are laptops, computers and other office technology regularly disinfected?
    These are also high-touch/frequent use items and as such dirt and grime can build up quickly - as well as germs. Dust and food crumbs should be shaken out of keyboards and the keyboard wiped with a soft, lightly dampened, lint-free cloth. Keyboards, phones, computer mice, headsets etc should also be disinfected with alcohol wipes, but make sure you have switched everything off and unplugged the keyboard and mouse before you start. Alternatively Initial can provide a regular techno hygiene service to do this for your employees, ensuring your office equipment is cleaned and sanitised thoroughly.

  • Are desks being disinfected as well as cleaned?
    Various well-cited studies have shown consistently that the average desktop is generally far dirtier than the average office toilet seat, harbouring 400 times more bacteria. For this reason it’s imperative that desks are not just cleaned but disinfected regularly, and especially if you are in an office environment that allows hotdesking. If you are still not convinced they need disinfecting, read more about the difference between cleaning and disinfecting here.

Boardroom:

  • Are enclosed meeting rooms and boardrooms adequately ventilated?
    And if not, do you have an air purification system in place?
    Indoor air quality (IAQ) can play a huge role in your employees health, and studies have shown that indoor air can be 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air. Good ventilation goes a long way in improving IAQ, but this is not always practical in an office environment.
    A good air purifier will filter out harmful airborne particles such as malodours, allergens, bacteria, viruses, spores, mildew, yeast, moulds and VOC’s and thus reduce the level of contamination in the air.

Reception/common areas:

  • Is your water cooler cleaned regularly?
    The office water cooler is 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. Read more about why your office water cooler could be making you sick.

  • Is there hand sanitiser available for use before using the fingerprint scanner?
    If you answered No to this question, it could be that your fingerprint scanner is making colleagues ill. Find out here why the hand sanitiser stand needs to be available before using the fingerprint scanner.

General:

  • Have you had a professional Disinfection service done if anyone in the office has been diagnosed with Covid-19?
    Depending on how long your office has been closed after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, Initial can offer either a High or Intermediate level Specialist Disinfection service to ensure that the premises are completely safe for returning colleagues. Our service includes ULV fogging and manual disinfection of touch points, as well as a post-treatment report and service certificate.

  • Do you have a schedule for cleaning staff that clearly breaks up tasks into daily, weekly and monthly tasks?
    Cleaning staff have a limited number of hours in the day and need guidance in terms of priorities, otherwise they may be focusing on the wrong things, and creating opportunities for germs to thrive. Guidance is available here.

  • Do your daily cleaning staff have differentiated cleaning equipment for different areas of the business?
    If you answered No to this question, you may want to read “Could you spaghetti mop be making you sick” to understand why cleaning equipment is an important consideration in maintaining optimal office hygiene.

  • Is cleaning equipment itself regularly disinfected or replaced?
    Kitchen rags, dishcloths, scrubbing brushes and sponges should be regularly sterilised. Soak them in disinfectant to kill off bacteria, because damp cloths and sponges are the perfect breeding ground for germs! Read our 25 easy tips for cleaning your office properly.

If you answered No to any of the questions above, it’s possible that this is a hygiene risk area in your business. Download the checklist for further use in the office.

Download the Office Hygiene Checklist

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at www.initial.co.za. Life outside of Rentokil mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned eleven, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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