Preventing the spread of bacteria, viruses and parasites plays a large part in ensuring safety in the workplace. Contamination poses a danger to your employees’ health and safety and must be taken seriously. Not only does it increase absenteeism, but it also reduces productivity and ultimately, the overall success of your business.
Here are five facts about workplace contamination that every employer should know about:
You’re probably transferring bacteria from your shoes to your office floor.
Scientists have said it, dragging in the bacteria on your shoes can make all your employees sick. So, if you haven’t made shoe covers a part of your company’s hygiene policy, think again.
A study shows that 96% of shoes used for at least two weeks have bacteria-infested dirt in them. Large numbers of bacteria on the shoes can cause urinary tract infection, stomach problems, and pneumonia, among others. Coliform and E.Coli, the most common bacteria found on shoes likely originate from the public restrooms and outdoors and are carried over a long distance up to the workplace, and to your own home.
It’s a given that shoes are covered in bacteria, viruses, germs, and parasites. Unless you work in a sterile laboratory, you can’t compel your employees to remove their shoes and wear sterile slippers. Since 90% of the bacteria from the shoes transfer directly to a clean tile floor on first contact, it is important to implement strict policies on wearing shoes inside the workplace.
You can breathe, eat and absorb the bacteria from your shoes
You might get E. coli from an office mate if you don’t clean the work area where the bacteria has spread and you don’t wash your hands well before you touch your mouth. You can also inhale the viruses from air, and your skin can get infected with parasites or bacteria as it comes in direct contact with contaminated spaces
Cleaning the floor on a regular basis can reduce contamination.
Aside from shoes, it’s possible for co-workers to spill food and drinks on the floor. So, it is important to clean that area immediately not only to prevent the spread of airborne bacteria. It can also help prevent someone from slipping over and falling down.
Cleaners usually mix naturally acidic vinegar with the soap to break down dirt, and disinfect. Others mix a mild detergent with hot water to clean the floor. It is also essential to meticulously dust mop and damp mop hard floor areas to ensure they look sparkly clean. For carpet floors, steam cleaning can help remove deeply imbedded dirt and allergens that can cause various types of diseases in the office.
Hand hygiene is a must.
You’ve probably heard it over and over on television and radio commercials. Washing your hands removes potentially harmful dirt and bacteria and stops the spread of diseases. Employees often spend a lot of time around their co-employees and it increases the chances that they can spread germs to each other. They are also most likely to touch and use the same items and facilities. By encouraging them to wash their hands properly, especially after using the bathroom and the kitchen, the company can lessen absenteeism due to sickness. In the long run, hand washing activity can increase employee’s productivity and boost attendance.
Here are simple ways to encourage employees to wash their hands at work:
- Provide soap dispensers and paper towels on sinks, and make sure that you have employees on rotating schedule to check on them. You can also offer hand sanitizers to your employees, or place them in strategic spaces where they are most likely to hang around. But, remind them that hand sanitizers are not substitutes for hand washing. The best way to remove germs is to fight them with soap and water.
- Put up signs on bathrooms and kitchens reminding them to wash their hands and how to do it properly. For sure everyone knows how to sing the “Happy birthday song”. If they would just hum it for two times while scrubbing the tops of their hands, in between fingers and under their nails, then they’re doing it right.
Everyone is accountable for workplace cleanliness.
Keeping the workplace clean is not just the employer’s responsibility. It is everyone’s job to make sure that you work in a clean and healthy environment.
From dust mites that can settle down in the carpets to bacteria that spread on the floor, unhygienic practices can make everyone sick and unable to perform the assigned tasks. Here are ways to make sure that everyone understands their role in keeping the workplace healthy:
- Establish rules concerning leftovers. Busy employees may eat at their desks and leave food particles on desks. These would be breeding grounds of bacteria and could contaminate other spaces. Food items discarded on trashcans that are intended for non-food items could also rot in there for a few days before they are discarded and result in the spread of bacteria and parasites, and pest infestation.
- Encourage your staff to use reusable shoe covers inside the workplace. It will protect their shoes from potential contaminants and prevent them from carrying outside dirt and germs into the work space. This simple personal shoe protective equipment can keep your working areas clean and hygienic.
Provide benchmarks to highlight the importance of cleaning the common areas in the office. Make sure that everyone understands their role and the importance of following hygienic practices such as wearing shoe covers, proper hand washing techniques and eating only in designated areas, to encourage accountability. You can give a reward for compliance, but emphasize that at the end of the day, they’ll enjoy the rewards of working in a cleaner and healthier environment.