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Four hand hygiene failures that could make your office sick

Sick woman at work drinking coffee

As winter approaches and flu season starts, Initial Washroom Hygiene has called on office workers to prevent the spread of common illnesses such as colds, influenza and norovirus by improving their hand hygiene.

A single bacterium has the capacity to multiply into more than eight million cells in less than 12 hours if conditions are right. It is also estimated that the typical office worker’s hands come into contact with 10 million bacteria per day simply through every day activities.

Proper handwashing, says Initial, can decrease the bacteria present on hands by 80 per cent and reduce the risk of illness by up to 50 per cent.

The company has identified four common ‘hand hygiene failures’ many office workers make, which if addressed, could help prevent the spread of viruses in offices. 1. Failing to wash hands: anonymous monitoring of 100,000 people across Europe by Initial Washroom Hygiene revealed that only 38 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women wash their hands after going to the toilet.

2.Not washing hands for long enough. To minimise the spread of bacteria and illness, hands should be washed thoroughly for 20-30 seconds using soap and water, and then dried properly. A survey of 1,000 office workers by Initial Washroom Hygiene found that only 31 per cent claim to wash their hands for more than 20 seconds every time.

3. Using a phone on the toilet. Initial’s survey also found that a third (32 per cent) of UK workers use their smartphones while in the office washroom. Even if they wash their hands after their washroom visit, the chances are they don’t sanitise their phone – meaning the device could be contributing to the spread of bacteria by cross contamination.

4. Neglecting to clean shared equipment while hot-desking. A swabbing study conducted by Initial Washroom Hygiene earlier this year revealed that on average, the level of microbiological activity is 18 per cent higher on hot-desking workstations than of those in a fixed-desk environment.

The use of communal computer mice in the hot-desk scenario was a key contributor to the difference in hygiene levels. Shared mice in the hot-desking environment had a 41 per cent higher microbiological reading compared to readings taken from the computer mice at fixed-desks.

Dr Peter Barratt from Initial Washroom Hygiene explains: “Good hand hygiene is such a simple way to reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses. As we approach the colder months when the norovirus outbreaks and flu pandemics occur with more frequency, it’s even more important than ever.

“Simply leaving your mobile phone in your pocket while visiting the washroom could help to prevent the spread of illnesses. The hard surface of a mobile phone can harbour bacteria for up to 72 hours, so while it seems like a harmless way to pass the time, using the phone on the loo could potentially create an ideal cross contamination surface for bacteria and viruses.”

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