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How to Prevent the Spread of Bacteria in the Workplace?

Enclosed environments such as workspaces can be at high risk for the spread of germs and bacteria. Where people work in proximity to one another, there can quickly be localised outbreaks of viruses or bugs. So, if you are wondering how to prevent the spread of bacteria in the workplace, this article can come to help. Because always remember, it’s better to stay safe than sorry

How to Prevent the Spread of Bacteria?

You know, as soon as a co-worker starts coughing or sneezing from a cold, the rest of the team is likely to catch it too. This is because desks, copiers, water fountains, toilets and break areas can end up covered with bacteria.

prevent bacteria

During this COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more critical to reduce the spread of bacteria in the workplace. Keeping the workplace clean and free of bacteria is part of every employees’ responsibility, even if they are feeling well. 

WebMD found the dirtiest places in the office with a study swabbed some 4,800 surfaces in office buildings that housed around 3,000 employees. Office types included manufacturing facilities, law firms, insurance companies, health care companies, and call centres.

The six dirtiest places in the office were:

  • Break room sink faucet handles
  • Microwave door handles
  • Keyboards
  • Refrigerator door handles
  • Water fountain buttons
  • Vending machine buttons

Thus, below are some ways on how to prevent the spread of bacteria at the workplace.

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Wash Hands Properly

wash hands

Are you aware of the fact that your hands are responsible for the spread of 80% of common infectious diseases? Therefore, a rigorous hand hygiene programme must be followed in the workplace. It is the cheapest and most innovative means of infection control. 

So, hands must be washed regularly, particularly after using the toilet, or handling garbage, and before eating. Unfortunately, in 2013 Michigan State University study found out that just 5% of people washed their hands long enough to kill infection-causing bacteria. 

Therefore, get your office to embrace the best handwashing practices by adding signage to the restrooms to remind staff and visitors of proper handwashing etiquette.

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply handwash or soap.
  • Rub your hands together and scrub them properly; make sure that you clean the backs of your hands, under your nails and between your fingers.
  • Rub your hands for a continuous 20 seconds. 
  • Rinse your hands to remove soap residue under running water. You can use a paper towel to turn off the sink faucet. It will avoid recontaminating your hands. 
  • Dry your hands properly. You can use a clean towel, paper towels, or air dry them. 

Additionally, drying hands using a paper towel can reduce bacteria on average up to 77%. At the same time, hot-air dryers can increase the number of bacteria on the hands, according to a recent study. 

When water isn’t readily available, a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol will be the most effective at killing germs. Hand sanitisers placed around the office can help cut down on the spread of germs, as well.

Do NOT Touch Your Face

face

Attempt to try not to contact your eyes, nose, and mouth for the day. Instead, try to consistently hack or wheeze into a tissue or your internal arm. Sniffling and hacking into your hands makes germs spread quickly.

Use Disinfecting Wipes

disinfection tissue

Keep these at your desk and in shared workspaces such as the office kitchen and break room. For example, if you eat lunch at your desk, be sure to wipe down the area before and after, and avoid getting crumbs on your keyboard. Also, disinfect shared pens at the reception after each use.

Clean your Workspace

clean work desk

Don’t give bacteria a place to live with a messy desk. Clean out used mugs or food containers. Make sure any food kept at your desk is sealed.

Educate Others

discussion

Educating your colleagues about bacteria in the workplace will have a significant impact on office wellbeing and health. Lead by example and take the time to disinfect shared workspaces and appliances. It will, of course, take a team effort to keep your workspaces clean and germ-free.

Remove Magazines and Papers

clean magazines

Sharing these reading items could cause cross-contamination. In addition, it’s best to remove documents from waiting for areas or standard rooms as they are not clean.

Working Ventilation Systems

disinfect your home

Ensure that air conditioning is functioning correctly to provide the maximum air exchanges per hour.

Limiting Visitors

Limiting visitors

Reschedule appointments with suppliers, vendors or service technicians to restrict the number of visits to the workplace.

Stay Home if You are Unwell.

stay home

Hush up about your germs by avoiding work the second you feel unwell. This helps to prevent others from getting ill, but will also help you to recover more quickly.

Health Wellness Programs

doctor

These can be effective at reducing absenteeism, health costs, workers compensation claims and staff turnover.  An essential component of prevention is hand hygiene training and providing soap, sanitiser, paper towels and tissues.

Physical Distancing

Physical Distancing

Maintain physical distancing by avoiding crowded places or large gatherings of people.  Similarly, avoid close contact with a group of people. Viruses can spread from one person to another, keeping a distance of at least two metres or six feet. 

  • Use communication technologies such as video calls or the telephone to conduct as much business as possible, even when in the same building. 
  • Work from home option should be available at all workplaces or flexible working hours to avoid crowding the workplace. 
  • Increase the distance between desks and workstations.
  • Clean touch points and surfaces regularly.
  • Cancel or postpone any travel, meetings or workshops which are not necessary.
  • Try to avoid public transport; instead, walk, cycle, or drive to work. Allow staff that need to use public transport to start work at a different time to avoid busy periods. 
  • Avoid crowding the lunch rooms. Instead, staff members should be allowed to consume food at their desks. 
  • Avoid spending time in break rooms or photocopy centres.
  • If a meeting is necessary, limit attendees and use your largest room so that people can sit at least two metres apart. 
  • Don’t shake hands or hug.

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How To Clean Your Workspace?

An average desk has 400 times more bacteria than an average toilet seat. One survey by office supplies company Viking found the bacteria Staphylococcus on 60% of desks. These germs collect on phones, keyboards, touch screens and pens. That is why to know how to prevent the spread of bacteria at the workplace; you should also know how to clean your workplace correctly.

streptoccus bac

One study found more than 3,000 micro-organisms per square inch on keyboards and over 1,600 bacteria per square inch on a computer mouse. Wipe down your phone, keyboard and mouse with antibacterial wipes, mainly if you use a shared desk. Don’t leave open food lying around as this could attract pests, which also spread germs. 

  • Regularly wash the floors and restrooms with hot water and detergent
  • Periodically clean the floors and ceilings as well
  • Thoroughly wash and dry mops and cloths after each use. Drying is essential as many pathogens rely on moisture to survive. 

Keep The Fridge Clean

A build-up of harmful bacteria and mould in kitchens can lead to cross-contamination to your food, hands or utensils. In addition, food poisoning bacteria such as Campylobacter and E.coli has been found in fridges. 

Ensure there is no food in the fridge past its use-by date, especially if your fridge doesn’t work so well. Out of date food can cause Listeria, which can cause miscarriages or even death. Take extra care with ready-to-eat food like sandwiches and salads; store these below five °C.

clean refrigerator

Some staff members may store their food shopping in the office fridge before going home. So it is essential to take extra care with raw meat and vegetables as they might be contaminated with bacteria, even on the outer packaging. For example, never store raw meat next to sandwiches; leave raw meat on the bottom shelf in sealed containers to avoid any spillage on other food. 

Start a policy to clear out the fridge of out-of-date foods at the end of each week. Wipe down the shelves and door handles regularly. Use a thermometer to check the temperature is at least below five °C. Protect your food by placing it in lidded plastic containers. Once you have opened a ready-to-eat pack, the food will go off quicker, so follow the instructions on the packaging. 

Clean Your Mugs

clean mugs

Did you know that 1 in 5 mugs carries faecal bacteria? Avoid sharing mugs, particularly if you don’t have a dishwasher in the workplace. Mugs can be abandoned by other co-workers and grow mould or have germs on the outside surface. 

Instead, wash up your dedicated mug in the evening and leave it at your desk, ready to use the next day. Make sure mugs have smooth surfaces, so they are easy to wash. 

Wash water bottles a minimum of once a day as water is not sterile, and bacteria will build up over time. Don’t share cutlery or dishes unless you have a dishwasher.

Clean Door Handles

clean door handles

A door handle is one of the most commonly touched surfaces in the workplace. But, did you know that 4 out of 5 adults do not wash their hands after using the toilet? That means there is a risk of norovirus, or other viruses and bacteria found in faeces, being transmitted around the office. The norovirus, or winter vomiting bug, causes most gastrointestinal illnesses in the UK and spreads rapidly. 

Try not to touch door handles after using the toilet; use some tissue, elbows, or cover-ups with a sleeve to open the door. Set up a timetable to regularly disinfect door handles throughout the day.

Clean The Photocopier

photocopy machine

The average photocopier is touched up to 300 times a day, so it is ideal for spreading germs. Avoid eating food or touching your face after using the photocopier (or other shared office machinery). Cleaners should be disinfecting hand-contact surfaces every evening, but staff can use antibacterial wipes to clean buttons or touch screens in between. 

Handling Spills of Bodily Fluids

rbc

Sometimes you may have to deal with bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, vomit, urine or faeces. In this unfortunate event, you must be very careful.

  • Isolate the area.
  • Wear gloves, a plastic apron and goggles.
  • Soak up any fluid with disposable paper towels. Or, if available, use a granular chlorine-releasing agent to cover the spill for ten minutes. Then, scoop up the granules into a plastic bag marked ‘infectious waste’ and dispose of them appropriately. 
  • Mix one-tenth of bleach into the water, and cover the area for ten minutes. 
  • Wash the area with hot water and detergent.
  • Dry the area.
  • Dispose of gloves and paper towels appropriately. 
  • Wash your hands just to be safe.
  • Flush any tainted attire in cool running water, absorb a sanitiser answer for 30 minutes, then, at that point, wash independently of other apparel with high temp water and cleanser.

Food Preparation

food safety

  • Wash your hands prior and then afterward dealing with food (particularly raw meat).
  • Avoid touching your hair, nose or mouth.
  • Utilize separate stockpiling, utensils and readiness surfaces for prepared and uncooked food.
  • After use, wash all utensils and preparation surfaces thoroughly with hot water and detergent.
  • Get an in-depth idea of food hygiene and safety through an accredited online course.

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Conclusion

Remember, it can take time for microbes in the body to multiply enough to trigger symptoms of illness. This means that an infected person may unwittingly spread the disease during their incubation period. However, by following the above tips, you must have a clear understanding of how to prevent the spread of bacteria at the workplace.

Similarly, you can also get enrolled in one of our health and safety courses. Some of the most demanding courses include COVID-19 Awareness Course. Public Health and Safety Course and Health and Safety at Workplace. All of our courses are fully accredited and are taught by highly qualified professionals. Therefore, our wide variety of courses based on health and safety will make your understanding of how to prevent the spread of bacteria at the workplace more firm.

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July 15, 2021

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