If you’re a business owner or simply looking to improve conditions within your organisation, keeping your workplace safe and hygienic is a major concern, and now even more so with the recent global coronavirus outbreak. In this article, we look at some easy ways in which you can do this.
Health and safety in the workplace is an issue that concerns both employers and employees. An employer must show due diligence to the health of their workers in every profession.
Keeping commercial bathrooms clean and hygienic is at the top of the list when it comes to preventing the spread of bacteria and infection, and employees can be at risk of this if these facilities are not kept clean and there are insufficient measures taken.
Germs, some of which are extremely dangerous, can run rife in any workplace and are easily transferable from one person to another. Whilst employers have a duty of care (by law) to provide the standards required by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), an employee has no such legalities imposed upon them—it is merely a case of “doing the right thing”. Whilst it should be obvious to employees that the welfare of their co-workers is important, it is quite surprising that it is not in the forefront of everyone’s minds. Anything and everything that can be done to encourage employees to treat both the workplace bathrooms and their fellow workers with respect, should be put in place.
Remembering the basic principles
A workplace bathroom is one of the most likely places where bacteria can grow and viruses are spread. Research from top laboratories in the world has shown that there can be up to 150 different species of bacteria that can thrive on bathroom surfaces alone. It only takes around 2 hours for these germs to spread throughout a bathroom, which, if you think about it, is quite a frightening fact!
Taking the steps to prevent the spread of bacteria is a necessity, for companies to keep their employees safe and to ensure that the company itself continues to run as a well-oiled machine—but health is the primary factor.
Some of the most common and easily spreadable viruses are:
- Gastrointestinal—very common
- Enteric pathogens (such as salmonella)
- Respiratory organisms (staphylococcus)
- Skin diseases (streptococcus)
There’s no need to remember the “long names” of the viruses, just remember that everyone is at risk. One of the current concerns of Public Health England is the occurrences of a particular strain of E. coli (previously associated more with food). Recent studies show that this has been on the increase and can, in fact, destroy certain antibiotics in its path and cause blood poisoning.
How to encourage your employees to practice good hygiene
It may seem strange to believe that people don’t think about such practice, but this is the way that germs spread at such an alarming rate. A cleaning company can only do so much to keep bathrooms as clean as possible, but staff have a huge responsibility as well.
Believe it or not, there are people who don’t frequently wash their hands after using the facilities. They could be in a hurry, rushing to take an important phone call or another logical (if unhealthy) reason. Here are ways to encourage employees to play their part in cutting down on the risk of infection or contamination.
1. Simple signs
1 or 2 clear signs (one by the basin and one on the wall) asking employees politely “Please wash your hands”. This may seem a little insulting, but just that small reminder will make an employee think before they dash back to their desk, potentially carrying germs, or leaving germs behind on the surfaces around the bathroom, ready to breed.
Another great idea for encouraging staff about hygiene is, if possible, to use other signs within the toilet cubicles themselves. “Please close lid before flushing” is an extremely good sign to use—the reason behind this is to prevent bacteria being “aerosolised”, i.e. being spread into the air to infect other bathroom surfaces or places. May seem a little far-fetched, but the type of bacteria spread is one of the major causes of diarrhoea-based illnesses.
2. Keep stocked up in toilet paper
There has been a school of thought for several years now that toilet paper itself can be harmful to the human body—but what else can you do in the workplace bathroom that is not ridiculously expensive and hard to install?
Most of the suggestions such as providing bidets and hygienic wipes are prohibitive to the average company, and almost certainly staff probably wouldn’t use either of those options anyway. Just provide plenty of stocks of toilet paper of decent quality (i.e thick enough to be used without tearing) and never run out! A large or double commercial toilet roll dispenser is ideal for this purpose.
3. Plenty of soap
The best type of soaps to use are from “hands-free soap dispensers” or “touch-free soap dispensers”. These are considerably more hygienic than the “pump style” dispensers as you do not need to touch anything with your hand in order to release the soap. This way, you do not need to get the dispenser dirty or pick up germs on your hands from people who have used it previously. Frankly, it’s a hygiene winner. These are now much more sophisticated than before, using systems such as infra-red sensors for operation. It's an adjustable and efficient way of dispensing the correct amount of soap or sanitiser.
If such gadgets are a little out of your price range, why not consider a commercial soap dispenser instead?
Bar soaps are a no-no when it comes to hygiene, as germ residue can be left attached to the bars. Also, nobody wants to pick up a greasy or sticky soap bar with bits on it from previous users! A soap dispenser is easy and efficient and will encourage staff to keep their hands clean and germ-free as far as possible.
4. Hygienic hand drying
The days of using roller towels or paper towels should be gone! Think of the choices there could be in a workplace bathroom, and you possibly could come up with negatives for all of them in some way. However, when looking at the most hygienic, it has to be a commercial hand dryer.
Paper towels have an “ethics” problem. Environmental concerns, overuse of paper (even if recyclable) and costs come into play, as well as overflowing bins full of used paper—nobody wants to see that in a workplace bathroom, including visiting clients. Not only that, there is a big impact on the carbon footprint.
Roller towels have a hygiene issue for sure and require resource to get them changed on a regular basis.
High speed hand dryers seem to be the answer to hygiene issues—you simply put your hands underneath, no need to touch anything or wipe anything, and you walk away after use with no rubbish left around.
You can never have enough hand sanitisers in the workplace. Some soap dispensers include a sanitiser inside the liquid soap, but if this is not the case, supplying sanitisers will encourage staff to use them—almost a play on psychology.
Seeing a hand sanitiser will make staff think twice before they leave the bathroom. It is also not a bad idea to have a sanitiser outside the bathroom as well—it offers a reminder and useful for people passing by the bathroom.
6. Motion-sensor operated lights
Light switches can harbour a multitude of germs, so what could be better than having motion-sensor operated lights? No hands are needed when entering or exiting the bathroom, thereby cutting down on the spread of germs or bacteria.
They can also be geared with different tones of light to make the bathroom more attractive to staff and clients. More importantly, the least things that are touched by hand will cut down on germ colonisation.
7. Odour control
Whilst not a specific health hazard, if you’re trying to encourage staff to complete a thorough hygiene cleanse before leaving the bathroom (and once again to make it a pleasant environment for all), try not to use fresh air sprays, that can be picked up by hand (especially if your smoke detectors are sensitive). Use a pleasantly scented air freshener that dispenses automatically and needs no human intervention.
8. Discourage mobile phone use
If there was ever a germ gatherer, it’s the mobile phone. Without sounding like the bathroom police and imposing too many restrictive rules on staff, a fun-style poster that staff cannot avoid reading is a good idea for discouraging them to go into the bathroom simply for phone calls—on top of that, they are highly unlikely to wash their hands if they haven’t used the toilet. You could even plan it and get your staff to design one—make it fun, not a threat!
Hygiene in the workplace is obviously a very important part of overall health and welfare of workers in a busy building. If there is a kitchen that is used by staff, the same hygiene rules should apply, and everyone should be diligent in keeping the area clean and tidy. If necessary, appoint a monitor on a monthly basis who can check the condition of these communal areas and ensure that as much as possible is being done to maintain a good standard of health.
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More ideas and advice for business owners and contractors
You’ll discover loads of great ideas and practical advice on workplace bathroom facilities here at VictoriaPlum.com. Simply click on any of the links below:
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