Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, July 22, 2014 --(PR.com
)-- In today’s working society, employees are more prone to fall sick in the workplace because of the long working hours in an enclosed environment where colleagues interact within close proximity. This is what made the risk of cross contamination in offices higher compared to home or any other places.
Salmonellosis and influenza are some of the most common illnesses that spread in a workplace via cross contamination. A report by the Partnership for Food Safety Education states that, foodborne diseases including Salmonellosis caused a setback of USD2.65 billion annually in medical claims, sick leaves and even premature death, whereas E. coli bacterial infections cost employers a hefty sum of USD478 million annually.
Influenza fever on the other hand, is one of the top contributions in employee absenteeism. It is spread when a sick person coughs or sneezes and disperses infected droplets into the air or other surfaces such as desks and door handles. The influenza virus may persist for hours in dried mucus and can be easily disseminated via direct contact. Employees working in air conditioned office with poor ventilation also have increased chance of catching viruses and germs.
Besides leading to increased illnesses, cross contamination also reduces employees’ efficiency and morale, consequently resulting in substantial losses of productivity and disruption costs.
How would identifying risk areas benefit the business?
By understanding and recognising germ hotspots in the workplace, it enables employers to create a healthier working environment by taking appropriate actions to improve the hygiene standards. Furthermore, minimising the risk of cross contamination will increase employees’ productivity and performance. An independent research carried out by Added Value Limited found that, 57% employees are more motivated to work and will have higher morale when the workplace is hygienic and equipped with proper hygiene solutions. In return, it prolongs their employment duration in the company because it shows that the employers are concerned about their wellbeing.
Other than that, hygienic workplace can help in maintaining the company’s image while reducing work lost hours, absenteeism rate and medical costs. Based on a research done by Initial Hygiene Australia, unhygienic workplaces are costing employers USD5 billion a year in lost earnings, with employees taking an average of 1.6 days off because of sub-standard hygiene. Besides that, office staffs also spend an average of 2.2 days a year avoiding unhygienic spots, for example, queuing up for the cleaner toilet cubicle, resulting in an additional loss of USD5.6 billion a year.
What is Structured Hygiene Survey (SHS)?
SHS is a comprehensive and structured assessment process, which helps to identify whether the current hygiene provisions are functioning properly and if it is adequate to deliver maximum hygiene support to the organisation. Its concept is similar to a Quality Assurance process that ensures that all services and product requirements are achieved in a business. Besides that, SHS is also carried out to analyse germ hotspots in a business premises by doing luminescence swab tests at various risk spots to determine the microbe count level. The microbe count is based on Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) readings which are quantified with Relative Light Units (RLU).
Here are some key areas in the office premises with high RLU.
1) Reception Area (1323 - 3788 RLU)
The reception is one of the most visited areas in the office where most staffs and visitors will walk through at some point during the working hours. Door handles that are not regularly sanitised could become a potential breeding ground for germs and harmful bacteria.
2) Cubicles/ Desks (1996 RLU)
Studies shown that office desks have 400 times more bacteria compared to a typical toilet seat. Telephone was cited as the most contaminated object on the desk with 25,127 microbe count per square inch.
3) Washrooms (510 – 778 RLU)
Top germ spots in the washroom are the sink, door handles and sanitary bins, which may harbour antibiotic resistant germs like Staphylococcus Aureus that could cause respiratory tract infections.
Ways to Increase Hygiene Standards in the Office
Employers can reduce the risk of cross contamination by placing sufficient hygiene facilities such as hand sanitisers at strategic locations made accessible to all employees. However, according to a global hygiene survey, 1 out of 4 office staff admitted of not washing their hands after using the toilet, which is why, it is very important that all employees are provided with personal hygiene awareness training to educate and instil good hygiene habits among them as the spread of bacteria can be reduced by up to 80% by simply washing and drying hands after using the washroom.
“Having a hygienic working environment is extremely important to all businesses because it is one of the most vital factors in providing employees with a healthy workplace. Besides increasing employees’ motivation, it also helps in decreasing the transmission of illnesses and diseases in the office. Sustaining a well-kept setting will ultimately reflects positively on the company’s reputation,” said Carol Lam, the Managing Director of Rentokil Initial Malaysia.