Hygiene at work

Good hygiene practices at work are the best defence against both contracting and spreading coronavirus in the workplace. This short document sets out some simple measures to follow.

Encouraging good personal hygiene

Wash hands regularly

Simple hand washing with soap and water remains the number one defence against the spread of coronavirus (and all flu strains and infections) and greatly reduces the risk of contraction.

The NHS advise that thorough handwashing requires at least 20 seconds and suggest that singing two verses of happy birthday to yourself (out loud if necessary!) takes roughly this amount of time.

Use hand sanitiser

In addition to washing hands, it is also good practice to regularly sanitise hands, especially when running water is unavailable.

To help with easy access to sanitiser in the workplace, sanitiser stations should be installed in key locations, for example:

  • Personal sanitiser hand pump bottle on the desktop and in delivery vehicles
  • Sanitiser dispenser stations at all main entrances to buildings

Sanitise hard surface areas during and after use

In addition to washing and sanitising hands it is also important that regularly used hard surface areas are frequently sanitised. Key examples of such surfaces are:

  • Workstation desktops
  • Personal use staff kitchen areas, and particularly kitchen worktops and sink areas

Use sanitising wipes or a hard surface sanitiser on regularly used hard surfaces.

Limiting social interaction in the workplace

In addition to good hygiene, limiting social interaction between people for the duration of the outbreak will also help to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Consider the following for your organisation.

Staff meetings

Try to minimise meetings between members of staff whenever possible. Use an alternative if available, such as telephone conference calls and video conferencing.

Visitors on site

Try also to minimise the number of on-site visitors whether customers, suppliers or sub-contractors. Could you use alternative means of communication means such as video conferencing, and could you safely defer maintenance work?

If it is necessary for a visitor to come onto site, ensure that visitors sanitise their hands before entry into your building.  Alternatively, if no sanitiser is available, ask them to wash their hands immediately following entry.

Maintaining a clean and hygienic workplace

It is well known that the workplace, and the office environment in particular, is a great place to share unwelcome bacteria and viruses.

Ensure that all hard surfaces into which colleagues regularly come into contact are clean and sanitised, and pay particular attention to the so-called infection hotspots:

  • doors and particularly door handles
  • desktops and other working surfaces
  • items on the desk such as telephone handsets, computer keyboard and mouse
  • control buttons on office machines, for example, printers, photocopiers, franking machines
  • water dispensers and vending machines
  • appliances in staff kitchen areas, such as kettles and coffee pots

Door handles

Door handles are one of the most touched items in the workplace, particularly in high traffic areas, and a principal source of bacteria and viruses.

As such, they should be regularly cleaned and sanitised. Make sure they are sanitised thoroughly, and include door plates in this regime.

In very high traffic areas, consider the use of door protectors which use sliver ion of similar technology to kill bacteria and viruses.

The desktop and desktop items

The desktop and the devices sitting on them, especially keyboards, are a true germ hotspot!

Various studies have shown that the number of germs at any one time can be between 7,500 and 25,000. The number is especially high for those employees who regularly eat lunch at their desk while working. Comparisons with other surveys reveal that some typical desk items could be around seven times more contaminated than items considered always to be ‘dirty’, such as toilet seats, which are often cleaned far more regularly.

Top tips for keeping people healthy at the desktop include:

  • provide sanitising wipes to keep desktops and working surfaces sanitised; and

also encouraging colleagues

  • to regularly sanitise hands while working for long periods at a desktop
  • if they take lunch while continuing to work, to wash their hands before touching food, and
  • to move their keyboard and mouse away so that they don’t collect crumbs!

Office equipment

In addition to the keyboard and mouse, the control buttons on regularly used office devices, such as the photocopier and printer, are also notorious germ hotspots.

These machines should be cleaned using special wipes for electrical equipment and staff encouraged to sanitise their hands after use.

Water dispensers and kitchen items

Water dispensers, drink machines, kettles and the like in small staff kitchen areas, all present potential infection hazards. Ensure that all touch zones on dispensers, machines and kitchen items, as well as kitchen worktops are regularly and appropriately sanitised.

And, of course, don’t forget to regularly clean the staff fridge with a food safe sanitiser, and encourage all dirty mugs and crockery to be washed and put away!