Workplaces 'crawling with bacteria', study finds

22nd of June 2012
Workplaces 'crawling with bacteria', study finds

If you think the washroom is the epicentre of workplace germs, you'd be wrong because it's office break rooms and kitchens that are often crawling with bacteria. That's according to a study carried out by Kimberly-Clark Professional (KCP).

The place where US workers eat and prepare their lunch topped the list of office germ 'hot spots', with tap and microwave door handles found to be the dirtiest surfaces touched by office workers on a daily basis.

Hygienists from KCP's Health Workplace Project collected almost 5,000 individual swabs from office buildings housing more than 3,000 employees. The participating office buildings represented a broad cross-section of office types including manufacturing facilities, law firms, insurance companies, healthcare companies and call centres.

According to the study, which was carried out in consultation with Dr Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, the percentage of the office surfaces tested and found to have high levels of contamination (an ATP count of 300 or higher), includes:

75 per cent of break room sink tap handles
48 per cent of microwave door handles
27 per cent of keyboards
26 per cent of refrigerator door handles
23 per cent of water fountain buttons
21 per cent of vending machine buttons.

Not only that, half of all computer mice and desk phones were found to have ATP levels above 100, suggesting that while people appear to be taking more responsibility for the cleanliness of their personal spaces, there is still a need for increased awareness of the importance of hand and surface hygiene in the office.

"People are aware of the risk of germs in the restroom, but areas like break rooms have not received the same degree of attention," said Dr Gerba. "This study demonstrates that contamination can be spread throughout the workplace when office workers heat up lunch, make coffee or simply type on their keyboards."

For more information about the Healthy Workplace Project visit: www.healthyworkplaceproject.com

 

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