Cleaning experts have warned traditional cleaning methods may not be enough to keep offices germ and virus free when people return to work as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
The average desk has 400 times more germs on it than a toilet seat1 and cleaning and disinfection only lasts as long as it takes for the next person to come along and touch the surface, according to Gerard Murtagh of sanitising company Silix.
“Sick co-workers can spread a virus to 50 per cent of workplace surfaces within four hours of arriving at work,” he said.2
“An adult in a workplace can unknowingly touch as many as 30 objects in a day which may have bacteria or viruses on them.”3
Mr Murtagh said people were being lulled into a false sense of security about how effective new post COVID-19 cleaning regimes were.
“Most offices are cleaned at the end of the day so they are fine in the morning, but by lunch time when things have been touched, handled and breathed on by workers for hours on end, germs start to build up again quickly,” he said.
“You’d be surprised at how quickly germs can multiply. Only one in four people wash their hands after using the bathroom, so it’s a sad fact you can’t be too confident about the personal hygiene of all of your work colleagues.”
Mr Murtagh said workers would be surprised to learn what areas of the office harboured the most germs and employers had a legal requirement to make a workspace safe.
“People automatically think it is the toilet or the toilet door, but you come in touch with plenty more germs in other less obvious locations,” he said.
Where The Hidden Germs Are In Your Office
They are handled and breathed on by people all day long. Mobile phones are often taken into and used in the toilet.
- KEYBOARD AND MOUSE
When was the last time you cleaned your mouse or keyboard? They are handled constantly but hardly ever cleaned.
Photocopiers spread germs from one hand to another at the touch of a button.
- KITCHEN APPLIANCES
The office kettle, handle of the fridge and microwave are quickly covered in germs from the numerous hands which touch them every day.
- TELEVISION REMOTE CONTROL
TV remote controls can be disgusting, as they are frequently handled but not often cleaned.
- DOORKNOBS, LIGHT SWITCHES, RAILING AND LIFT BUTTONS
These are high touch points by not only staff but visitors to your office.
- SIGN IN SHEETS AND PENS
Do your visitors have to sign in? Is the pen and pad disinfected after every use?
Even opening or closing the blinds every day can spread germs from hands throughout the office.
- CONFERENCE ROOM TELEPHONES
Leaning in to speak on the conference room speaker and touching that keypad is a good way to spread germs around the office.
“All of these things can be in high use every day, so it doesn’t matter if the cleaner comes in every night, the number of bacteria and germs can quickly build up when the staff return to the office,” Mr Murtagh said.
Mr Murtagh said the only way to ensure workers were completely safe when they returned to work was to ensure cleaners used products which formed a protective barrier which was long lasting.
“We use a product called Zoono, which as well as killing viruses on initial impact, forms a barrier which continues to kill viruses on contact for up to 30 days,” he said.
“With this type of product, you can still carry out normal cleaning and wiping and it doesn’t remove the protective barrier.”
Safe Work Australia — www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au — provides information and ways in which workplaces can minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19.