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Can Your Office Make You Sick? 5 Preventable Diseases Lurking in Commercial Offices

How often does office cleaning occur at your commercial venue? If it’s less than once per day, you could be in trouble. Office surfaces can be contaminated with nasty bacteria that if you knew were there you would never touch. 

Did you know that keyboards harbour more bacteria than toilet seats? This sounds awful right! In the absence of proper workplace hygiene, bacteria can easily multiply and potentially lead to illnesses and infections. This can result in lost productivity and potential profit losses. It’s important to get a handle on office hygiene and to know what to look out for. Here are five of the most common preventable diseases that lurk in a commercial office.

Viral Influenza

Viral influenza is a contagious respiratory disease and as the name suggests, it’s caused by a virus. It can infect the nose, the throat and if left untreated, it can eventually reach the lungs. Depending on a person’s medical condition and age, viral influenza can cause anywhere from mild to quite severe symptoms.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cleaning is one of the most important prerequisites for stopping the spread of viral influenza.

Proper office hygiene should include the following practices:

  • Cleaning surfaces with products containing chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol or an iodine-based antiseptic
  • Periodic wiping down of doorknobs, light switches, phones, buttons and other surfaces touched by numerous people
  • Frequent hand washing at the office
  • Thermal processing – the virus is killed by temperatures above 75 degrees Celsius

The influenza virus can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours, which is why commercial cleaning needs to happen on a daily basis.

 

Coronavirus (COVID- 19)

Nearly the entire world is in some form of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 has paralysed societies, halted work and it has killed thousands of people already.

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Other symptoms that are less common and may affect some patients include aches and pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discolouration of fingers or toes. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but only have very mild symptoms.

Just like the influenza virus, the coronavirus spreads from person to person and it can survive on surfaces over the course of days.  It’s still not certain how long the virus can work on metal, plastic, wood and other materials. Research, however, suggests that the virus is a lot more resilient than originally believed.

The Australian Government Department of Health recommends stellar hygienic measures as one of the biggest essentials for preventing the spread of the virus.

Measures to Prevent the Spread of Viruses include:

For Office Premises

FOLLOWING SUSPECTED OR CONFIRMED CASES ROUTINE CLEANING
OFFICE Any item  Method  Frequently touched items  Infrequently touched items  Method 
Kitchen appliances (toasters, kettles, sandwich presses, ovens) Disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent + Disinfectant Clean at least daily Clean weekly Refer to manufacturer’s
recommendations. Isopropyl alcohol-based wipes/sprays. Detergent
Microwave Disinfect as soon as you become aware Disinfectant on outside surfaces only. Clean frequently touched points on microwave daily Clean daily Refer to manufacturer’s recommendations. Detergent
Shelves (and items on shelves) Disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent + Disinfectant Clean weekly Clean weekly Detergent
Sink (hand washing & kitchen) Disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent. Disinfectant around sink only Clean at least daily Clean daily Detergent
Tables/desks Disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent + Disinfectant Clean at least daily Clean weekly Detergent
Telephone Disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent + Disinfectant Damp dust Clean at least daily & more regularly if shared by multiple users Clean weekly Detergent
Toilet Disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent + Disinfectant Clean at least daily Clean weekly Detergent + Disinfectant
Toilet doors and locks Disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent + Disinfectant Clean at least daily Clean weekly Detergent + Disinfectant
Walls Disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent + Disinfectant Spot clean touched walls daily & full clean yearly Spot clean weekly & full clean yearly Damp dust + Detergent
Windows Disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent + Disinfectant Spot clean touched windows daily Clean weekly Detergent
Window frames (sliding servery window types) Clean & disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent + Disinfectant Clean at least daily Clean weekly Detergent
Electrical equipment Clean and disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent + Disinfectant Clean at least daily or between users if shared Clean weekly Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations
Electronic equipment E.g. Ipads, tablets, laptops exterior of computer case and monitors Clean and disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent + Disinfectant Clean at least daily or between users if shared Clean weekly Refer to manufacturer’s recommendations. If none, use isopropyl alcohol-based preparations with non-electrostatic wipes suitable for electronic equipment
Touch screens e.g. information screens in buildings Disinfect as soon as you become aware Detergent + Disinfectant on wipeable covers Isopropyl alcohol-based wipes/sprays Clean at least daily Clean weekly Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations Isopropyl alcohol-based wipes/sprays

For Retail Premises

FOLLOWING SUSPECTED OR CONFIRMED CASES ROUTINE CLEANING
RETAIL Any item  Method  Frequently touched items  Infrequently touched items  Method 
Cash registers  Disinfect as soon as you become aware  Detergent + Disinfectant 

Isopropyl alcohol-based wipes/sprays 

Clean after each shift  Clean weekly  Detergent + Isopropyl
alcohol-based
wipes/sprays
EFTPOS machines  Disinfect as soon as you become aware  Isopropyl alcohol-based wipes/sprays  Clean after each use (if practicable)  Clean weekly  Isopropyl alcohol-based wipes/sprays 
Trollies & Hand-held baskets  Disinfect as soon as you become aware  Detergent + Disinfectant  Clean after each use  Clean after each use  Detergent 

Isopropyl alcohol-based wipes 

Hand-held cash register scanners  Disinfect as soon as you become aware  Isopropyl alcohol-based wipes/sprays  Clean after each use (if practicable)  Clean weekly  Isopropyl alcohol-based 

Proper office cleaning is also needed to counter the spread of the virus, especially if the company cannot adopt a remote work model at the time of the pandemic.

 

Gastroenteritis

Commonly called stomach flu, gastroenteritis can also lurk at the office when ideal hygiene isn’t being maintained.

Gastroenteritis caused by a virus. It’s highly contagious and can easily spread from one person to another. Someone who doesn’t wash their hands before touching common surfaces at the office will easily pass on the disease to colleagues.

Stomach flu is caused by two types of viruses – norovirus and rotavirus. The norovirus can survive on surfaces and objects for months! Proper disinfection with a bleach solution or alcohol is needed on a daily basis, especially if someone is exhibiting the common symptoms of the condition.

 

Staph Infections

Research suggests that Staphylococcus aureus is one of the bacteria commonly found at offices and commercial venues.

This bacterium is classified as the most dangerous out of all staphylococcal bacteria. It causes the so-called staph infection that is typically affecting the skin. In some individuals, however, a staph infection can quickly progress to something much more serious like pneumonia.

Staph bacteria are spread through direct contact with an infected person. Usually, the bacteria affects the skin but it can also enter the bloodstream and reach some vital organs. Keep in mind that some strains of staph bacteria have become antibiotic-resistant, making the treatment of such conditions difficult.

Again, perfect office hygiene is the biggest prerequisite for preventing staph infections.  People who have a staph infection should not handle food and they should get in the habit of wiping/disinfecting the surfaces that they touch.

 

Helicobacter Pylori Infections

H. pylori is another nasty bacterium that can cause persistent stomach inflammation, gastritis and other gastrointestinal tract problems. This microorganism is frequently found on office surfaces, especially when stellar office hygiene isn’t being maintained on a daily basis. Keep in mind that a prolonged H. pylori infection has been known to increase the risk of developing colon cancer.

What’s even trickier is the fact that only 20 per cent of the individuals infected with Helicobacter pylori will develop gastritis symptoms or signs of GI distress. Hence, it’s almost impossible to know whether someone at the office is a carrier.

According to research, H. pylori can survive a few hours outside the acidic environment in the stomach. Obviously, this is enough time for someone who touches a contaminated surface to get infected.

 

Proper Office Cleaning – An Essential to Prevent Health Outbreaks 

Professional office cleaning using the right tools and supplies is imperative to prevent the spread of diseases.

The five mentioned above aren’t the only communicable infections a person can acquire at their workplace. E-coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa (an opportunistic bacterium that can cause a vast range of symptoms), actinomycetales (a group of bacteria that can cause pneumonia), salmonella Clostridium difficile (a tough little environment that can survive in environments other microorganisms cannot tolerate) have also been discovered in samples taken from office surfaces.

There are two essentials commercial venue owners need to focus on in order to prevent the spread of diseases.

Hiring the right commercial cleaning crew that can offer disinfection and hygienic practices that follow the highest standards is the first prerequisite.

It’s also crucial for educational and awareness campaigns to be launched among employees. People should get in the habit of frequent hand washing, as well as the sanitisation of their desks. Such simple changes will contribute to a significant reduction in the bacterial/viral load that could potentially be making people sick.