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It's a dirty business


Initial Washroom Hygiene, today revealed research which lifts the lid on the grimy state of Britain’s office kitchens.

Swab testing of a sample of communal workplace kitchens showed that 75% of work surfaces were home to more bacteria than an average feminine sanitary bin. Half also harboured dangerously high levels of coliforms, bacteria present in faeces, which can lead to outbreaks of gastrointestinal disease. Over a quarter of the draining boards tested registered more than four times the level of coliforms considered to be safe.

workplace kitchen hygiene

The handles of shared fridge-freezers were also shown to be bacteria-rife, with a third carrying high levels of coliforms, whilst 30% of shared microwaves were also shown to be contaminated around the handles and buttons.

Tea drinkers were no more hygienic, with over 40% of kettle handles found to be carrying high levels of bacteria, and significantly exceeding the bacteria levels on toilet doors. Also, tested were cupboard, dishwasher and waste bin handles, with the cleanest appliance in the kitchen proving to be the water cooler.

Initial believes that the lack of hand washing equipment in office kitchens is making surfaces and appliances less hygienic, and could also be making workers more prone to illness. Only one kitchen within the study had an adequate towel dispenser and the majority were even missing tea towels. Also, few kitchens had soap or a hand sanitizer dispenser and surface sanitising wipes weren’t available anywhere.

Dr Peter Barratt, Technical Manager at Initial Hygiene, comments: “Shared office kitchens can be very busy areas with a heavy footfall, making this space a potential hazard for cross-contamination when good hygiene practices and hand washing aren’t encouraged. As workers prepare their lunches on the kitchen surfaces, it’s vital to ensure these surfaces are sanitised on a regular basis and that, as a minimum, paper towel dispensers, soap, and hand or surface sanitisers are available to mitigate the risks. Regular hand washing with soap and water has been proven to reduce the risk of the spreading of pathogens, and will help to ensure the workforce remains fit and healthy. Employees also tend to appreciate that their employers are looking after their wellbeing”.

Hand hygiene is a crucial part of preventing illness, and Initial recommends regularly cleaning both hands and work stations with antibacterial wipes or gel to prevent against cross-contamination. Initial’s UltraProtect range of sanitising products offers the most effective protection available against cross-contamination of harmful bacteria. The products (a gel hand sanitiser, foam hand sanitiser, hand and surface wipes) kill germs by destroying their cellular structure and forming an invisible barrier against a wide range of bacteria and viruses. Unlike other sanitisers, they provide continuous protection against recolonisation for up to six hours on hands and 24 hours on hard surfaces.