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Scrub Up!

Chrissie Rowlinson, product marketing manager at Cannon Hygiene UK, explains why having the proper facilities to encourage effective washroom hygiene can reduce absence rates and impact productivity

The second biggest cause of absenteeism in the workplace is minor illnesses such as common colds and sickness. These are often picked up by the hand-to-surface transmission of germs. With this in mind, the washroom has a significant part to play in reducing the presence of unwelcome bacteria in any building. Reducing germs and bacteria and minimising the potential for cross-contamination can have a direct impact on productivity.

Without knowing it, hand-washing facilities that aren’t fit for purpose can significantly impact on business operations in all sectors, especially those that come under intense scrutiny from regulatory bodies, such as food, hospitality and healthcare.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 131 million working days were lost due to sickness absences in 2013; 27 million of which were lost to minor illnesses and common infections, such as coughs and colds. This undoubtedly has a substantial effect both on business productivity and revenue.

As such, hygiene has become an increasingly important consideration for businesses, in particular those who work in open-plan offices, where germs can move more freely. In addition to helping to drive down absence rates caused by the presence of germs, routine hygiene – and washrooms that help to ensure cleanliness – can create a positive environment for staff and customers.

Washroom facilities need to be designed not only to adhere to legislation, but also to serve employees and customers in the best way possible.

The 1992 Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations explain that sanitary conveniences must be provided at readily accessible places, be adequately ventilated and lit, and kept in a clean and orderly condition.

There must be a minimum number of washbasins and toilet facilities in a workplace according to these legal requirements, with volumes differing to reflect the size of a business.

For many businesses, having a washroom that meets these standards is a given. However, companies should consider every aspect of the workplace environment to go above and beyond to create a space that encourages good hygiene to thrive.

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Providing basic washroom facilities alone is not enough. Employers should ensure their workers are fully educated on the implications of poor hygiene practices, to avoid the negative effects of cross-contamination that inadequate hand hygiene can have on the day-to-day running of a company.

A global survey recently found that one in three people don’t automatically wash their hands with soap and water after using the toilet. To stop the resulting spread of germs, businesses could tackle this issue by implementing a stringent hand hygiene policy. And those who do wash their hands may not be doing it effectively.

One way to do this is by placing signs in washrooms close to soap dispensers and sinks to remind staff to wash their hands and also instruct them how to wash effectively. For health and hospitality sectors in particular, where incorrect hygiene practices can significantly affect customer perceptions and their health, this is imperative.

The World Health Organisation recommends a 12-step method for cleaning hands thoroughly in order to protect against infection. Hand-washing guides are readily available online and should be displayed in washrooms where possible to ensure it is being done correctly. The aim is for staff and customers to take the advice on board and wash their hands correctly without thinking twice.

About Sarah OBeirne

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