A virus is an infectious microscopic parasite, that cannot replicate outside a host. It requires a living organism to reproduce and function. It is somewhat different from bacteria in that, bacteria are single-celled living organisms that can exist and function in various environments, with or without a living host. Unlike viruses, bacteria can exist independently of a living organism and can be found in various places such as at the bottom of the ocean, in the soil, or even in humans. They exist all around us and can survive even the most extreme conditions.
Both viruses and bacteria are microscopic and therefore cannot be seen with the naked human eye, yet they exist all around us. These germs can be found in various parts of our home or workplace, a lot of which are pathogenic. The onus is then on each of us to ensure we keep our environment germ free especially at a time such as this when the world is facing a pandemic.
The rapid widespread of coronavirus has heightened people’s awareness of hygiene and the importance of keeping a clean environment. Washing of hands and disposing of tissue immediately after use are a few safety precautions that have been reiterated by medical experts and the World Health Organization. These simple measures can go a long way in preventing not only the spread of Coronavirus but also other pathogenic bacteria lurking around that you might be unaware of.
The office or workplace is home to more germs and bacteria than most people are aware of. It takes just a few hours for a virus to infect an entire office. This is because, in a workplace, there are a lot of shared surfaces multiple persons touch and use that can easily get contaminated. This means the more frequently a surface (door handles, desktop, computer keyboard, fridge handle) is used, the higher the chance of it being contaminated. Viruses and bacteria don’t move on their own; they are transported from surface to surface by individuals. These germs spread rapidly and are usually the probable cause of transmittable diseases, flu, and other bacterial infections.
Food poisoning, Listeria, Staphylococcus, Norovirus, and gastrointestinal sickness are just a few of the different bacteria and viruses that can be gotten at the office place. A viral or bacterial infection poses health hazards, some with consequences more severe than others. Most of these bacterial infections are contagious and just one employee can infect the whole office. This and more is what makes cleaning and removal of viruses and bacteria highly essential.
The enclosed environment of most workplaces does very little to reduce the spread of germs in the office. In contrast, people working in close proximity are more likely to transmit and get infected with air-borne germs and viruses. Here are a few ways to clean and remove viruses and bacteria.
1. Wash Your Hands: The human hand is solely responsible for the spread of 80% of transmittable infections and diseases. Every day simple activities like touching surfaces or moving objects are usually done by our hands. This makes it very easy to transmit germs from one surface to another unknowingly.
Hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways of removing viruses and bacteria in your environment. All it takes is 20 seconds of washing your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap under running water. A lot of germs and bacteria can be gotten rid of by washing your hands regularly.
People coming from outside should have a place to wash their hands just before they step into the office. This can greatly help in virus and bacterial control in the office. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used in situations where handwashing might not feasible. For maximum effectiveness, the hand sanitizer must be at least 60% alcohol.
2. Disinfect Desk Surfaces: The average working desk surface is home to thousands of parasitic microbes. Typical desk items such as the telephone, pen and pen holder, mug, and so on harbor more germs than you are aware of. These surfaces are used frequently and most often by other individuals also.
People don’t usually realize how contaminated these surfaces are and might not be as careful about keeping it clean as they would other conventional dirty areas. A recent US study discovered that on average the most contaminated item on a desk is the phone This accounts for the reason some desk surfaces contain more germs than the loo. Getting rid of viruses and bacteria would require constant cleaning and disinfecting the work-desk area. You could get antimicrobial wipes that can be used to clean the desktop surface, keyboard, computer, and phone receiver frequently.
If you eat at your desk, ensure your hands are thoroughly washed or sanitized before eating. Be mindful of your keyboard while eating and avoid spilling or leaving food crumbs on it. Clean up immediately after your meal and bin package food before disposal. Open foods are a breeding ground for more germs.
If you are in the habit of chewing your pen, now might be a good time to stop. Especially when you aren’t 100% certain where that pen has been. It could have been on the ground or left on a contaminated surface and you’ll be ingesting germs and bacteria without a single clue. Wipe a borrowed pen clean before returning to the owner and keep yours clean also. By keeping your work station tidy and neat, you can remove pathogenic bacteria and viruses in your environment.
3. Be Wary of Germs Hot Spots: Germs hot spot refers to places in the office that are used most frequently and thus have the highest likelihood of being contaminated. They include door handles, hot desk keyboard and mouse, office fridge, photocopier, and so on. These are places and surfaces that everyone uses and might not be cleaned as regularly as they ought to.
Door handles, especially that of the loo, is a primary germ hot spot. A lot of viruses and bacteria are transferred to the door handle by people going in or coming out of the toilet without washing their hands. Other unsuspecting people pick up these bacteria and transfer them to another surface in the office like the photocopier. Because these surfaces are bound to be used every day by multiple people, keeping them clean and bacteria-free is imperative to maintaining a healthy office environment.
Wash your hands after each use of the toilet and try not to touch the door handle. You can use a tissue of your elbow instead. Be sure to use an antibacterial gel before going back to work. Avoid eating hand-held foods immediately after using the photocopier, sanitize your hands first. At the end of each day’s activities, the photocopier machine should be wiped clean with antimicrobial wipes to remove all germs. If each person in the office could adhere to these guidelines, a lot of viruses and bacteria would be removed from the office environment.
4. Clean The Fridge Regularly: The office fridge is another shared space that viruses and bacteria could easily be found in. Spoilt or rotten food is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and if left in a fridge that isn’t functioning properly, can easily contaminate other open foods.
Foods that are expired should not be left in the fridge and ready to eat foods like salad should be kept separately from raw foods. At the end of each week, the fridge should be emptied, disinfected, and cleaned. This will help get rid of any bacteria or mold that might be hiding behind. Avoid eating foods that are already past their use date and don’t leave them in the fridge either.
It is important to note that once you open a packaged food, it can get bad earlier than its initial expiry date. Since it is a shared fridge, preferably store your food in a sealed plastic container to avoid any form of contamination. This can be applied to other shared office appliances like the coffee pot, microwave oven, and even the vending machine buttons.
5. Avoid Crowded Places: People working in enclosed or crowded spaces have a higher risk of getting infected by bacteria or viruses. This is why it is easy to get the flu once someone in your workplace catches it. Airborne germs and microbes contaminate the air and this poses a higher risk especially when one of the workers is ill. A shared environment means shared air which allows the microbes to spread to other people.
Crowded places also increase the chances of body contact which is another way germs and bacteria can get transmitted. Sick or infected people can easily infect those in close proximity to them either through touch with other shared surfaces around them, body contact or sneezing, and coughing which contaminates the air. Unfortunately, air conditioning systems that circulate indoor air, do little to abate the situation. This is particularly true for buildings whose air conditioning systems are not properly maintained or serviced.
It is best to steer clear of crowded or enclosed places especially if someone there is sick. Social distancing is a major phrase in common use now all around the world because it highlights the need for people to main a safe distance from each other to avoid infecting or getting infected. There should be no overcrowding in work areas to reduce the spread of the virus. Workplaces should also ensure proper maintenance of HVAC systems that allows for proper air filtration. The use of humidifiers is also encouraged to limit the circulation of contaminated air.
6. Stay home if Unhealthy: Viruses require a living host and can only get transmitted when an infected person contaminates shared surfaces, hot spot areas, or the indoor air. This means that most bacteria and viruses are typically transmitted through humans. The more workers that touch these contaminated surfaces, the higher the probability of them getting infected and spreading the virus to other areas in the office.
This all starts with a single infected person. If you are ill and you still go to work, you are putting everyone at work at risk of getting an infection. One of the best ways to prevent any spread of viruses or bacteria at work is by staying at home when sick. To combat the current pandemic, a lot of employees have been forced to work from home. While this applies to a lot of individuals, it is most necessary for those who are ill.
7. Avoid Touching Your Face: Germs and viruses move around through humans, particularly through human hands. We use these hands for several things and place them on different surfaces, one of which is our face. In one hour, average office workers place their hands on their face about 18 times. Those same hands have touched other surfaces previously, the door handle, the teapot handle, desk surface, the photocopier, and so on. Each of these places is a potential hotspot for germs and bacteria.
These germs are microscopic and can’t be seen with the naked eye, so it’s easy to think your hands are clean and touch your face with them. Viruses and bacteria on the hand still need to somehow enter the body to get you infected and the main way this occurs is when you touch your face. This is frequent washing of hands is highly recommended and that you avoid touching your face. This would require a conscious effort as touching your face can sometimes be reflex. Just remember, your hand touches a lot of contaminated surfaces which in turn contaminate your hands. If you don’t wash them regularly and thoroughly, the germs and viruses remain on your hand.
Using that same hand to touch your face is an invitation to the viruses and bacteria into your body system. This is how people fall ill with flu or other common infections. It is also the same principle by which people get infected with Coronavirus. The best solution is to keep your hands clean as often as possible either by washing or sanitizing and as much as you can, avoid placing your hands on your face. The fewer people that are ill in the office, the fewer viruses and bacteria there are.
8. Other Safety Measures: The novel virus that the world is currently battling, has changed the way we view health and safety in our immediate environment. A lot of awareness has been made on how to keep your environment clean and void of germs and bacteria. One of such is through the use of face masks when going to public places. A workplace is a public place so it is advisable to have one on. This protects you from any virus or germ that might be in the air.
When tissue paper isn’t available, coughing or sneezing should be done into the crook of your elbow. This helps to keep your hands clean. Used tissue paper should be disposed of immediately and hands should be sanitized afterward. Each individual in the office should preferably have a personal hand sanitizer or anti-microbial hand gel that can be used in situations where washing of hands is unavailable.
Cleaning tools used in maintaining the hygiene of the office should be disinfected after every use to ensure maximum health precautions. These safety measures, no matter how burdensome they may seem, are integral to removing viruses and bacteria from our immediate environment. It ensures not only safety but the safety of those around you.
9. Educate Others: Despite the contrary opinion of others, taking cleaning and removal of germs and viruses seriously doesn’t automatically make you a “Germaphobe”. A lot of these germs and viruses can make you sick. Unfortunately, one person alone cannot achieve all this. Cleaning and removing viruses and bacteria requires a collective effort of everyone in the office.
It is then imperative that your co-workers be enlightened on just how dirty and contaminated a workplace can be without proper cleaning. The more people know about the health hazards of a contaminated area, the easier it becomes to clean and remove viruses and bacteria in the environment.
Keeping the workplace clean is the responsibility of every employee. The office is a shared environment and so the input of everyone is necessary for keeping it virus and bacteria-free. If each worker decides to be intentional about keeping the office clean by following the ways highlighted in this article, your office environment would become a safer and healthier place to work in.
Most viruses and bacteria, pose threats to human health. Because they are microscopic, it is easy to fall under the illusion that they do not exist, but they do. Hand hygiene is one of the most cost-effective ways of controlling bacterial infection in the workplace. The importance of thoroughly washing your hands cannot be overemphasized. The workplace is a shared environment which means multiple people would touch and use the same surfaces as you do. A lot of these surfaces are hot spots for germs and viruses, so the more employees use those surfaces, the higher the probability of it being contaminated. Keeping the workplace clean and free of germs is the responsibility of every employee. Those ill should stay at home and those at the office should practice the steps mentioned in this article. This pandemic time requires every one of us to stay safe and be on high alert.