Why we need to fear hand germs

Workplace germs are truly scary things that are haunting our daily lives whether we realise it or not. Passed on mostly through our hands, these horrors can bring us colds and flu and potentially norovirus, campylobacter, E.Coli and other debilitating illnesses.

Handwashing was discovered as the answer to preventing these nasties from spreading around 150 years ago, when a Hungarian physician found that the use of soap and water to thoroughly clean hands could stop bugs from being passed on.

More recent research has shown that effective handwashing can reduce colds and respiratory illnesses by 16-21% and diarrhoea by 31%.

Unfortunately the message doesn’t seem to have hit home. A study of 100,000 people, earlier in 2015, found that 62% of men and 40% of women are not washing their hands after using the toilet.

The very unpleasant truth is that when we don’t wash our hands after the toilet we are effectively transporting faecal matter from our hands onto our food, to other people, to door handles and work equipment. A single gram of human faeces contains one trillion germs which means a jaw dropping number of bacteria can make their way from one person to another, in these ways, extremely quickly.

It is claimed that a virus can spread through an office in two to four hours, infecting 40-60% of worker and visitors in that time.

Employers who don’t want to see their employees off sick for days at a time, or lose weeks of productivity, need to promote handwashing as essential practice. There is a clear cost benefit to this, as sickness absence currently costs around £495 per person per year.

There are a few things employers can do to help ingrain a culture of clean hands at work. These include posters in washrooms reminding people to wash their hands, or even simple diagrams showing them how to do this properly.

In terms of what we need to do, the advice is to wash our hands with soap and water for around 15 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, before drying them.

Keeping the washroom welcoming, well lit and fully stocked with regularly cleaned basins, soap dispensers and paper towels is also essential.

Full details on 2Work washroom products can be found on the website helping you combat these easily transmitted germs