Workplace equipment can be 400 times dirtier than the average toilet seat, and provide an ideal environment for viruses to survive and propagate.
Microbial pathogens such as MRSA, E.Coli, Coliforms, Staphylococcus aureus, pneumonia, salmonella, norovirus and enterobacteria are abundant in workplace equipment such as keyboards and mice, these microbes can cause flu, pinkeye, diarrhoea and more serious life threatening diseases.
Microbes such as the common cold can last on computer keyboards and mice for up to 72 hours, while more dangerous microbes such as MRSA can last anywhere between 6 weeks to 7 months. This is even more worrying, when taking into account that new strains of MRSA have adapted antimicrobial resistant properties which gives them immunity to antibiotic treatments.
Roughly 80% of the population work in offices, which is why it is imperative that high standards of hygiene are maintained, as to ensure that the health and safety of those in attendance isn’t undermined.
It only takes one person carrying a microbial virus and in four hours they can infect 50% of all equipment and employees in their vicinity.
It is estimated that 80% of infections spread via contact with contaminated surfaces as opposed to coughing and sneezing.
One hundred years ago, most of us lived on a farm and went into town once a week for a couple of hours. Today, we go into buildings containing hundreds, if not thousands of people. he said We put more people in bigger facilities, so we have more opportunities for trading germs than ever before.
Cleaning hands after using the toilet can reduce contamination by 10%, yet 32% admitted to not washing their hands after using the loo and 30% said they only used water to wash their hands.
26% of us have faecal bacteria on our hands, this is further evidence that bacteria such as E.Coli can be transferred to equipment from the unclean hands of staff making equipment transfer points that can infect other employees.
Its’s imperative to enlist a specialist sanitation service such as ours, as to prevent viruses from spreading in the workplace and prevent loss of productivity and widespread absenteeism.
University of Arizona- Germs Spread Fast At Work 2013
Conducted in an office on the UA campus, the research discovered that more than half of normally contacted surface areas in the office can turn out to be contaminated by just one single person carrying the virus. Roughly 80 participants received droplets on their hands at the start of a normal work day. The majority of these kinds of droplets were plain water but one person unknowingly acquired a droplet formulated with synthetic viruses mimicking the cold, the flu and a stomach bug. Participants had been directed to carry out their day as normal. Four hours later, researchers tested frequently contacted surface areas in the workplace, as well as employees’ hands and found that more than 50 percent of surfaces and employees were infected with at least one of the synthetic viruses. Researchers swabbed surfaces and hands once again by the end of the working day. By then, the cold and flu viruses, well known for their short survival time, had dissipated, but the stomach virus had continued to spread, infecting up to 70 percent or surfaces tested. The researchers calculated that employees faced a 40 to 90 percent chance of infection with one of the three viruses. The research concluded that basic interventions, such as regularly cleaning surfaces of equipment, significantly decreased employee’s chances of contracting an infection.
University of Arizona- Germs in the Workplace 2005
In 2004 a research team lead by Dr Charles Gerba and funded by Clorox collected samples three times daily from 12 office surfaces in several locations using technology such as ultraviolet germ markers. They found that bacteria levels on office surfaces such as the keyboard and telephone were higher than bacteria found on the office toilet. Research sites consisted of offices, cubicles and common workplaces. A total of 7,000 biological materials were acquired and analysed at the University of Arizona science laboratories. The study revealed that even desks that appeared to be clean were actually lit up with microbial bacteria when examined under ultra violet. The study was the first to find that the average desk harbours 400 times more microbial viruses than a toilet seat, the telephone was found to harbour the most viruses at 25,127 microbes per square inch followed by keyboards at 3,295 microbes per square inch. The research concluded that desks are incubators for microbial viruses, and that these viruses consisted of the bad ones such as E.Coli and Streptococcus as well goods germs that are naturally found in the environment and pose no harm to human health. Food and drink spills helped to support mini eco systems of bacteria that thrive, allowing for small areas on equipment such as the phone to sustain millions of bacteria that could potentially cause illness. The study concluded that contamination was due to people eating at their desk throughout the day, and forgetting to wash their hands after using toilet room facilities while still touching equipment. It was found that people with infections transferred their germs to equipment, making the equipment germ transfer points because some viruses can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours essentially making office equipment incubators for viruses that can infect office staff.
Which? Dirty Qwerty 2008
The computer magazine turned the microscope on over 30 keyboards inside a normal London office, and discovered that some had dangerous micro-organisms that could put users at high-risk of quickly becoming ill. In one case, a microbiologist suggested removing a keyboard from the area as it contained 150 times the accepted limit of bacteria, and was 5 times filthier than a toilet seat that was swabbed. The germs were found to be able to cause food poisoning symptoms such as diarrhoea and other stomach upsets. It was concluded that one of the causes of a virus infested computer keyboard is eating lunch at desks, as crumbs promote the development of hundreds of thousands of micro-organisms. Inadequate personal cleanliness, such as not washing hands after using loo room facilities is also be to be blamed. Regardless of the apparent health hazard of an unclean keyboard, how frequently people clean their computers varies widely. 11 % said of office workers siad they never cleaned their keyboard with an additional 20 % admitting to never cleaning their mouse. 46% claimed they sanitised their keyboard less than once per month.
The cleaning product manufacturer Durable states that there are 16 million microbes on the typical office keyboard, which is more than you’re likely to find on a toilet seat. The company’s research has indicated that bacteria such as MRSA, E-coli and Salmonella are distributed in offices because of to unclean computer kit, and only 3% of offices sufficiently clean their equipment.
Swinburne University of Technology
A recent study by the Swinburne University of Technology, determined that the amount of microbial pathogens found on keyboards used by multiple people was significantly greater than those used by just one person.
Dr Hilary Jones Editor of Which? Magazine
“It is vital that we wash our hands as often as possible but it is also essential to remember that dirty office equipment such as keyboards and telephones are germ hotspots that must also be cleaned regularly,” said Jones.
“The bacteria we pick up on our way to work and during the day are not visible so we are unaware of the potential illnesses we may be at risk from.”
Dr Peter Wilson is a Consultant Microbiologist at University College London Hospitals
“If you look at what grows on computer keyboards, and hospitals are worse, believe it or not, it’s more or less a reflection of what’s in your nose and in your gut,” he said.
“Should somebody have a cold in your office, or even have gastroenteritis, you’re very likely to pick it up from a keyboard.”
Sarah Kidner Editor, Which?
“Most people don’t give much thought to the grime that builds up on their PC, but if you don’t clean your computer, you might as well eat your lunch off the toilet. Why not give your PC a spring clean? It’s quite simple to do and couple prevent your computer from becoming a health hazard.”
Dr Charles Gerba, Professor of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, University of Arizona
“For bacteria, a desk is really the laptop of luxury, they can feast all day from breakfast to lunch and even dinner.”
“We don’t think twice about eating at our desks, even though the average desk has 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet”
“Nobody ever cleans a desktop until they start sticking to it, from what we’ve found, a lot of people eat and slop on their desks all the time so it basically turns into a bacteria cafeteria during the day, and that’s one of the reasons you get a lot on your desktops.”
Sally Bloomfield, Professor Department of Pharmacy, Kings College London
“Without cleaning, a small area on your desk or phone can sustain millions of bacteria that could potentially cause illness.”
“We carry germs with us, whatever we do we are spreading them.”
“The superhighways for bacteria are our hands and the surfaces we touch”
Cost of Absenteeism
According to the absence and workplace health survey conducted by the Confederation of British Industry in 2012.
The direct costs of absence amounted to over £14 billion across the economy in 2012.
The average total cost per employee in 2012 was £972, The median total varies, with a median cost per absent employee of £533 in small and medium businesses compared to £650 in large organisations.
70% of absence from the workplace is short term, 95% of non manual workers cited minor illnesses such as colds, cough and flu as the reason for their absence.
Minor illnesses such as cold, cough and flu have been found to be intrinsically linked to the hygiene and prevalence of microbial viruses in the office.
Long term absence accounted for a third of lost working time costing the UK economy £4 billion per year. 54% of non manual employees cited Stress, anxiety and depression are leading causes of long term absence.
Dirty workplace equipment has been found to be a contributing factor to stress and anxiety related symptoms in employees.
On average, 80 percent of people say they will go to work sick, and when they do, they not only spread germs to others but can cost a company about £280 in lost productivity Gerba said.
The typical office worker’s hands come in contact with 10 million bacteria per day. Each time an office worker makes a phone call, they can be potentially coming into contact with 25,127 microbes, making the telephone the most hygienic piece of workplace equipment.
According to Which? 20 percent of office workers never clean their desk before eating, while 75 percent of workers wipe down occasionally yet the typical desk is 100 times less hygienic than the average kitchen table. One in ten people (11%) said they never cleaned their keyboard with a further 20 % admitting to never cleaning their mouse. Almost half (46%) cleaned their keyboard less than once a month.
When someone comes to work sick, about half of the commonly touched surfaces in the office will become infected with the virus by lunchtime, according to a new study at UA.