A nsumber of studies have drawn a clear relationship between cleanliness (sanitizing) and occupant health, absenteeism and productivity. Much of the findings prioritize “touch points”, meaning surfaces touched by your hands. The findings carry the message that the primary spread of contamination is by hand contact with building surfaces. This applies to rooms and more specifically, those pouch point surfaces found in those rooms.
It goes without saying that our restrooms are a natural top priority when thinking about controlling the spread of germs. We give special attention to these areas, using special cloths, separate water, mops and often different equipment. We have a sharp focus on any restroom fixture or surface we might touch. But, are we really controlling the spread of germs because of our myopic attention to restroom cleaning?
Many are suggesting the focus on restrooms is much too narrow a view. The issue is not simply about sanitized restroom fixtures and surfaces; what about all the other building items and surfaces that we touch? A study of bacteria levels on ships (link to this study?), for example, shows that handrails exhibited the highest level of contamination of any other surface on a cruise ship. It turns out that we also have handrails in our buildings exhibiting correspondingly high contamination levels. Indeed there are the “Dirty Dozen” areas that represent the highest levels of touch point contamination.
Yes, restrooms are a big source of nasty germs, bacteria and more; no surprise. And, it’s the reason why so much attention has been directed to the cleaning of these spaces.
Where we find food, we find a natural breading ground for the growth of germs of all kinds. Outbreaks of salmonella, e-coli and other digestive risks are always present. Sanitizing tables, chairs and other touch points are often an unrecognized priority in dining areas.
Like dinning rooms, break rooms are a great breading area for bacterial growth. There are food residue levels, even on “cleaned” tables, a natural platform for contamination.
Think about all the surfaces we touch when making copies. And, think about the number of other people who have also come in contact with those surfaces.
Meetings, meetings, meetings – all at the same table, using the same chairs, light switches and doors. We touch all these surfaces and they become a reservoir for the growth of contaminants that can affect everyone.
Ok, time for a break – at the water cooler. As we stand around this community communications device, we touch everything: the wall, the cooler handle, the bottle and each other. Yes, touching is the way to spread bacteria; and, the water cooler is an unsuspecting hot spot.
Short on cash (and contamination exposure), go to the ATM machine. Like the water cooler, we touch a lot of surfaces on, and around, the ATM machine.
“Hello, my name is….” Perhaps the first thing we touch when entering a building is the door and it seems like some other folks had the same idea. Then we may walk up to the security/reception desk and touch the counter, the sign in pen and perhaps the phone. Lucky us, more touch points to pick up whatever is growing on those surfaces.
There’s not much to touch on an elevator; just two buttons. And, everyone will touch those buttons, unless we can get someone to do it for us.
Lucky us; there’s only one surface for us to touch. Like everyone else, we hold onto the moving hand rail. If we’re lucky, we’ll miss the exact spot that all those other folks touched; or, maybe not.
Here’s a trick question: “how do you enter a room without touching the door knob?” I don’t know; get a passer-by to open it for you? Any room with a door and light switch is a potential contamination surface.
Well, we had to come full circle; stair railings are a contamination issue, even in our buildings.
The answer to reducing the contamination risk from the Dirty Dozen surfaces lies in how we police and spot clean our buildings. Night shift, Day shift and the policing staff can focus on reducing contamination levels by on-going spot sanitizing on these surfaces. We could do it by adding toxic chemicals to these areas, or we could sanitize without chemicals. My vote is for a chemical free cleaning strategy using ionized, electrolyzed, liquid ozone, UV light or any number of toxic-free, chemical-free alternatives.
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