Why North Carolina employers should keep workspaces clean

When North Carolina workers think about workplace illnesses, exposure to toxic material or asbestos may cross their minds. They may not be aware that dangers lurk in their unsanitary office space, too. From dirty sink faucets to vending machine buttons, there are chances these may also lead to a serious workplace disease.

Recent research from a paper product and cleaning solutions company revealed that office workers come into contact with contaminated surfaces every day. The company measured levels of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule present in living organisms, to indicate the elevated levels of contamination in a space. A level of 300 or higher meant a high level of disease transmission.

The company collected around 5,000 swabs in total from law firms, insurance companies, manufacturing facilities, health care businesses and insurance companies. The company found 75 percent of break room sink handles had a level higher than 300 ATP and 48 percent of microwave door handles had ATP levels of at least 300.

At least 20 percent of water fountain and vending machine buttons, keyboards and refrigerator doors also had high counts of ATP.

Workers can remove debris and grime by routinely and rigorously washing their hands. The best times to wash hands are when an employee reaches the office, shakes hands with someone and before eating. An employee can also sanitize his or her workspace with a disinfectant. In addition to this, placing disinfectant wipes and sanitizers in the view of other employees may encourage more people to contribute to a more sanitary workplace.

According to one hospital’s chief of infectious diseases, enforcing a regimented cleaning schedule for the office may seem extreme but it is advantageous in the long run. A schedule pinpointing the public areas that should be wiped down a few times a day may increase workers’ awareness.

Despite all these precautions, it is still possible for North Carolina employees to contract an illness in the workplace and they may require medical attention to recover. Depending on the illness, a workers’ compensation claim may provide financial compensation for medical expenses and lost wages.

Source: US News Money, “How dirty is your office?” Jessica Harper, June 7, 2012

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