Keeping your workplace clean and free from unsightly clutter is an important part of good management. Health hazards can quickly establish themselves in poorly maintained and unhygienic environments and you, and your employees, risk infection or contamination if you do not pay attention to best practice recommendations, whether in an office, on a building site or in a retail environment.
Poor workplace hygiene causes health and safety problems, particularly if attention is not paid to appropriate waste management and to keeping washrooms and kitchen areas spotlessly clean. In fact, employers are legally bound by the Health and Safety Act 1974 to ensure that their employees are looked after and that their safety and health is protected, as far as is reasonable and practical.
Know the requirements for workplace hygiene
For toilets and washing areas, you need to supply:
Both hot and cold running water
Soap for hand washing
Towels for drying hands
Toilet paper for toilet cubicles
Regularly maintained and cleaned facilities
If your facilities include cold water that is not suitable for drinking, make sure you have appropriate signs in place for your employees.
Encourage personal hygiene
Your employees should be encouraged to practice their own personal hygiene. Display a polite notice asking them to contribute by cleaning facilities after use. If you use a contractor to undertake the cleaning of toilets and washrooms or kitchens and offices, you should be clear about the levels of cleanliness you require, how often cleaning should be done and when premises will be inspected. Remind employees that regular hand washing and the use of hand sanitisers are important, particularly after using washrooms, to help prevent the spread of illnesses.
Kitchens can be a health risk if high standards of cleanliness are not implemented. Any area used for the preparation of food or drinks should be kept scrupulously clean, as should appliances such as fridges, microwaves and toasters where these are used. Your checklist should include:
All surfaces used for preparation of food, including chopping boards and utensils
All appliances installed
Cupboards where food and crockery is stored, inside and outside
Windows, doors and floors
Remember that employees are entitled to complain if they believe lack of maintenance and poor cleaning of the kitchen area has created a health risk. Once again, it’s best to encourage employees to take some responsibility to protect them and to practice good hygiene.
Personal work areas should be looked after by individual employees who share a space or by the sole occupant if workstations are not shared. A sensible hygiene policy will make sure everyone is aware of his or her responsibilities to remove clutter and properly dispose of waste, preferably via recycling it. Work surfaces can be cleaned with an appropriate solution to reduce the possibility of bacterial infection.
Employees who understand why it is important to have a hygienic workplace are much more likely to follow your policy guidelines for a clean and safe workplace environment.
Having a workspace usually means a lot of people, and a lot of foot traffic, so naturally you will want to keep it clean.
Carpet cleaning, carpet shampooing, hot water extraction, dry steam cleaning, dry compound cleaning, there are so many different names used for basically getting dirt out of your carpet, it’s easy to get confused about what they all mean. To make matters worse, these words are often used incorrectly, sometimes deliberately to mislead the customer, and some, shall we say, less reputable companies will take advantage if you use a generic term, such as steam cleaning. If you don’t specify hot water extraction cleaning, you might end up with a carpet cleaning company simply using a steam mop on your floors, which will not produce the same results. If in doubt, ask for a precise description of how your carpet is going to be cleaned, so you know exactly what carpet cleaning method you are getting. There are several methods used for cleaning carpets, with the most popular being hot water extraction cleaning, as it gives the real deep clean to your carpet, getting rid of not just dirt but allergens, dust mites and more.
However, the best method of carpet cleaning also depends on the type of carpet to be cleaned. Most carpets benefit from the really thorough clean you get from hot water extraction, but it could spell disaster for carpets made from fibres such as sisal or jute. A jute carpet may look hard wearing, but the fibres are actually delicate, and should never be saturated, otherwise your carpet may never be the same again.
When the cleaner turned up for her night shift at an insurance company and snapped on the lights of the darkened main open-plan office, she stopped dead in her tracks.
And so did the man bent over a desk with his trousers around his ankles.
“I couldn’t work out what he was doing at first,” she says. “In my confusion, I even said something stupid like, ‘Good evening. You’re working late.’ But then I heard a woman’s voice, and realised he wasn’t alone.
“So I just turned the lights back off and backed out to the lifts and waited for them to sort themselves out. A few minutes later, they came out, called the lift and got into it. They didn’t even look at me.”
She didn’t think much more about it until she was waylaid by another staff member from the same firm a couple of weeks later. The woman told her the man – who’d been a manager – had been so nervous the cleaner would tell on him and his secretary that he’d confessed all to his boss, assuming the secretary would be moved on. He, instead, had been demoted and transferred.
“But he was silly to do that,” she says. “It’s part of our job description. What happens in the office stays in the office. Confidentiality is one of our most important things.”