New and Noteworthy

New and Noteworthy

Yuck! The Germiest Things in the Workplace

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Considering the amount of time most Americans spend at work, it’s no surprise that offices, factories, and other work facilities are hotbeds for bacteria and viruses.

Germs are lurking all over the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 80% of all infections are spread by hand contact with contaminated surfaces and direct human contact. So, most of the places we touch and come in contact with are likely harborers of germs. 

Not just damaging to the unfortunate individuals who get sick, germs in the workplace can also lead to a drain in productivity. According to the National Health Interview Survey, influenza alone is responsible for about 200 million days of reduced productivity and 75 million days of work absence annually.

Knowing what surfaces in the workplace provide the greatest risk for disease transmission allows people to better prevent the spread of germs. So, here are some of the germiest areas in the workplace and how to minimize infections:

  • Telephones – Scientists say office telephones can hold more than 25,000 germs per square inch. To prevent the spread of germs when using the phone, users should wipe off handsets and keypads with sanitizing wipes after using them and periodically throughout the day.


  • Elevator buttons – Hundreds of people use the elevators of office buildings every day. Protect yourself against dirty elevator buttons by using an elbow or knuckle instead of fingertips to push the buttons if you can.


  • Water fountains – The spigot on a public water fountain can harbor as many as 2.7 million bacteria per square inch, scientists say. A good alternative to using the workplace water fountain is bringing water from home in a sports bottle.


  • Computer keyboards – It has been reported that keyboards may have more than 200 times as many bacteria as a toilet seat. Shared computers are especially hazardous. Using disinfecting wipes that remove dirt, dust, dander, and biological contaminants are good for cleaning keyboards. Since wet materials can interfere with the functionality of keyboards, it’s a good idea to check with the IT department for recommendations on which products to use. 


  • Bathrooms – Workplace bathrooms are some of the germiest places. E. coli and fecal toxins are often found on nearly every surface in the bathroom, including doors and faucet handles. To prevent the spread of harmful bacteria, use paper towels to turn faucets on and off and to open the door before exiting. 

One of the most important steps we can take to prevent the spread of germs and getting sick is hand washing. The CDC offers tips on the right way of washing hands, including when soap and water aren’t available.

Although germs live everywhere, taking a few steps in the workplace to minimize exposure can greatly reduce the risk of spreading infection.

Author: Darice Britt

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