Friday, September 20, 2013

Keeping your workplace healthy one germ at a time

Reduced transference of biological agents pays-off in reduced worker-hours lost to illness, so there is a definite incentive to keep washrooms a germ-free environment. Maintaining a sanitary workplace may require multiple changes to the washroom facilities. The goal is a 'touch-free' design so people don't have to come in contact with the germ / virus carrying surfaces.   Each place you come in contact with the surfaces raises the likelihood of accidental transference.  Washroom operations, like every other aspect of our work and personal life can be viewed as a process.  Layout the steps in the process, assess each item for ways to improve it, then implement the improvement.

Eliminate the scenario where the patron washes hands and drips across the floor top find the paper towel dispenser or air dryer. Dry floors stay cleaner, look nicer, and reduce the likelihood of slip-and-fall accidents.

Things you can do to improve washroom sanitation:

Toilets: No-touch flush mechanisms.

Toilet Stall surfaces and hardware: Antimicrobial coated hardware, solid plastic privacy panels (germs love to get into wood cores), minimal touch latches, and easily cleaned surfaces without grooves and surface textures that can harbor germs, bacteria, and mold spores.  Add sanitary wipe dispensers so patrons can wipe-down seats, railings, diaper changing tables, and door latches at-will.

Wash Sink Areas: No-touch soap dispensers at each washbasin, no-touch water nozzle with pre-heated water (with option to get cold water, but not the default mode of operation), and no lips, edges, or grooves to collect residual water.

No-touch paper-towel dispenser:   Above each sink bowl (install it behind a hinged mirror) so wet hands and faces don't create a path of drips across the countertop and floor. Paper towels must be available to wipe-off faces, arms, and other places where air blowers don't reach. To encourage the use of the air-dryers, post a 'think-green' message to give people a reminder.

Warm-air Hand-drying Jet:  The type that is molded into the sink assembly is best, however, wall-mounted units should be placed between the sink bowls, with the waste-paper receptacle immediately below an opening in the sink counter-top.  With this arrangement the water droplets are blown into the waste bin and the waste bin acts as a bit of a noise muffler for the air blower.

Exit Doors:   If possible, remove them completely; if they must remain, then add motion sensors so they automatically open as you approach from the inside, and/or re-orient them so they swing outwards so that they can be pushed with elbows instead of requiring hands.  Adding a remote door activator (push-button on the wall like those used for wheelchair access) is also a good way to do this, as you can bump them with your elbow to open the door.

The suggested layout also improves the operational efficiency of the washroom operations as patrons are not crisscrossing the space and bumping into each-other.

Washrooms should be cleaned at least twice daily, minimum, usually after the lunch-hour and again after the end of the work-day. The daily use of antibacterial sprays on ALL surfaces (except the ceiling) can further reduce the life-expectancy of germs / viruses. Disposable (single use) sanitary wipes saturated with disinfectants should be used in lieu of detergent-based reusable mops and rags, which are proven to re-contaminate and move infectious bacteria from place-to-place.

Information Resources:

National Pesticide Information Center: Selecting the Right Antimicrobial Product:

Center for Disease Control (CDC): Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008.

EPA-Registered Disinfectants:

Product Resources:

Bradley Advocate wash sink system.

SurfaceClean (Kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria) pretreatment for SurfaceAide XL and also for day-to-day use.

Lysol (Kills 99.9% of household bacteria). Also see their Mission for Health : Partners in Prevention page

Windex Multi-Surface Anti-Bacterial (Kills 99.9% of household bacteria).

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