Could Having Lunch at Work Make You Sick?

Your workplace is an incubator for many things: project collaborations, idea brainstorming and germs. That’s right, every office is harboring more than a fair share of germs that can make you quite ill.  A study published by Kimberly-Clark Professional unearthed some surprising statistics when it comes to the most germ-ridden areas in your workplace. The breakroom turned out to be the gerrmiest area of the office.
Taking proper hygiene steps such as washing your hands on a regular basis is the best remedy to reduce your risk of harm from these office germs. There are some other simple steps you can take to keep your workplace breakroom from making you sick.
Sanitize that sink: In the study, 75 percent of the breakroom sink faucet handles tested had high levels of contamination. The breakroom sink is a high-traffic area where people are constantly touching food and then the sink, leading to multiple methods of contamination. Encourage management to invest in sanitizing wipes. While these products cannot kill every germ, they greatly reduce the amount of germs present and are convenient for cleaning up food spills. Make sure there is always soap available so people can properly wash their hands. If sponges are used, change them out on a regular basis, as they quickly become filled with bacteria.
Microwave microbes: The door handles on the office microwave tested positive for germs 48 percent of the time. Many workplace microwaves are not pretty sights. The buttons are greasy and caked with food, while the interior looks like a food bomb went off. To stay safe, wipe clean the microwave door handle and programming buttons before using. Make sure none of your food touches the interior of the microwave. The glass plate and the interior should be cleaned at least once a week, and immediately when any spills or other cooking accidents take place.
What died in the refrigerator? Another door handle to watch out for in the office refrigerator. In the study, 26 percent of office refrigerator handles were heavily contaminated with germs.  This is another no-brainer. The refrigerator is one of the most highly trafficked items in the breakroom. Either wipe the handle or use a paper towel to open the refrigerator. Similar to the interior of the microwave, workplace refrigerators are known for becoming filthy quickly. Forgotten leftovers begin to rot and leave a foul odor. Spills leave sticky residues on shelves. Many companies have housekeeping conduct a monthly total cleaning of the office refrigerator. If your company doesn’t offer this perk, you and your co-workers will have to pitch in to clean out the refrigerator on a regular basis.
Water fountain woes: Many people avoid water fountains because they have long been associated with germs. In the study, 23 percent of water fountain buttons were contaminated. If you must use a water fountain, try to use a paper towel to push the button. If you have to use your hand, make sure to wash them soon after using the water fountain.
Vending machine attack: There’s another reason to feel guilty about buying that candy bar out of the vending machine for a mid-afternoon snack. The study found that 21 percent of vending machine buttons were heavily contaminated with germs. Money is also known for being a germ carrier so that means people placing germ-ridden money into the vending machine and then making a selection are most likely leaving behind germs. Try using a paper towel if possible to make your selection and grab the item as any protective barrier lowers your exposure to germs. Otherwise, just make sure you wash your hands before you dig into that bag of nuts you just bought.
Frank Roberts writes for Swope, Rodante P.A., a Tampa law firm specializing in cases involving traumatic brain injury, wrongful death, insurance bad faith, and catastrophic injury.
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