Monday, November 4, 2013

Wash, Wipe and Sanitize Your Way to a Healthier Workplace

Creating a healthier work culture may not only protect employees from becoming sick, but studies show that it may lead to a healthier bottom line, according to a study published in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM).

A few years ago, Kimberly-Clark Professional discovered that companies in the United States lose $74,000 million a year due to lost productivity and absenteeism that occurs when employees become sick. To address the issue, and help companies build a healthier workplace culture, the company launched a pilot program of its Healthy Workplace Project in 2010. The project has since expanded it's reach to 40 different countries. 

The project involves a comprehensive approach designed to reduce workplace absenteeism and lost productivity by providing businesses the tools and materials to help combat germs in the workplace. In addition to their own product solutions, including the Healthy Workplace desk caddy, Kleenex, and disinfectant wipes, they provide thorough education, communication and workplace wellness programs, says Elane Stock, president of Kimberly-Clark Professional.

The Healthy Workplace Program focuses on three simple concepts in what they call a three-part “Hygienify” Routine:

Proper hand washing is the first step and best defense against spreading sickness and germs throughout the workplace. In fact, research shows that by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, paying particular attention to the back of the hands, in-between the fingers and under the nails and thorough drying with paper towels can reduce germs by 77 %. Kimberly Clark notes it is important to wash before making/eating lunch, after using the restroom, after coughing, sneezing, touching the garbage or any contaminated surface. 

“People may be aware that restrooms are germy, but really there lots of places in the workplace that are even germ-ier,” Stock says. "We found that in the break room where employees eat and prepare their lunch topped the list of office and manufacturing facility hotspots. You may or may not know this, but sink and microwave handles are the worst places. They are the dirtiest surfaces and they’re really touched by workers on a daily basis.”

High traffic areas like break rooms, handrails, doorknobs, keyboards and conference tables are perfect for transmitting unwanted germs. Many people touch these surfaces and transfer germs without ever knowing it. Germs can live on a surface for up to 48 hours, so it is important to wipe surfaces often. Cleaning high-touch surfaces (hotspots) daily, with sanitizing spray or a wipe, even if they appear to be clean can greatly reduce the spread of these germs, Stock says.

According to statistics, using hand sanitizer can reduce sick days by 21%. Viruses can be transferred between people up to 6 times, so, using hand sanitizer before and after interacting with other people can greatly reduce the likelihood of spreading germs, as sanitizer kills 99.9% of the most common disease causing germs. Hand sanitizing dispensers can be placed in high traffic areas with no access to soap and water as well.

More information is available at