UAE employees must be taught better hygiene practices

Maintaining good hygiene levels both on a personal level and at the workplace is the first line of defence against the spread of bacteria and infections, doctors say.

Countertop near the sink in at The National kitchette at the company’s offices in Abu Dhabi. Silvia Razgova / The National
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A member of the Arab Hygiene Council has advised that companies educate employees on the potential health consequences of being unhygienic at the office. UAE doctors have said that unhygienic working conditions are a key contributor to many working days lost to sickness each year.

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Contents:

1- UAE employers must give workers hygiene knowledge

2- Unclean workplaces are harming employees, say UAE doctors

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In this package:

Part 1: Tests show The National's office is rife with germs / Germs lurk in many offices and homes, survey finds

Part 3: Desks are the most germ-infested spots in the office / Most commonly touched areas are the dirtiest in the workplace

Interactive: Germs that lurk in The National office

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UAE employers must give workers hygiene knowledge

ABU DHABI // Employers need to arm their employees with the knowledge and tools to reduce the spread of bacteria and maintain a healthy office environment.

The National's swabbing exercise indicated a need for increased education of the health consequences of being unhygienic in the workplace, said Dr Ola Mira, a member of the Arab Hygiene Council and the head of occupational health and safety at the Ministry of Health.

“Increasing the awareness among the workers is a key element to keep the workplace clean and prevent the spread of infections,” she said. “We know that good hygiene, including hand washing and disinfection of commonly touched surfaces, can help prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses.

“Practising good hygiene is everyone’s responsibility, and something we can do easily for ourselves.”

Maintaining good hygiene levels both on a personal level and at the workplace is the first line of defence against the spread of bacteria and infections, she said.

“Regular hand washing with a trusted antibacterial soap, such as Dettol, is one of the key simple hygiene practices that helps in preventing the spread of infections and staying healthy,” she said. “In addition, these commonly touched surfaces need to be regularly cleaned and disinfected to kill the bacteria and to keep a healthy environment at the workplace.”

There are simple practices workers can adopt to reduce the spread of infectious diseases, she said.

This includes washing your hands for a minimum of 40 seconds, as per the World Health Organisation guidelines, at least six times per day using a liquid hand wash.

People should also use trusted hand sanitisers or antibacterial personal wipes when washing facilities are not available.

While in the office, workers should make sure to clean and disinfect surfaces specially keyboards, phones, desks and restrooms that contain a significant amount of bacteria.

“You can use surface wipes, antiseptic liquid and multipurpose cleaner to keep these surfaces clean and germfree,” said Dr Mira.

If unwell, workers should also practice ‘hygiene etiquette’.

“Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing,” she said. “If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands. Put your used tissue in a wastebasket.”

Better yet, she said, workers should stay at home when sick to prevent others from catching the illness.

Workers should also stick to using their own crockery rather than sharing coffee cups, for example, advised Dr Mira.

“Germs can be transferred from one person to another easily. Avoid sharing eating and drinking utensils with other colleagues.”

Dr Zohreh Safai, a family medicine specialist at Dubai Bone and Joint Centre, recommends cleaners deep clean an office at least once a month, ideally once every two weeks.

However cleanliness and making sure surfaces are not recontaminated is a responsibility of both employers and employees, she said.

There are simple practices every workplace can adopt, including providing employees access to hand sanitisers and antibacterial disinfectant sprays as well as education in hand and surface hygiene, she said.

“It is a team effort to make the workplace as clean as possible,” she said. “It is pretty much common sense not to leave food lying around.

“Also, if you blow your nose discard the handkerchief rather than leave them on surfaces you might place your hands or food on.

“Hand hygiene and attention to environmental cleaning can really substantiate the risk of infection.”

Health and safety expert Dougie Collin said workplaces should adopt a complete review of how hazard control points are identified.

He said having hand sanitiser units where food is consumed, by stairwells and at workstations should be considered.

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Unclean workplaces are harming employees, say UAE doctors

ABU DHABI // Dirty workplaces result in sick employees and lost productivity, warn health experts.

Unhygienic working conditions are a key contributor to working days lost to sickness each year, said Dr Zohreh Safai.

“Any time any infection – especially one that is easily spread – affects a workplace and people who are infected have to take time off, then there is lost productivity,” she said.

“It is a combination that affects productivity, but also the well-being of the employees.”

Better hygiene measures could result in fewer sick days and improve the health of the office as a whole, said Dr Safai.

She urged people to take the time to thoroughly clean workstations, desks, telephones, keyboards and computer mice.

Infections are caused by bugs such as bacteria getting into or on to the body.

It can take some time before the microbes multiply enough to trigger symptoms of an illness, which means an infected person may unwittingly spread the disease in a variety of ways.

An infection can become airborne, such as through coughing or sneezing, or it can be spread through contaminated objects or food, by skin-to-skin contact, or contact with bodily fluids.

The transmission of pathogens can be prevented by regular hand washing, said Dr Sundar Elayaperumal.

The microbiology specialist said infection-control procedures in the workplace ought to include regular washing of floors, bathrooms and surfaces with hot water and a detergent-based cleaner.

“Workers and even visitors to the workplaces should be aware of transmitting infection,” she said.

“Especially influenza – it really affects a workplace. It is easily transmitted.

“And when workers are sick they do not come to work and there is a loss of working hours.

“It inevitably affects productivity.”

jbell@thenational.ae