Tips to avoid contaminating or catching ailments from co-workers

Whether it’s the new coronavirus, colds or the flu, ailments can spread quickly through places where many people share space: including your work.

“In offices, we have a lot of trouble spots; it’s going to be all touch points,” said Loye Belew, an operations manager for Stratus Building Solutions, which operates in Maryland.

In addition, Belew said every surface — from thermostats, to backs of chairs and boardroom tables — can harbor potentially harmful bacteria and viruses.

While using the workplace kitchen, Belew recommends using a paper towel barrier for these tasks:

  • Opening the refrigerator.
  • Using the coffee maker.
  • Turning sink faucets on and off.
  • Pushing a button to fill up water bottles.
  • Operating the microwave.

After washing a personal coffee mug, Belew recommends not letting it air dry and keeping it out of contact with the communal sink. Instead, wipe it dry and take it back to your desk.

In elevators and doorways:

  • Avoid pushing buttons or touching side rails with your hands or tips of your fingers.
  • Even if you use a knuckle to select a floor, wash or sanitize your hands afterward.
  • If you have to grab a door handle, follow-up with hand-washing or sanitizer.

“I would recommend having a small sanitizer on your person at all times,” Belew said.

Caution is advised when using cellphones.

“Your cellphone is probably the dirtiest item that you would have in your office,” Belew said. “Where we put down our cellphone is very important.”

If someone who is sick or getting sick breathes on their phone, then puts it down on a table, the contiguous elements of the ailment can be transferred to the table. Also, bacteria or a virus that might be on a table could be transferred to the phone you end up handling.

“It’s not like there’s going to be someone rushing in to clean off the table. So, that’s how it would sort of move from one group to another,” Belew said.

Sanitizing communal work spaces between users is also strongly recommended. Desk items to wipe down between users include the following:

  • Mouse;
  • Keyboard;
  • Wrist support items;
  • Tops of chair backs and arm rests;
  • Entire phone receiver and keypad;
  • Desk surfaces.

Proper hand-washing includes these protocols:

  • Lather up for at least 20 seconds before rinsing.
  • Vigorously rub with soap your palms, tops of hands, fingers and between fingers.
  • Only turn off water after retrieving a paper towel to use as a barrier on the faucet.
  • Use the same paper towel to open the door to exit, then throw it away.

Keeping your hands away from your face is also helpful from keeping contaminants at bay. To help prevent exposing yourself to ailments, avoid touching your face, nose, mouth and eyes.

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