Hygiene in the Workplace

Thanks to a global pandemic, hand-washing and hygiene have been at the forefront of everyone’s minds but there is a responsibility for employers to maintain clean and safe work places, pandemic or not.


Hygiene in the Workplace

Think back to February 2020 – if someone had told you that by the end of the following month you would be swabbing surfaces and using hand sanitiser at levels previously only known in healthcare facilities, you probably would have laughed.

Yet thanks to a global pandemic hygiene and cleanliness have been at the forefront of everyone’s minds over the past two years.

Human beings intuitively understand that poor hygiene leads to health and safety issues. We instinctively reel back from dirty loos and spoiled food because we know they can cause disease.

In March 2021, The National Geographic reported researchers had discovered people more innately prone to disgust fared better during the Covid-19 pandemic – probably because they’re more inclined to engage in more hygienic actions like hand-washing.

How are employers responsible for workplace hygiene?

As an employer, you have a duty under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to protect from harm not only your employees but also those affected by your workplace activities. A large part of complying with health and safety regulations comprises of undertaking risk assessments and then putting in place reasonable measures to mitigate any identified risks.

To help you manage hygiene in the workplace, our Health and Safety experts have provided some top tips on how to keep your premises and employees sparkling clean and free from nasties.

Make sure your employees take personal hygiene seriously

There is little point implementing strict cleaning practices if certain members of your team have hygiene standards that would put a medieval person to shame. To help make personal hygiene part of your workplace culture put signs in relevant places such as the kitchen and toilets reminding employees to wash their hands to prevent the spread of disease. Also, ensure there is a regular supply of tissues and hand washing facilities for employees to use.

One of the most difficult situations for employers is dealing with an employee who is dirty, smelly or a combination of both. If you have received complaints about one of your team member’s lack of personal hygiene it is always best to initially have a conversation in private. It is imperative to tread carefully, as they may be suffering from a medical condition, bereavement, depression, or stress and this could be responsible for their lapse in personal hygiene.

Support them and suggest remedies but make clear the situation needs to improve for the health and safety of the rest of your staff. Provide a reasonable timeframe for this to happen and document the details of your meeting. If the matter does not improve you may need to start disciplinary proceedings.

Should this happen, seek advice from an employment lawyer (or the team at Primed) to ensure you don’t fall foul (excuse the pun) of laws relating to discrimination and/or unfair dismissal.

Keep kitchens and toilets scrupulously clean

Toilets and kitchens must be kept meticulously hygienic to ensure the risk of workplace disease and/or infections is minimised. Make sure the following are supplied in all toilets:

  • Hot and cold running water
  • Anti-bacterial soap for hand-washing
  • Disposable paper towels or machines for drying hands
  • Toilet paper
  • Sanitary product disposal units

If the bathroom water is not suitable for drinking place a note to this effect and install a water cooler so employees can stay hydrated.

When it comes to hygiene in the staff kitchen a cleaning checklist should include:

  • The regular wiping down of all hand contact surfaces and appliances with disinfectant or sanitiser (don’t forgot your CoSHH assessments for your cleaning products).
  • Checking the safety of appliances such as the microwave and toaster (if applicable)
  • Regular inspection and cleaning of the cupboards and fridge
  • Clearly marked chopping boards for meat and vegetables

Everyone needs to be responsible for ensuring dirty crockery and cutlery is placed in the dishwasher or have been washed up and put away, and surfaces are kept spotless.

Dispose of waste appropriately

Sandwiches left in desk drawers to go furry with mould and workstations sticky from spilt food and drink provide perfect breeding grounds for noxious smells and disease. All employees should be responsible for keeping their workstations clean and waste-free.

Facilities for disposing of waste and recycling must also be provided throughout the workplace.

Final words

The above provides a basic outline of how to maintain a hygienic workplace. Various industries will require extra measures, for example, workplaces, where harsh chemicals are used, will require adequate ventilation and specialist cleaning regimes.

Providing a healthy and safe working environment for everyone on your team will ensure employees are comfortable coming into work and you are protected from an investigation for health and safety non-compliance from local authorities and/or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Speak to an expert

We have a range of health and safety risk assessment templates and guidance available in Primed, our online system, including sector-specific risk assessments covering construction, engineering, agriculture, veterinary, hospitality and transport, all for an affordable monthly fee.

Alternatively, our Primed Premium Safety package gives you unlimited access to our safety experts who can carry out risk assessments for you, as well as annual audits and act as your Competent Person.

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