Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Hygiene is the key to healthy workplaces

Don’t be obsessive about germs, but simple practices can stop the spread of disease
The National's news editor Michael Jabri-Pickett collects swab samples from around the newsroom.  (Brian Kerrigan / The National)
The National's news editor Michael Jabri-Pickett collects swab samples from around the newsroom. (Brian Kerrigan / The National)

First the bad news: your workplace is riddled with bacteria, and your body is crawling with germs. Now the good news: in most cases, the bacteria are harmless and you probably won’t get sick if you follow the basic rules of hygiene. As The National reported yesterday, using our Abu Dhabi newsroom as an example, “heavy growths” of the E. coli bacteria are present on commonly touched office surfaces such as phones, laptops and photocopier machines.

Doctors have long known that there is an increased risk of disease when strangers come together in large numbers on university campuses and at sporting events, festivals and the like. The World Health Organisation offers a support service for organisers of gatherings to help avoid mass person-to-person infection. Exactly why diseases spread in this way is still unclear; it may be that we are infected by others’ bacteria or that our own bacteria change in some way after we come in contact with new people. There is a need for more research into this area, but we already know that there are ways to minimise the chances of disease spreading.

The key is to wash our hands regularly and to use an antibacterial agent to clean shared surfaces such as door handles and kitchen worktops. The battle against the Mers coronavirus, which at one stage threatened to become a major public health risk, has been helped by hygienic practices in hospitals and among communities at risk. Simple procedures have contained it – such as hand-washing, the use of masks and gowns, and limiting the number of people who come into contact with an infected patient

Bacteria are an essential part of the ecosystem and, for the most part, they coexist harmlessly with humans. Some of them are even beneficial, helping us with digestion and other bodily functions. Moreover, an absolute obsession with cleanliness can be a bad thing. A growing body of medical research suggests that contact with certain germs found in a garden or a playground can give children some protection from allergies. Playing outdoors has other health benefits, too.

Nevertheless, keeping a high standard of personal hygiene is important and healthy practices should always be employed at home and in the workplace.

Updated: February 26, 2015 04:00 AM

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