We all know the drill: Wash your hands. Sneeze into your elbow. Use a paper towel on the restroom door handles. Do what you can to keep you and your co-workers well.
It's common, though, for co-workers to pass around a bug that just won't die. That's when Curt Admire advises office clients to use more than remedial health instruction -- and more than a paper towel.
Recent publicity about norovirus outbreaks brought heightened attention to workplace cleanliness, said Admire, director of operations at City Wide Maintenance in Lenexa, Kan. He noted that Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, Miami University in Ohio, the University of Michigan and other establishments have had disease outbreaks.
"Food environments with lots of guests are the most susceptible," Admire said. "But a smaller, more stagnant group of people" also can infect each other because "even when you disinfect thoroughly, the drawback is that someone can come in later and contaminate it again."
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Here's a tip from Admire that might surprise you: Don't spray surfaces with a disinfectant and then immediately wipe the surface dry. Let the spray dry on its own.
"You want the residual chemical to dry and dwell on the virus," he said. "It may take time to kill it."
In worst cases, general spraying and wiping may need to be followed up with disinfectant foggers that send out mist or electrostatic zaps. Both require people to leave the facility while the work is done. Spray foggers -- like bug bombs -- need the place cleared for at least four hours. Electrostatic foggers can treat more area in less time.
Admire said attention to disease control also encourages builders and remodelers to install automatic light switches, self-flushing toilets and hands-free soap dispensers. But if your workplace isn't planning an overhaul, consider:
-- Railings are the most overlooked surfaces. They're only as clean as the last person who touched them. They certainly could use regular disinfectant sprays.
-- Coffee pot handles, drinking fountain controls, microwave handles, refrigerator doors, tables and chair arms in break rooms and conference room are likely virus harborers, as are bathroom surfaces.
Can you avoid them? Unlikely. Should you pay a cleaning service to go beyond dusting and vacuuming for nightly disinfecting treatments? Highly unlikely. Should you obsess about it? Not recommended.
"Just remember not to touch your face," Admire said.
So here we are -- back to kindergarten cleanliness reminders. Germs on your hands won't hurt you unless they get in your mouth, nose or eyes.
Of course, you can wash your hands raw and still get sick. But some cans of spray disinfectant and proper application can minimize the odds.
To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to staffordkcstar.com. Follow her online at kansascity.com/workplace and twitter.com/kcstarstafford.