SINGAPORE - Few people are aware that their work stations may be harbouring more bacteria than the toilet.
A recent study on office hygiene in Singapore has reported that individual and shared workstations can harbour up to 450 per cent more bacteria than a toilet seat.
The results confirmed earlier research that established that the work environment is more hazardous than the washroom when it comes to bacteria build-up.
Using advanced lumitesting technology, researchers swabbed over 2,400 locations across offices in Asia, including 20 local companies.
Lumitesting is commonly used to monitor hygiene in industries which require high standards of cleanliness, such as in food processing factories.
The locations include keyboards, chair handles, and computer mice at individual work stations; pantry, meeting rooms and door handles of communal office areas; and washroom seat covers, door knobs and taps.
The tests produced the surprising finding that individual work stations possessed the highest level of bacteria count per square inch (BPSI).
The next most shocking fact discovered was that the the workstation chair handle holds the dubious honour of the dirtiest spot in the office at 3,947 BPSI - followed closely by the reception chair handle (3,464 BPSI) and the pantry kettle handle (1,551 BPSI).
The researchers said the results imply that while cleaning companies are often engaged to carry out daily cleaning in the office, emphasis is placed on cleaning only common high-traffic areas, where frequent contact from employees is noticed.
However, less priority is placed on those areas which are perceived as requiring less cleaning, even though they have high incidences of human contact in actuality.
The study was conducted in view of the recent wave of virus attacks, such as the avian flu and H1N1 swine flu.
The researchers said the results dispel common myths about bacteria build-up in our daily lives, and have pushed office environments into the red zone in terms of potentially hazardous consequences to an employee's health.
The study advised companies to do more to minimise cross-contamination in the workplace, which they said would pay off in employees falling sick less often and consequently a decrease in loss of productivity.
The study was conducted by Initial Hygiene, a division under Rentokil Initial. Rentokil Initial is a global brand in hygiene solutions.