Dirty Keyboards & Office Bacteria

From personneltoday.com, May 2, 2008.

Think very carefully before, working late, you doze off with your face on your computer keyboard. A microbiologist carrying out research for Which? Computing magazine examined samples from 33 keyboards and found evidence of several bugs, including E coli and S aureaus.

As a comparison, microbiologist James Francis later swabbed a toilet seat and toilet door handle in a typical London office. One of the keyboards in the experiment had to be removed from the office as it was five times dirtier than the toilet seat – and home to 150 times the acceptable level of bacteria. According to Francis, this keyboard

“was increasing the risk of its user becoming ill. I haven’t seen a reading like that in a very long time – it was off the scale”.

Two other keyboards from the same office showed high levels of coliform bacteria, associated with fecal matter.

Francis’ research showed that most of the contamination was caused by people eating at their desks and dropping crumbs into their keyboards, prompting the growth of millions of bacteria. Poor personal hygiene, particularly people failing to wash their hands after the using the toilet, is also to blame.

Sarah Kidner, editor of Which? Computing, says:

“If you don’t clean your computer, you might as well eat your lunch off the toilet.”

Short of forbidding your staff from eating at their desks, how do you persuade them to keep their crumbs away from the work area? Companies without the space for dedicated eating areas could be in trouble here – consider the impact on the bottom line of sickness related absence caused by dirty keyboards.

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