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Shining example

Organisations are judged on the quality of their washrooms, so keeping them clean and hygienic is a must, says Nikki Phillips, Divisional Manager, AM Services Group

The workplace washroom is usually one of the smallest spaces in the workplace and tends not to rank highly in the planning and design process or the organisation’s spending priorities. Yet most people treating themselves in restaurants or shopping centres judge the customer experience by how clean and luxurious the washrooms are. Employees probably perceive their building’s washrooms in the same way. The quality of the facilities shows how much their employer cares.

According to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, the basic duty of care states that: “Sanitary conveniences shall not be suitable unless the rooms containing them are adequately ventilated and lit; they and the rooms containing them are kept in a clean and orderly condition…” But at a time when the focus is on how significantly the workplace can contribute to wellbeing, health and productivity, is basic provision any longer enough?

A survey conducted by Showers To You, reported on Personnel Today’s Occupational Health and Wellbeing site, found that one in 10 employees avoid using the toilet in their workplace because they’re worried about the standard of hygiene. In fact, more than half the employees said they’d been ‘appalled’ by the condition of their facilities. And when sickness and absence from work are often linked to unclean office environments, poor hygiene and spread of germs, it’s all the more worrying that 75 per cent of respondents said they were reluctant to wash their hands after using the toilet. Some of the reasons given for shying away from hand washing were a queue at the sink or hand dryer, a dirty sink, a bad smell, or lack of soap.

Another survey by the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors suggests that 16.5 per cent of workers believe that the poor condition of their workplace toilet negatively impacts their happiness at work.

Managing a washroom is all about balancing health, safety and hygiene issues. It’s important to get the basics right, such as ensuring the washroom is properly cleaned with an adequate supply of consumable supplies. Another, more subtle approach is to improve the user experience by creating a pleasant ambience through use of a suitable fragrance.

Smell is an important sense that connects with mood and perception. For example, in the past bleach was associated with a clean environment while soap evoked personal cleanliness. Today people are more likely to suspect that a strong bleach-like aroma is masking a dirty washroom, requiring a different approach. Fragrances are highly subjective and diverse cultural preferences make it hard to find a universal solution, but varying the intensity may work better than attempting to create a fragrance suiting every taste.

Here are some more tips for creating a healthy and welcoming washroom that people will want to use:

  • Ensure feminine hygiene units are properly maintained on a rigorous schedule. Use a unit with exterior antimicrobial technology and odour-eliminating technology.
  • Use urinal screens to keep drains flowing and to control odours in washroom urinals.
  • Keep foul smells at bay with a urinal sleeve system with enzymes that help break down limescale and uric salts, as well as emitting a fragrance.
  • Consider installing a urinal flush water management system to save water and take care of urinal cleaning and hygiene.
  • Ensure soap dispensers will withstand expected use and are regularly filled, that roll towel dispensers are well stocked, or that there are sufficient hand dryers available.

About Sarah OBeirne

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