Sani Marc Group’s virtual magazine

Are the risks of infection higher in office…

Are the risks of infection higher in office buildings or in restaurants?

Having worked for over 30 years in the food and beverage industry and 13 of them in hygiene and food safety, my first reaction would have been to say that the risks are higher in restaurants, but now that I am working for Wood Wyant, my answer would not be the same.

I was convinced that you can get sick, get an infection or food poisoning by consuming food unfit for human consumption, prepared in poor hygienic conditions, by employees who have been in contact with contaminated food, surfaces or utensils, but I had never considered that there were that many risks of getting sick in office buildings.

During my training and my extensive research on the risks of infection in the workplace including office towers, I was shocked to learn that there are just as many risks of infection in office buildings than in restaurants.

Let me explain: in restaurants there are three main areas that must be controlled to prevent contamination: time, temperature and personal hygiene to avoid cross-contamination. Cooking time and temperature will reduce the number of bacteria in food and completely destroy viruses and parasites. As for work surfaces, restaurants are using detergents and cleaning products to clean and disinfect to reduce the number of bacteria and viruses on surfaces. In general, surfaces are cleaned and sanitized after each use.

For office buildings, there are two parameters only. One is personal hygiene of occupants and visitors and the other is the maintenance program to avoid infections by cross-contamination. Two questions must be answered: How can we control hygiene? Does the office building manager have the budget and resources to clean and disinfect most commonly touched surfaces as frequently as it should?

The government (MAPAQ) has implemented a regulation in 2008 requiring all restaurant managers to follow a mandatory training on the risks of contamination and on proper cleaning procedures. In addition, managers and employees must comply with criteria that employees must notify their supervisors and stay home if they have a fever, headache and diarrhea. Managers have an obligation to inform employees of this regulation. This is not necessarily the case for office buildings.

I believe building and maintenance managers should also be aware of the risks of infection and contamination in office buildings. They must develop prevention programs and systems such as hand sanitizers for staff, wipes to disinfect commonly touched surfaces such as telephones, armchairs and computer keyboards. It is also very important to implement a wellness program to reduce absenteeism and maintain productivity. It is important to inform the occupants of the risks of coming to work sick, to wash their hands properly and frequently. Why? A study has revealed that using a product to clean hands can reduce absenteeism by 20%. Here are some examples to show the importance of implementing a system.

All hand contact with the face causes disease transmission:

  • An adult working in an office touches up to 30 items every minute.
  • An adult touches his face with his fingers 18.5 times in an hour (8 times his nose, 9 times his mouth, and 2.5 times his eyes).
  • 40 to 90% of adult with a cold have viruses on their hands.
  • 20% of the objects handled by someone with a cold are contaminated.
  • The common cold/flu virus can survive from 48 to 72 hours on surfaces.
  • Viruses causing diarrhea can survive for 2-4 weeks on surfaces.

For more information on the Wellness Program, visit our site at

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