Handbag Hygiene for High Flyers

Unexpected hygiene dangers lurk within the polished steel and glass interiors of corporate South Africa. First there was news in 2011 that one in six cellphones is contaminated with faecal bacteria. A year later, relationship-building lunches with clients took on a new meaning as we found out that as many as one in ten corporate credit cards are likewise tainted with traces of faeces.

More recent research quoted in 2013 by the UK’s Daily Mail reveals that E.coli, poisonous bacteria, and once again, traces of faeces have been found lurking at the bottom of women’s handbags. The study took swabs from inside a selection of handbags and found evidence of bacteria that can cause food poisoning, pneumonia and bacterial meningitis.

“The implications for an employee placing her handbag on the desk surface she’s about to eat her lunch on are obvious,” says Rika van Rooyen of leading corporate hygiene solutions provider, Bidvest Steiner.

So how do women ensure the good hygiene of their handbags while working within large organisations or while attending meetings at other firms? The first rule, according to Ms Van Rooyen, is for employees to practice a little Feng Shui. A popular Chinese proverb says ‘A Purse on the Floor is Money Out the Door’. “Keeping handbags off the floor, especially the floors of bathrooms, is the number one way to also keep E.coli, bacteria and other pathogens away from handbags,” she says.

When it comes to handbag hygiene within corporates, employees should engage with their facilities management department to ensure that there are adequate and properly-positioned handbag hooks on bathroom stall doors. “Handbag hooks should also be positioned outside bathrooms stalls close to washbasins so employees can safely hang their bags while washing their hands. “There’s no point hanging one’s bag inside the bathroom stall, only to place it on the bathroom counter while hand-washing,” adds Ms Van Rooyen.

Besides bathrooms, the second most common place where one is likely to find a large collection of handbags within office environments is in meeting rooms. Again, Bidvest Steiner advises employees to ensure that handbag hooks are positioned either underneath conference room tables, as is the case within some restaurants, or on the back of chairs so that meeting attendees do not have to place their bags on the floor. According to Ms Van Rooyen, “It’s not advisable, and probably also quite inconsiderate owing to the likely presence of pathogens, to place handbags on the chair next to oneself.”

Finally, she advises employees to carry sanitising wipes to clean the bottom of their handbags each day after work to prevent the spread of germs to loved ones at home.

“Partnering with a reputable hygiene services provider will ensure organisations always have access to the best advice when it comes to some of the lesser-known workplace hygiene issues, such as where to store potentially bacteria-laden items such as handbags,” concludes Ms Van Rooyen.

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