The importance of office hygiene for disabled people at work

Disabled people should have the freedom to work, learn and engage to their full potential – both in their family life and local communities. But when it comes to health and wellbeing the considerations most employers put into place are not the same for those with a disability; there are concepts that broadly affect the quality of a person’s life.

Living with a disability can be very difficult, but both government organisations and charities are working hard to improve resources for disabled people in order to make life as easy and stress-free as possible. Disabilities affect everyone differently, for example, someone who has a physical disability may be affected differently compared to someone who has learning difficulties.

If you are living with a disability, you’re much more likely to have a harder time finding employment. The latest figures from Scope state that there are 13.3 million disabled people in the UK and over 3.4 being unemployed. So if you have a condition that disadvantages you at work or when applying for a job, under the Equality Act 2010 your employer has to make reasonable adjustments to overcome the disadvantages.

There are three actions, in particular, that may have to be carried out to make it easier for you to do your job if you are disabled, these include:

  • Making a change to procedures in the workplace to accommodate you.
  • Making physical changes to office premises – such as widening a doorway, providing a ramp or moving furniture for wheelchair users. They should also relocate light switches, door handles or shelves for those who have difficulty reaching. Appropriate contrasts in the decor may also need to be changed for safe mobility of those visually impaired.
  • Your employer should also provide extra support or aids – this could be in the form of relocation workstations, flexible working hours, mentoring or buying special equipment, such as adapted keyboards or telephones and large screens.

The steps taken to put these adjustments in place could depend on:

  • Your disability.
  • How practical the changes are.
  • The size and resources of the employer.
  • If the change you ask for would overcome the disadvantage you are faced with.

If your disability seems to have altered in any way or is getting progressively worse, you need to sit down with your manager and discuss available options and your needs.

The importance of office hygiene for disabled people

As well as making the workplace more manageable and accessible for you – extra care must be taken over office hygiene. Those with disabilities that affect the immune system can be more prone to contracting illnesses – so workplaces must be kept clean. Here is a list of the microbes that can be found in your office:

  • RSA –  This can survive up to  200 days.
  • Common cold – This can survive up to  50 hours.
  • Influenza – This can survive up to  60 hours.
  • Hepatitis A&B – This can survive up to  160 hours.
  • Norovirus – This can survive up to 350 hours.
  • C.Difficile – This can last up to  110 days.
  • E.coli – This can last up to 500 days.

These can cause serious illness for those with and without a disability, however keeping your office clean and tidy doesn’t mean your employer needs to pay for an external cleaner – this can be collectively done as a team.

Brosch Direct is a great resource to share with your manager or employer – as it breaks down what to clean and when, plus the supplies you need. There’s even a printable PDF to use as a reference later.

Facilities for disabled people

Workers have the right to “welfare facilities” in the workplace such as toilets and washbasins. Under The Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992 act, employees must supply toilets and washing facilities for staff members. The law states the following:

‘There must be separate facilities for men and women. If this isn’t possible, toilets and washing facilities must have locks for privacy and security.

  • Facilities must be clean and easy to maintain.
  • Toilets and washing facilities need both cold and hot running water. They should have soap or a similar cleaning product, as well as a hot air dryer or paper towels, should be available.
  • Washing basins should be a reasonable size.
  • The toilets need toilet paper at all times and in female toilets, there should be a disposal point for sanitary products.
  • The facilities must have ventilation and light.’

Disabled workers require toilets and washing facilities that meet their everyday needs. If a toilet contains four or more cubicles, one of them needs to be enlarged to a minimum width of 1200 mm equipped with an outward opening door and horizontal or vertical grab rails as well as low brains. Single disabled toilets should also be considered. Under the law, employers need to provide these facilities for disabled staff.

Hopefully, your employer can tailor your work to all your disability needs and keep it as clean and tidy as possible – to ensure everyone stays healthy.

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