How Hygienic Is Your Workplace Kitchen?


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October 9, 2018 

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By: Jackie Edwards 


44% of American workers said that employees who leave their mess for others to clean up is the most annoying behavior in break rooms. If you’ve ever worked in an office where the employees are responsible for cleaning it, you’ll know that nobody really takes responsibility and the whole office quickly becomes untidy and unhygienic. The state of the kitchen seems to be the one area that takes it to another level though. Refrigerators can look like they have science experiments growing in them and sinks pile up so high that it’s best to bring your coffee with you. A dirty kitchen can quickly become a health and safety risk and is something that the whole office needs to take responsibility for.

When bad hygiene becomes unsafe

Some employees may find it annoying while others are amused at how disgusting people can be when it comes to the office kitchen. The sight of Tupperware being left for weeks in the fridge at work is a common one. If you notice food has gone bad you need to throw it away as ignoring the problem will let it get worse. Molds on food can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems and some molds can turn into mycotoxins, which are poisonous and can cause people to become sick. It’s best to leave lids on containers and throw the whole thing out to avoid breathing it in.

Replacing appliances

Unfortunately, sometimes the problem can become too bad that it’s worth buying new appliances as opposed to trying to clean the ones you have. While the fridge is often the worst offender, coffee makers, microwaves and cutlery can all become victims of moldy food and bacteria being left to grow on them. When replacing the fridge it may be worth getting a smaller refrigerator so that less food can be left in there, which will encourage people to clean it out more regularly. It would also be a good opportunity to start an office rule for everyone to check the fridge and take their food home at the end of each day.

Check that appliances are safe to use

25% of workplace fires are caused by electrical faults, either from appliances, wiring or both. Before using an appliance, you should check it for any damage, such as exposed wires and broken pieces. Many people in an office will use the kitchen throughout the day and wear and tear can quickly occur, especially on frequently used items, like coffee makers and fridges. If something doesn’t look safe, then it’s best not to use it. Portable Appliance Testing, or PAT, is standard on electricals in Europe and are starting to become more commonplace in the US. PAT tests ensure that appliances are safe to use, so it’s worth asking your manager if appliances at work could be PAT tested for safety.

Improving kitchen hygiene at work

Everyone who uses the kitchen should be involved in the kitchen's cleanliness. The office manager should make a cleaning roster, so everyone knows when it’s their turn to do the washing up or change the coffee filter. This will turn chores into daily tasks instead of overwhelming jobs that need doing because there are no plates left, or the fridge smells so bad that no one wants to use it anymore. The manager needs to stick to the roster and enforce it so that everyone is doing their fair share. Encourage people to clean messes they make as they go, such as food or drink spills on countertops and wiping the microwave after using it. Making people take responsibility for the cleanliness of their workplace will not only result in a healthier work environment, but will also improve teamwork and office dynamics.

Looking after the office kitchen does take some time and commitment from the whole team, but it comes down to it being clean, hygienic and safe to use. Having a kitchen at work provides a space to store food, warm up lunches and make drinks. Neglecting it only affects the people who use it, but with everyone's cooperation, your company can have a safe and comfortable environment where you can enjoy your break times.