Hygiene in the Workplace

Keeping your workplace clean and free from unsightly clutter is an important part of good management. Health hazards can quickly establish themselves in poorly maintained and unhygienic environments and you, and your employees, risk infection or contamination if you do not pay attention to best practice recommendations, whether in an office, on a building site or in a retail environment.

Poor workplace hygiene causes health and safety problems, particularly if attention is not paid to appropriate waste management and to keeping washrooms and kitchen areas spotlessly clean. In fact, employers are legally bound by the Health and Safety Act 1974 to ensure that their employees are looked after and that their safety and health is protected, as far as is reasonable and practical.

Know the requirements for workplace hygiene

For toilets and washing areas, you need to supply:

  • Both hot and cold running water
  • Soap for hand washing
  • Towels for drying hands
  • Toilet paper for toilet cubicles
  • Regularly maintained and cleaned facilities

If your facilities include cold water that is not suitable for drinking, make sure you have appropriate signs in place for your employees.

Encourage personal hygiene

Your employees should be encouraged to practice their own personal hygiene. Display a polite notice asking them to contribute by cleaning facilities after use. If you use a contractor to undertake the cleaning of toilets and washrooms or kitchens and offices, you should be clear about the levels of cleanliness you require, how often cleaning should be done and when premises will be inspected. Remind employees that regular hand washing and the use of hand sanitisers are important, particularly after using washrooms, to help prevent the spread of illnesses.

Kitchen hygiene

Kitchens can be a health risk if high standards of cleanliness are not implemented. Any area used for the preparation of food or drinks should be kept scrupulously clean, as should appliances such as fridges, microwaves and toasters where these are used. Your checklist should include:

  • All surfaces used for preparation of food, including chopping boards and utensils
  • All appliances installed
  • Cupboards where food and crockery is stored, inside and outside
  • Windows, doors and floors

Remember that employees are entitled to complain if they believe lack of maintenance and poor cleaning of the kitchen area has created a health risk. Once again, it’s best to encourage employees to take some responsibility to protect them and to practice good hygiene.


Personal work areas should be looked after by individual employees who share a space or by the sole occupant if workstations are not shared. A sensible hygiene policy will make sure everyone is aware of his or her responsibilities to remove clutter and properly dispose of waste, preferably via recycling it. Work surfaces can be cleaned with an appropriate solution to reduce the possibility of bacterial infection.

Employees who understand why it is important to have a hygienic workplace are much more likely to follow your policy guidelines for a clean and safe workplace environment.

Disclaimer: The information provided through Legislation Watch is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Legislation Watch is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.

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