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Office Toilets And Washrooms Post-Lockdown 

Office Toilets And Washrooms Post-Lockdown 
27 May 2020 | Updated 28 May 2020

COVID-19 is affecting how we all use buildings and will continue to do so even once lockdown measures are lifted. 

As more information on how the virus is spread and how best to control the transmission comes to light, the management of common areas of office buildings such as washrooms will be paramount in keeping the virus under control.


Washroom facilities


In the official government guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments, washroom facilities are mentioned a few times.

Under the section named “5.3 Hygiene: handwashing, sanitation facilities and toilets” The following steps are recommended for regulating use of “locker rooms, changing areas and other facility areas to reduce concurrent usage”:


  1. Using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency, avoid touching your face and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available
  2. Providing regular reminders and signage to maintain personal hygiene standards
  3. Providing hand sanitiser in multiple locations in addition to washrooms
  4. Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets to ensure they are kept clean and social distancing is achieved as much as possible
  5. Enhancing cleaning for busy areas
  6. Providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection
  7. Providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical dryers 



BCO guidance


In April, the British Council for Offices (BCO)  published a paper exploring how offices will, in the short term, need to be redesigned to ensure social distancing guidelines are being followed.

Titled “Thoughts on Office Design and Operation After Covid-19”, the paper discusses contamination routes of the COVID-19, one being faecal–oral:

“SARS was spread via a defective sanitation system in at least one severe case. Maintaining water in toilet traps and making sure that toilet lids are closed before flushing is important”

In terms of how office toilets might actually look in the next few years, the paper suggests that “superloos or pod-type toilets with touch-free door access and dispensers” will become the norm.

It also says of washrooms “Supply and extract ventilation may be preferred to the usual extract-only systems, to improve dilution and removal of contaminants”.


Not just washrooms


Kimberly-Clark Professional says that hygiene does not stop at the washroom and claim that understanding “the science behind surface wiping” is the key to keeping colleagues and visitors safe and well.

 Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects by using chemicals. But this process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends a two-step daily routine to clean frequently touched surfaces:


  • Step 1: clean surface with a detergent or soap and water
  • Step 2: disinfect the surface using an EN-registered disinfectant 


The CDC guidelines also recommend providing disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down before each use. Surfaces considered hot spots for germs also include computer keyboards, phones and light switches. 

The average desk has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat according to a study by Dr. Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona. Another study found that a keyboard harbours around 8,900 bacteria and a mobile phone harbours 6,300 bacteria.

Kimberly-Clark Professional maintains that today’s current conditions require tougher hygiene protocols. While placing hand sanitiser and signage in offices and common areas is a step in the right direction, they say the studies show it simply is “not enough to make a real impact”.

Picture: A digital mock-up of a public bathroom with urinals and toilet stalls

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 27 May 2020


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