Performance Management Blog

The Most Contaminated Surfaces in your Traveling

Jun 21, 2012 | Uncategorized

I was reading an interesting article about hotel rooms, that I will duplicate below, and it reminded me of airplanes and since many of my readers travel a good bit, it was my thought to post up some reminders / travel tips.

These days, I am flying with a baggie or baggies of the Clorox-type of disinfectant wipes. These are really multipurpose kinds of things and I will often take a few extras for seat-mates who get into a discussion with me and then get a bit paranoid about touching anything.

Basically, the AIR in airplanes is pretty good. They have improved their filtering and recycling times a lot in the last few years so that the contamination is reduced. This does not mean that all is good, since a sneeze directed at you is, well, directed AT you. Amazing how many people do not cover up. But the real dangers are other places — most notable is the tray table.

I guess the airlines clean them up once in a while, but disinfecting them does not appear high on their list of things to clean up and clean. Same with the top of the seat in front of you (where lots of people put their hands) and the armrests and seat belt buckles. So, I take a few seconds and wipe things down.

Janet Fang| posted up “Most contaminated surfaces in hotel rooms” at http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/rethinking-healthcare/most-contaminated-surfaces-in-hotel-rooms/9252 — which got me thinking about this in the first place. I reproduce parts of it below and suggest you trip over there and check it out.

This isn’t meant to freak travelers out. You see, during every 8-hour shift, housekeepers clean 14-16 rooms, spending about half an hour on each room…And identifying high-risk items in a hotel room would allow managers to strategically design cleaning practices, allocating time to efficiently reduce potential health risks posed by microbial contamination, according to researcher Katie Kirsch at the University of Houston. They sampled nearly 20 different surfaces from hotel rooms in Texas, Indiana, and South Carolina. And then tested the levels of total aerobic and coliform (fecal) bacterial contamination on each of the surfaces.About 81% of hotel room surfaces sampled held at least some fecal bacteria.

The most heavily bacteria-laden:

  • TV remote
  • bedside lamp switch
  • telephone
  • carpet
  • toilet and the bathroom sink
  • items from the housekeepers’ carts, including sponges and mops, which pose a risk for cross-contamination of rooms

Surfaces with the lowest contamination:

  • headboard on the bed
  • curtain rods
  • bathroom door handle

The researchers can’t say whether or not the bacteria detected can cause disease, however, the contamination levels are a reliable indicator of overall cleanliness. And many could pose a threat to those with compromised immune systems.

The findings were presented at the meeting of the American Society for Microbiology this week.

Visual assessment cannot tell if things are contaminated. Me, I am going to pack a few more of the disinfecting wipes! And give them to my seatmates.

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant, earning CPT and CPF credentials. -- You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com and a detailed profile is here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottsimmerman/ -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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