HR Strange But True!
August 05, 2010
This new workplace terror is stomach-turning—literally. Professional office cleaners (and, unfortunately healthcare professionals) report a new scourge that is downright sickening. Communal fridges are the new workplace hazard!

We are blaming everything on the economic downtown, so why not the upturn in nasty, smelly office refrigerators. A recent study says that 70 percent of employees are now bringing lunch from home at least once a week to save money, but it seems only a small percentage of them are cleaning up afterward or throwing out their leftovers.

The study, by ConAgra and the American Dietetic Association, also found that 44 percent of workplace fridges are cleaned only once a month, and 22 percent are cleaned only once or twice a year. That means two-thirds are not cleaned regularly, and perhaps 100 percent are cleaned less than the restroom toilet seats!

Recalling the scepter of Zuul, the minion of Gozer, that inhabited Sigourney Weaver’s refrigerator in Ghostbusters, the Gaston [NC] Gazette interviewed the longtime owner of a cleaning company who said, despite wearing a mask, the horrific smell emanating from decomposing food in office fridges, which he describes as similar to that of decomposing bodies, has made him wretch.

He reports, however, that very few of his clients ever ask him—or probably anyone—to clean out the refrigerator. Other cleaning company owners told Bloomberg/BusinessWeek that they charge extra fees whenever asked to go near the interior of a fridge, which can be a hazmat-like situation. However, some employers are willing to pay extra when the smelly situation has gotten out of hand, and everything must be emptied out and the fridge hosed down.

The cleaner said it’s not just the fridge that’s disgusting; he finds decomposed food smeared on counters and other kitchen surfaces and in sink drains, as well rotting food in cubicle wastebaskets.

And it’s not just cleanliness that is a problem. An increased volume from more lunches, as well as snacks for layoff survivors working longer hours, results in the inability of cold air to circulate properly in order to chill foods. This hastens food turning bad. One office staff was slowly sickened when the milk for their coffee in their overpacked refrigerator stayed above a safe temperature.


Bloomberg Businessweek
Gaston Gazette

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