Monday, October 28, 2013

Work Hazards

Work can be hazardous to your health and I don’t say that just because I retired from a forty-year career to move on to researching and writing eclectic essays for Bull City Mutterings.

Using swabs in the typical workplace, researchers determined that the average person touches 300 surfaces every 30 minutes becoming exposed to 840,000 germs.

That’s more than 13 million germs each workday, and that doesn’t count the germs transferred when shaking hands with someone who doesn’t always wash up.

The biggest source of germs?  Break room faucets.

I recently had my shots to inoculate me from getting the flu and pneumonia just as a text arrived from my health insurance provider with the tip that regular hand washing with soap could save more lives than any

Unfortunately, studies show that only 78% of workers say they wash their hands often and surveys reveal that 1-in-3 have been observed by coworkers leaving restrooms without washing their hands or using sanitizer.

Researchers have learned that “normative messaging,” e.g., reminding people to wash up and telling them “why,” is effective, increasing that behavior by 20%.  Giving the percentage who do isn’t as effective as just the subtle reminder of “what to do.”

It also appears that the “observer effect” is just as powerful.  Read Kevin Charles Redmon’s blog at Pacific Standard for links.

Dr. Dan Ariely, a behavioral economics researcher who is based in Durham, North Carolina, where I also live refers to this as “reputational risk,” in his book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty.

This is the single most powerful influence to ensure ethical behavior.

Judging from what my lobbyist friends tell me about a few of their colleagues, especially those roaming free in local government, I suspect there is a correlation between sliminess and those who are too important to stop and wash their hands.

In her book You – According to Them published last year, Sara Canady explains that these people suffer from the “Don’t Fence Me In” syndrome.

They bully people, often in view of officials and under the noses of the news media because they feel entitled – entitled to operate under a separate set of rules.

They feel invulnerable because they are henchmen for powerful interests who would never sanction their behavior but use them anyway, giving them “plausible deniability” as protection from risking their own reputations.

Because people turn a “blind eye” or are embarrassed to report them, or are so revolted they just abandon the civic process entirely, this crowd feels no reputational risk.

And from my observations, they also don’t wash their hands either.

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