Category Archives: Hygiene Focus

Why you always wind up catching every bug around

Out of it in Oxford Street
Bugs are like buses – nothing for a long time, then five come along together

Cough, splutter – every bug around.

Seems you can’t help yourself.

And as soon as you’re over the first, the next one’s on the way.

Blame it on your hectic lifestyle.

Always on the go, no time to stop. Rushed meals, not enough sleep, too much happening at once.

Stress. Yes, that’s it.

Your body’s immune system is down  because of stress – and catching every bug is paying the price.

What a load of old tosh.

Germ reality check

Oh sure, you’re catching every bug. Because your body’s in a state the germs find easy to get in.

But not stressed.

More like undefended.

Those germs are coming at you all the time – just like they do for all of us – and you’re doing nothing to stop them.

Colds, flu, norovirus, UTI, e.coli – your list of absences reads like a calendar, every month of the year.

Yes, but if that was stress, you’d be out of circulation by now – permanently surrounded by a crowd of worried consultants in white coats.

In the meantime, you’re still catching every bug.

OK, let’s ask you a question.

You’re always one the move, with no time for yourself – can’t even remember breakfast it was so long ago, if you didn’t skip it altogether…  So when was the last time you properly washed your hands? The real thing with soap and hot water, having a good old scrub?

Can’t remember?

Come on in, door’s open

Not surprising.

Because chances are you’ve gone through the whole morning without any chance of getting to the washroom. And now you’re grabbing a quick salad wrap al desko, gulping down it quick so you’re ready for those heavyweight clients this afternoon.

And during all this time you’ve handled your keys, money, phone, the railings in the street, grab-handle on the bus and again in the Underground, lift button, door handle, security keypad and a whole stack of documents.

So inside or outside, whatever germs are on them, your hands have picked them up too.

And because ALL of us touch our face repeatedly throughout the day, those germs have easy continuous access through the soft tissue round your eyes, nose and mouth. Or are hitching a free ride down your throat with every mouthful of salad wrap.

Open doors, see. And without soap and water – or a wipe-down with antibacterial gel – you’re letting them in without checking their boarding pass. No permit, no visa, they’re on their way to create mayhem and you’re just letting them.

Which is why you’re always coming down with every bug around.

So it’s not stress, it’s forgotten hygiene.

Pushed out of the way by a busy lifestyle. And the illusion that most of the time your hands LOOK clean.

Deceptive though, because germs are so small, they’re invisible.  Microscopic. You could have 3 million on your little finger and never know. Very iffy when it only takes 10 to come down with norovirus.

Germ soup

It’s not just your hands either. It’s everything. We think we’re in clean, clear air – but reality is we’re constantly swimming around in a germ soup.

Take a look in a fish tank – one of those jobs with a light in the top, so you can see the fish.

See all that stuff in suspension? Algae. They’re microbes too. Like bacteria and viruses. Tiny particles catching the light – just floating there, not rising or sinking. Exactly like germs are in the air around us.

Which means they’re on your desk, your skin, your clothes and everything you touch. So even if you clean your hands, they’re instantly covered in germs again as soon as you touch anything that hasn’t also been cleaned.

Plus of course they’re always there in the air itself – germs floating and swirling around, just like in the fish tank.

Except just like most of us never clean our hands, we never clean the air either. And anyway, how do you take a scrubbing brush to a handful of nothing?

Scrubbing the air

So sitting in your office with your colleagues around you, all those germs, all those open doors – is it any wonder you catch every bug around?

They can be stopped though. Eliminated completely by sterilising the place every night  when everybody’s gone home. Easy-peasy with one of those ionised air-misting jobbies.

Oh sure, a whole lot more come in from outside when people arrive in the morning. But at least the pace is germ-free to start with. None on any surface, or in the air – the place is safe.

Now at least, you stand a fighting chance. Make hands clean as often as you can – and keep everything clean around you – germs get less of a look in.

No more days off sick.

Or more likely with colds and tummy twinges – because you can’t take time off so easily when you’re half-sick – sitting at your desk feeling like grim death.

But that’s not you any more. With no germs around, there’s no sick to feel.

So you’re up and running, full of the joys of spring. And every bug around is somewhere else.

And the very best of health to you!

Picture Copyright: deryaduzen / 123RF Stock Photo

How to get staff working 13 months a year for the same money

Office sprinter
Ready and raring to go. When staff are well and healthy, productivity can go through the roof

13 months a year? There’s got to be a catch.

12 months is demanding enough – who would want to work 13?

Which of course, exactly IS the catch.

Because though they might be at work for a full 12 months, staff don’t actually deliver 12 months’ productivity.

They deliver 11.

Sure thing, you’re paying for 12. But 11 is what you get, even in the most motivated organisations.

And in reality, it’s closer 9. Which means a whole three months of input you’re losing out on.

Time lost to what HR people call presenteeism. Like absenteeism, only it happens in the workplace. Staff inability to do stuff because they’re feeling unwell. Right there at their desks, but out of it.

The cost of unwellness at work

A growing headache for businesses, presenteeism.

Absenteeism most bosses can understand. Staff feel ill, they take time off – easy enough to budget for.

6 days per staff member per year for the average organisation. All taken care of, unless they’re goofing off – except we’re not talking disciplinary issues here.

OK, so time off for being sick. Across the country, that’s an eye-watering cost of £29 billion a year according to a four-year-old survey by business gurus PwC. Inevitably way more than that now.

Totally dwarfed though, alongside presenteeism – a massive productivity loss of 10 times more. A monumental  cost to the country of £290 billion. That’s per Global Corporate Challenge (now Virgin Pulse), in a 2016 study validated against the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Workplace Health and Productivity Questionnaire.

The Harvard Business Review agrees. So does America’s leading supplier of workplace wellness equipment.

57.5 days per year on average, lost to presenteeism – staff unwell at work and unable to perform at full capacity.

Fixing the problem

OK, roughly a third of this is difficult to do anything about.  It’s mechanical stuff, problems with bones and muscles – the back pain that refuses to go away, recurring cramps and spasms.

Stressed out staff are another issue, though execs might not like the implications. These are a further third who are depressed, fretting about performance or relationships at work, struggling with family issues and bereavements.

Not helped by UK bosses’ lousy management reputation  and even worse behaviour towards staff.

The final third is staff brought down by illness. Physical distress caused by infection – anything from minor ailments to life-threatening diseases. A major problem yes, but the one sector that management CAN do something about.

That’s because there’s one generic cause that can be pretty well eliminated from the workplace.

Germs.

It’s a fact of life that germs surround us all of the time. We’re even made of germs ourselves – 50% of our bodies are our own good bacteria handling digestion, creating proteins, managing our immune systems and plenty more.

The invisible threat

Germs are tiny, so we never see them.

But they’re everywhere – on every surface, filling the air. Everything we touch, everything we breathe is another exposure to potentially harmful viruses, bacteria and fungi determined to have a go at us.

Except we never see them, so we never think about them. Which explains why our own personal hygiene is a potentially serious risk:

Doesn’t look dirty, so doesn’t get attention.

Get rid of the germs

Staring us in the face, isn’t it?

Take away the germs and you take away office infections.

No more constant exposure and struggling to cope with a headache, tummy twinge or rasping cough every three days – which most of us suffer on average. Staff can focus on the job in hand, apply 100% of themselves, exert maximum productivity.

And all it takes is the touch of a button.

The one on the front panel of a Hypersteriliser mist generator.  That distributes germ-killing hydrogen peroxide in all directions and deep into cracks and crevices. That oxidises ALL germs to oblivion in around 40 minutes, so the whole place is sterile.

Lucky 13

And there’s your 13 months, right there. One third of your 57.5 days of presenteeism neutralised – a whole working month.

You’re paying for 12. And getting another one free, gratis, and for nothing, just by talking out germs.

Cashing in on bonuses too  – from the feelgood.

Staff feeling healthy and motivated. WANTING to go the extra mile – because their bodies tell them they can. Keen to show they’re the champions and better than anyone else. A bulge in your bank balance you never even knew could be there.

All invisibly caused of course, you can’t see germs when they’re dead either.

A complete productivity turnaround – and how it’s done is your secret.

Your lucky 13.

Picture Copyright: lightwave / 123RF Stock Photo

Sick on holiday: fake claim or genuine, why it’s usually your fault

Fake travel sickness
Yes, we can be unlucky – but with food poisoning we’re most of us red-handed

Fake claims are in the news lately.

Food poisoning, mostly.

Massive demands that backfire as travel firms put up a fight. Big penalties too.

£25K for a woman in Wales.

An upcoming dispute already topping £52K for a family in Liverpool.

Not the holiday bonanza anyone was hoping for. And bad for all of us, fake claims like these are on the rise.

Yeah well, with in-your-face “ambulance-chasers” tempting us to make get-rich-quick claims right there on our sun-loungers, we ought to expect hotels and travel companies to play hardball.

Sure, being ill on holiday is the pits and feels like the end of the world. But if it’s really genuine and LOOKS LIKE IT, as long as we get medical help and advise our accommodation people immediately, there should be no problem.

Fake claim, false blame

It is after all, not easy to fake high temperature, body sweats, continuous vomiting and diarrhoea.

That said though, there’s still the awkward reality that it’s most likely our own fault.

Why?

Because food poisoning is basically all about contamination. We ingest germs with whatever we eat, our bodies react, we get sick.

And our own hands – which go everywhere and do everything – are the most contaminated of all.

Not that we want to accept that.

When food poisoning strikes, we usually blame (or our solicitors do):

  • Kitchen staff not washing THEIR hands in preparing food
  • Dirty kitchen utensils
  • Mix-ups of raw and cooked meat
  • Food prepared in a dirty environment
  • Hazardous chemicals (like cleaning agents) contaminating food
Hygiene from hell

But we’re not so goody-goody ourselves. Even when we’re at home, our hygiene record is scary.

On holiday, it’s even worse.

Because, think about it – we’re out and about, doing stuff. Who wants to stop and wash hands?

On the go all the time, we’re trying to maximise our experience. In a few days, we’ll have to fly home again.

So we’re up at sparrow’s tweet and never let up. Rushing here, cruising there – no chance to even think of washing hands. And often with nowhere to do so, even if we wanted to.

Uh huh.

So whatever it is, lunch or dinner, there’s often a whole day in front of sitting down at table. And our hands have touched everything imaginable on the way.

Down the hatch – oooh!

And guess what?

Few of us are in the 12% of hand washers, so we just sit there and scoff.

And because it’s holiday, odds are likely that we’re eating straight with our hands.

Burgers, pizza, wraps, sandwiches, fish and chips, kebabs, ice creams – they’re all feelgood holiday favourites we can’t get enough of.

So it’s down the hatch and licking our fingers, with nary a thought about clean anything – unless our hands are VISIBLY dirty. Fake confidence.

Four hours later – ooh, I don’t feel so good.

Now whatever it is kicks in and ruins the holiday.

Norovirus, salmonella, campylobacter, e.coli, c.difficile – they all give us the runs and have us spewing our guts out.

But don’t worry. That nice man at the poolside said just get a chemist’s receipt for Imodium and you can claim it all back – EasyJet, care hire, the hotel, everything.

Reputation management

Yeah, right.

One finger pointing, three others pointing back.

For a hotel or restaurant to fall down on hygiene is bad news – even in darkest Peru.

There’s reputation at stake, a licence to lose, a whole livelihood to go down the tubes.

Which means sure, slip-ups happen. But they’re not the norm.

Unless we’ve lucked onto a place teeming with cockroaches and unlikely to pass ANY inspection short of a shutdown, it’s usually our own fault.

Which is dumb when you think about it, because it’s the easiest thing in the world to carry antibacterial wipes or gel. In our handbag or pocket, it goes where we go – our hands can always be safe from germs.

Plus before  we start pointing fingers, most food places are pretty strict about their own standards of hygiene. Tourists bring money, so you can bet everything that can be cleaned will be. Wiped down with bleach, swept, polished and vacuumed within an inch of its life.

In some places, even clobbered with hydrogen peroxide mist to take out ALL the germs. No chance we can fake our way out of that.

Walk in there and the whole place is sterilised. Any hint of food poisoning and they’d probably string us up.

OK, we’re getting itchy feet. Already packed for next week. Passports and boarding passes at the ready.

Got the hand wipes and the gel?

No need to fake anything, just have a good time.

Business reputations at risk in the wrong hands

Reputations at risk - soiled businesswoman
You do your best to keep up your reputation – but it’s got customer paw prints all over it – and then?

Even strong reputations are flimsy.

One negative happening, and the whole pack of cards comes tumbling down.

Everybody follows the rules, does everything right – then some dumbo comes along and ruins everything.

Usually the one person nobody can control.

Because of the myth that they’re always right.

Only this time they’re as wrong as it’s possible to be.

That all-powerful, untouchable king of business – the customer.

The one person who can shoot reputations to pieces better than anybody.

How?

The customer is always… dangerous

With dirty hands.

By leaving ugly paw prints all over everything.

Grab, fumble, tarnish – another reputation shot.

Greasy fingerprints on crystal glassware. Smears on polished bodywork. Dark stains on pristine linen.

And the ones you can’t see. Germs all over menus, cutlery and serving dishes – a food poisoning nightmare.

Next thing, it’s them – or other customers – complaining of stomach cramps, running to the loo, and barfing all over the carpet before they get there.

Nothing to do with you. It’s them.

The germs on their fingers are theirs – brought in after touching goodness knows what. Invisible, but dicey just the same. Possibly even deadly.

Always innocent – gets away clean

But guess who takes the hit?

Never them, the customer is king. Or more accurately in the food business, the customer is god.

So, taken ill after a night out – it can only be the restaurant. Dodgy ingredients, improperly prepared, sloppy personnel hygiene, dirty utensils – nobody has a leg to stand on. Solicitor on speed dial.

Yeah, right.

One finger accusing, three fingers pointing back.

Lost licence, closure, law suits, bank withdrawal, business collapse, HUGE money losses. And all because Fred Nurk didn’t wash his hands before eating. What kind of defence do you have against that?

And how many OTHER customers represent the same kind of risk?

The dirty truth

Pretty well all of them when you start looking.

Not good odds – ask the people who know.

They’re supposed to be on the ball, but how many actuaries would accept any eatery’s risk if they knew 88% of customers NEVER wash their hands before eating? Lots of rules for businesses to follow, none for customers. Where’s the justice?

And those are just the day-to-day instances – with nobody thinking about anything.

Then there’s the FAKE claims. The ones where the customer deliberately tries it on. Take a look at your newspaper – first Crete  – and now Turkey. The thin end of the wedge.

So how long will it be before it gets tried here at home? And how many reputations have gone down the tubes because some smart operators have got away with it already?

Reputations shot

Yeah, so Reputational Protection No 1.

Have your serving staff go round every table before handing out menus. Make a ceremony of it if necessary, but have them politely but firmly squirt antibacterial gel into the hands of everyone present.

Now at least your menus should be safe. And unless they go they go to the loo mid-meal, your customers should be safe from themselves for the evening.

Follow that up with Reputational Protection No 2.

Sterilise the whole place as often as possible – at least every night after closing. Which means mist it up with ionised hydrogen peroxide, so all viruses and bacteria are neutralised. No germs to catch, no tummy upsets to take away.

Do it. There’s too many business reputations already in the wrong hands – including yours. So it’s worth every penny to take it away from them and regain control for yourself.

Like we said, even strong reputations are fragile things.

No point running risks with them when you don’t have to.

Picture Copyright: polygraphus / 123RF Stock Photo and auremar 123RF Stock Photo

How safe is your Food Hygiene Rating against clients with unwashed hands?

Fingers crossed
You know YOUR hygiene is as good as it gets – but how about those people coming in through the door?

The short answer is, not very.

Even if your Food Hygiene Rating puts a “5” on your door, you’re up the creek at the slightest whisper of  “food poisoning”.

Especially if it gets in the media.

Superstar Michelin performers have had to close down to address those two words.

True or not, the public never seem to accept anything except negligence on your part.

So it’s the whole witch hunt.

Plummeting PR, lost revenue, the cost of deep cleaning, grilling staff over procedures, publicity for reopening – and the slow, agonising build up to repair your reputation.

Thousands and thousands.

And not necessarily anything to do with you at all.

Not YOUR hygiene – theirs

Because, ask yourself . How many of your clientele actually wash their hands before they sit down? Or if not then, before they pick up a knife and fork?

And who knows where they’ve been, or what they’ve been doing?

If they’ve been driving, there’s a good chance they’ve picked up staphylococcus or e.coli off their own steering wheel. Especially when car INTERIORS might only get cleaned every 3 months.

If they were on their mobile phone too, they’re likely to have been touching more faecal matter than a toilet seat.  The biggest trigger for norovirus – the Don’t Wash Hands Disease.

And these are the people who dare to suggest your procedures gave them food poisoning!

Iffy, iffy, iffy

It gets worse.

Because, top-drawer celebrity status notwithstanding, how many customers wash their hands EVER?

Your hands might be clean, but theirs aren’t. Check the record.

So that “5” Rating on your door is already under threat before you start.

Because you just know some hot-shot solicitor is going to make mincemeat of your case, no matter how meticulous you are.

Which means, “5” Rating or not, it’s worth investing in a little protection.

Protecting your interests – and reputation

OK, you can’t exactly demand they all hit the washroom before being shown to their table. They’ll never come back – and they’ll bad-mouth you to all their friends.

But you can protect hygiene levels AND offer a little courtesy – if you serve each guest with an individual hand-wipe or sachet of antimicrobial gel. Not as grand as steam-heated towels, but a lot more effective. Warm dampness in any case stimulates more bacteria than it kills.

On top of that, you also have the option to reassure clients that the whole place is sterile before opening for every session. Any germs previous guests might have left on chairs, table undersides, or condiment containers are eradicated without having to think about them.

And everywhere else as well. The drapes they might have touched. The carpets they might have tracked stuff in on. Not necessarily dog poo, but invisible germs. Plus harmful microbes lurking anywhere else. On menus, door handles, light switches, in the air itself.

One quick 40-minute session with ionised hydrogen peroxide mist  will remove all viruses and bacteria. Oxidised to nothing, so the whole place is safe, secure and sterile.

And your reputation is no longer at risk.

Well-earned status

Yes, sure – there might be the odd curmudgeon who refuses to co-operate. But how curmudgeonly do they have to be to refuse a pretty staffer personally offering an individually presented hand-wipe with your compliments?

A little insurance – and proof you’ve more than earned your “5” Rating.

Your customers are happy too.

Because how many of them will boast about the superior evening with PERSONAL hand hygiene – AND the place was specially sterilised before they got there?

A toast to you, then. May your business grow and prosper!

Picture Copyright: citalliance / 123RF Stock Photo

Buttons, touchscreens, and how we take our lives in our hands every day

Girls texting
Your touchscreen doesn’t lie – those greasy smears are dirt and germs right off your fingers

Ever seen what touchscreens look like after making a call?

Smeared with facial oils, make-up, hair grease and street dirt.

And that’s just the stuff you can see.

It’s not just touchscreens that are like that either.

It’s everything. Mostly with stuff we can’t see.

But it’s there, though.

Surrounded by yuck

Along with a whole lot of other gunk. Gubbins from somebody’s burger. Dust. Atmospheric grime. Faecal traces. And germs like you can’t believe – e.coli, klebsiella pneumoniae, salmonella, MRSA, norovirus – all the nasties.

And not just there either.

On lift buttons – especially at the Ground Floor, the one that gets pressed most.

On cash machine keypads.

And all the things in our pockets or handbags – money, keys, wallet, cleanser, hairbrush, everything.

Which if you think about it, means our actual bags as well. And everything outside them too. Laden with germs even though we can’t see them.

But we’re touching them all the time. Handrails, door handles, light switches, shopping trolleys – every one of them like our touchscreens, except there’s no shiny glass to show it up.

All of them things that seldom, if ever, get cleaned. Which is why they’re twenty, thirty, and forty times more germ-laden than a toilet seat. Because at least a toilet seat gets cleaned once a day.

So ask yourself, when was the last time any of us cleaned the inside of our leather handbags?

Or our hands themselves, come to that?

Looks are deceiving

They might not LOOK dirty, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t.

Especially after that chicken wrap for lunch with the dreamy mayonnaise topping. As our touchscreen will show, if we don’t lick our fingers off afterwards. Can’t find a tissue? Well, never mind.

And it goes on from there.

The gunk we can’t see on our desks at work, growing daily on the bits our sleeves haven’t wiped off. Hiding among the dust bunnies under our computer keyboards. Feeding off the crumbs of biscuits and the snacks we eat al desko.

And all the while – touching all these things and picking up fragments of everything that’s on them –  none of us ever think of washing our hands.

Our hands – which do everything, and go everywhere.

Like unconsciously touching our faces, every two or three minutes – sometimes up to three thousand times a day. Playing with our mouth, or fiddling with our eyes – the sensitive soft tissue through which most infections enter the body.

Playing games with our lives when there’s germs all around. GERMS, GERMS, GERMS.

Yes well, let all these touchscreens remind us. Before we take a tissue to them, or wipe them off on our sleeves. We don’t even need to take a memo. Those smear marks on the glass mean our health is at hazard – and we need to wash our hands NOW.

Phew, safe for the moment – but now we can’t touch anything, including our own touchscreens. Not unless we clean the gunk off that too.

Better hygiene or else

Which means everything if we want to be safe. Everything we use, everything we touch – and everything surrounding them. The air itself too, because anything as small as a germ can go airborne any second – and ride around on room currents for the whole of the day.

Uh huh. So we’ve got to wash the room too. Or whatever shared space we’re in. Restaurant, coffee shop, bar, schoolroom, office – or car, train and bus, come to that.

Not practical with mop and bucket, right? And besides, how do you wash the air?

Ah, but dirt and grime we can live with – we have so far, it’s just the germs we’ve got to handle.

OK, so the trick is to neutralise them with ionised hydrogen peroxide mist. The stuff reaches everywhere and eliminates them on contact. No need to rub and scrub, just press a button. Forty minutes later – all surfaces, the air itself – the whole place is sterile.

Better haul out our touchscreens and write that memo now. The one to ourselves about not taking chances and protecting our lives from germs.

Do it now before we clean forget. Or we’re sick of having to take MORE medicine.

Picture Copyright: gpointstudio / 123RF Stock Photo

Next stop, Queasy Tummy and Norovirus – hold on tight please

Two girls on tube
Yes, hold on tight. But don’t touch anything else – and make sure your hands are clean afterwards. You life could depend on it.

Hold on? We don’t think so.

Be super careful, more like. OCD like your life depends on it.

Which it does.

Especially if you’re not carrying disposable gloves, antibacterial gel or hand wipes.

Because after our blog of yesterday,  it seems germs on the Underground are far more of a threat than we think – as this mind-boggling post from Dr Ed demonstrates.

Too many germs, too easy to touch

Not surprising with 5 million passengers a day.

All crammed in tight, breathing the same air, hanging on to the same poles and grab handles. And all with the same dodgy hygiene habits:

Yeah, right.

Dirty hands touching dirty things, is it any wonder we’re always coming down with something?

121 different kinds of viruses and bacteria – according to research commissioned by insurance experts,  Staveley Head. 9 of them superbugs – potentially lethal killers that doctors can no longer treat with antibiotics.

Catching a bug on the tube and taking it to work. Falling ill and having to call it in. And probably passing it round to colleagues while doing so.

And all at ENORMOUS expense

It’s that kind of exposure that contributes to the £29 billion a year that sick leave costs the country.

And even worse than that, the 10 TIMES MORE it costs in unwell people coming to work anyway and toughing it out. £290 billion and counting.

£319 billion that adds up to. Enough to bankroll the NHS a whopping TWO AND A HALF TIMES over.

Or closer to home, individual organisations can get a hold on their own costs here.

Staggering, right?

Yet what do we do about it?

All that money and people bleat about cuts.

When all the time there is money for the taking – £319 billion if we play our cards right – just by ramping up our hygiene.

Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene

Like washing hands properly and often – as the folks at Northampton Hospital have been telling us for the last five years.

And like doing something to get rid of those germs. Hold everything – stop the exposure, stop the illnesses, stop all that money going down the drain.

Which means time to say, “Hold it, enough.”

Because it IS possible to eliminate germs pretty well completely. They’ll come back of course, they always do. But just like brushing our teeth, it is possible to be safe and protected every day – in the workplace, on the tube, in fact anywhere there is an enclosed space.

All it takes is regular treatment with ionised hydrogen peroxide, and the problem goes away.

ALL viruses, ALL bacteria, ALL parasites, ALL mould – end of the line, gone.

So come on people, don’t put up with it any more. Right now, the average is that we’ll all feel off-colour in some way or other every three days. Aren’t we all heartily sick of it?

Already the tube people have gone far enough to worry about air quality and do something about that. So when are they going to get a hold on the germ issue?

Let’s hope we don’t need an epidemic first.

Picture Copyright: william87 / 123RF Stock Photo

How germs at the office just got more dangerous

Germs in the office
Yes it all LOOKS reassuring – but we’re not as safe as we think we are

Dangerous? Germs at the office?  Poppycock!

A dose of flu maybe – kid’s stuff.

You’re more likely to have an accident with the photocopier.

Except there ARE germs in the office.

And if you read your papers, you’ll understand why doing something about them suddenly got a lot more serious.

First off is the report about superbugs in our travel network.

Nasties in the Underground

Research by taxi insurers Staveley Head recently turned up 121 different types of bacteria and mould in buses, taxis and in the tube – 9 of them antibiotic resistant.

As Staveley Head’s spectacular website demonstrates, pick one of those up on the way to work, and the Doc’s miracle medicine cure suddenly doesn’t work any more, them bugs have mutated to have immunity.

And pick them up you certainly can – nasties like e.coli, MRSA and klebsiella pneumoniae. Swab tests found them lurking on hand rails, seats, doors and walls – fomites waiting for contact with human hands.

To be carried along to work with all the other hazards we’re exposed to – in the air and on the things we touch. Dust, exhaust fumes, chemicals like acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, toluene and ethyl alcohol, or substances like lead, cadmium and methylene chloride.

We can’t see them of course, they’re microscopically small. But they’re on our clothes and skin and hair. We breathe them in. Ready to transfer to all the things we touch when we get to work. And for when we breathe out. Dangerous germs, unwittingly brought in for our colleagues to catch and succumb to.

And they’re not the only ones. Things are happening in other parts of this sad old world of ours that are equally dangerous to our health.

At war with disease

Like second, war in the Middle East.

Decades of conflict that have devastated whole countries and health systems. And in their wake, epidemics of diseases not seen by doctors for more than half a century. Polio in Syria and cholera in Yemen.

Not our problem, we say to ourselves. Syria is 2,000 miles away, Yemen 3,600.

Except sadly, in this age of direct jet travel, local problems are world problems. Already, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, pouring into Europe or wherever they can get to. And like us tube travellers or the bloke on the No 9 bus, bringing their germs with them.

For every polio victim, how many are carriers? How many are there with the disease incubating inside them as they thankfully emerge on our streets, looking to start a new life?

Meanwhile, in Yemen, cases of cholera have already topped 167,000 and the disease is currently killing one person an hour. How many Yemenis are in Britain, heaving a heavy sigh of relief?

And how many of either have – without meaning to, or even know they’re doing it – transferred their germs to you?

Not directly, but via the grab handle in the back of a taxi, or a rush-hour strap on the Victoria Line – swabbed the worst for germs in the whole London system. Well of course, the Victoria Line runs right through incoming refugee central – King’s Cross & St Pancras AND Victoria.

Unseen, unheard, unrecognised

Worries, yes, And bigger than we think too.

Because third, American reports indicate that antibiotic-resistant superbugs are not as closely tracked in hospitals as they should be. Infection-related deaths are uncounted, greatly hindering the fight against an increasingly global health challenge.

Hopefully, protocols are more strictly adhered to here. But with the NHS in a a state of permanent overload from challenges in all directions, it is likely the same dangers exist in UK too. You peg off with a superbug that your Doc couldn’t treat when you were admitted for something else, who’s going to know?

Which comes back to how safe are you at the office?

And the unpleasant truth, not very. A fact that stems largely from our own hype about standards of hygiene. We think we’re cool.

Reality is way different from what we imagine. For instance:

All of which puts terrific dependence on how well the office itself is cleaned if we want to stay safe.

And the answer is, not very. Not when office cleaning is usually a grudge purchase at the lowest rate. A quick vacuum and wipe-down is min protection against the 10 million germs to be found on the average office desk.

Which, together with the germs we brought in off the street, make the place a lot more dangerous than we confidently kid ourselves it is.

The cost of doing nothing

Once a luxury, it is fast becoming a necessity to do something specifically about office germs. And if bosses won’t do it for staff health, maybe they’ll do it for the sheer economics.

Or “germonomics” if they choose to get serious. The thousands and thousands of pounds that can be saved – just by removing germs that threaten productivity. Push-button technology already in place to make offices sterile, safe and secure.

So how dangerous is YOUR office – because, since it affects us all, this is one of those where you CAN believe all the things you read in the newspaper?

And the answer is very easy.

Does the button get pressed every night, or not?

One hint of health risk, and your whole business reputation nose dives

Nose dive crash
Taking chances – when the wrong germ comes along, your whole world goes for a loop

One germ is all it takes. One teeny microbe less than 0.002 microns across – and there goes your reputation.

E.coli is it?

A customer ate something that disagreed. Food poisoning headlines in the local press. All over TV and Facebook. Wisecracks on Twitter making it worse.

A reputation nightmare.

OK, so things happen. Somebody makes a mistake and the whole organisation pays for it.

Or not.

Because e.coli is a germ you can catch anywhere. Off a doorknob or a product display. Off the handle of a customer basket. From a handshake with sales staff. Out of the air. Anywhere.

Same scenario with most germs. From mild colds and tummy bugs to life-threatening illnesses.

Picked up on contact, or breathed in.

The blame game

So are you unlucky – or genuinely negligent?

Dirty hands are a cause, most of the time. They look clean but they’re not – at least not since after breakfast. And hands touch everything, including mouth and nose – the germs’ way in to reputational mayhem.

The customer’s hands, or staff’s?

With reputations on the line, it’s unwise to point fingers.

Most people don’t wash their hands from one moment to the next. Especially breezing in off the street. But you can’t accuse them, even if their hands are crawling. 0.02 microns is impossibly small to see, even if there are millions of them. So it’s you who’s accused – of insults.

On the staff side of course, you can see it coming.

Take precautions and be ready, before anything happens.

Minimise the risk

Like tighten up on staff hygiene. When hands are washed, how thoroughly, and how often. When latex gloves get used. How merchandise is cleaned and presented. Nannying detail yes, but your reputation depends on it.

Likewise, how your whole place is cleaned.

Not just a lick and a promise, but properly sterilised. If there’s no germs anywhere, you know the e.coli must be the customer’s.

And properly doesn’t mean bleach. The smell alone will drive your reputation away all by itself.

Besides, how’s bleach going to reach all the places that germs are more likely to lurk? In dark corners, away from the usually scrubbed counters and work surfaces? Or in the air itself?

No, no – to get rid of germs, you’ve got to get serious. Just like your reputation is serious  – and e.coli makes bad PR.

So it’s sterilise or nothing – again, your reputation depends on it.

No germs on anything anyone might touch – staff or customers. Including all the things nobody ever thinks about but uses all the time. Like self-service touchscreens and lift call buttons.

Bring on the tiger

Time to think ionised hydrogen peroxide.

And a nifty all-automatic machine – the Hypersteriliser.

It’s loaded with a mild 6% solution of hydrogen peroxide – the same germ-killer stuff you can get in Boots as antiseptic. And the same stuff our own bodies naturally produce to fight infections from cuts or scratches.

Ah, but press the button – and you waken the sleeping tiger.

IONISED, see. Which mists the hydrogen peroxide into a dry superfine spray – and transforms it from a gas vapour into a plasma.

Yup, you’ve got yourself a tiger. Because now that mild 6% solution releases a slew of other antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet – every one, a germ predator.

Plus the ionising forces the tiger out of its lair and actively on the hunt. Forced apart electrostatically to disperse aggressively in all directions. Fiercely pouncing oppositely-charged bacteria and viruses -and clawing them to shreds by oxidising them.

Not kind. But think of it this way. It gives germs the same deadly treatment they give you. Or more appropriately, your reputation.

Give it 40 minutes or so, depending on room size – and the whole place is sterile. No germs anywhere. In the air, on any surface, in any tight inaccessible places, or in any cracks, crevices and remote corners.

OK, so with the whole place germ-free, any e.coli floating around has got to be the customer’s.

But you know how it goes, you get the blame anyway. Benefit of the doubt and all that – the customer is always right.

Roar of approval

Uh huh, so your final play is to protect the customer from herself.

Before she has a chance to touch anything, offer her antibacterial wipes or gel – free with your compliments.

Well it’s your reputation, so what’s she going to think – free hand wipes AND the whole place sterilised for HER health and security?

Wow! Worth paying a bit extra to shop there, don’t you think?

And how’s it going to look for you when she climbs on Instagram and Snapchat to her friends?

Like we say, it’s your reputation. And with the tiger on your side, you’re playing for keeps.

Picture Copyright: digidreamgrafix / 123RF Stock Photo

Luxury right now – but one day soon, ALL hotel rooms will be germ-free

Relaxed exec
Luxury, but you’ve earned it – the right to be germ-free for a good night’s sleep

Imagine. Open the door – and your room not only welcomes you, it’s completely germ-free.

You’re flaked out, ready to crash – so you know your system is weakened.

But no, you’re not going to come down with anything – your room is safe enough to relax properly AND let your guard down.

Forget the paracetamol for a start. Your body doesn’t need it, there’s no need to take precautions. If the symptoms start showing, you’ve picked something up BEFORE walking in here. Because right now, you should be absolutely safe.

Germ-free – a new level of luxury

So. No viruses, no bacteria – as you can tell from the smells.

That’s right, there aren’t any. Except maybe from the flowers to welcome you. The chocolate on your pillow. And the exotic soap, still under cellophane in the bathroom. Nothing else though – like the tell-tale pong of bacteria at work.

Luxury? Or the way things should be?

Hotel rooms are cleaned every day, so they SHOULD be germ-free. But as any experienced traveller will tell you, they very seldom are.

Inevitable really.

All the right things are done – the vacuuming, the wipe-downs, the clean towels and linen. With disinfectant and air freshener too.

But hotel rooms are high use and high turnover. There’s no time and it isn’t practical to do a deep clean for every guest. Not even 5-star VIPs.

Ouch! Bleach

Bleach does the job, but needs exposure time to be effective. At least 30 minutes at fair concentration – except it leaves a stink and makes your head woozy.

And whoever’s going to use liquid bleach on light switches, bedside phone  or TV remotes? The things will short circuit and never work again. That’s IF cleaning staff don’t electrocute themselves in the process.

Or how about the other high touch areas?

Door handles, the dressing table, bedside units, bathroom vanity slab, or the floor in the shower cubicle?

To do all those in the turnaround time between room check-out and the next guest arriving just isn’t possible.

Or getting to any of the other fixtures and fittings that SHOULD receive attention. The bedspread, the curtains and the carpet, for instance. Nine times out of ten, they get left till the end of the month.

Pretty well all germs are airborne and contaminate new areas that way. The physical dust might be vacuumed out of the carpet pile. But there’s the collective germ-load of every single guest since the last steam clean still lurking there. Exactly why experienced guests never take their shoes off.

And anyhow – how do you clean the air itself, spray bleach around? Half the fittings will shrivel up or corrode – and your head will feel like a brain transplant without anaesthetic.

Twenty-First Century easy

Old technology. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Remember life before smart phones? Unthinkably primitive now, how did we ever survive?

Same thing with getting rid of germs. The new push-button technology does the job in a jiffy. Well, in the 20 minute jiffy it takes to spread out through the air, find all the germs, and send them to oblivion.

Get used to seeing a new house-keeping addition in the corridor as you head for late breakfast . After a fabulous night’s sleep with no travel gremlins – not even air conditioning sniffles.

There’s the linen trolley and the cleaning cart and the vacuum cleaner. And a nifty mobile console alongside about the size of a small wheelie-bin – the Hypersteriliser.

There’s your luxury revolution right there – the high-tech way to make hotel rooms germ-free.

Once all the cleaning is finished, that thing mists up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide and takes out all the germs. ALL of them.

Tiger, tiger

Bit of a sleeping tiger, that whole procedure.

Because by itself the hydrogen peroxide is a pussycat – the same eco-friendly 6% solution you can buy in the chemist. As an antiseptic or for bleaching your hair. The same stuff our own bodies produce for fighting infections.

Ionising catapults it into a whole new dimension. Sprayed out in a dry superfine mist, it transforms from gas vapour into a plasma. A complete change of state that releases  even more germicidal high performers – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet.

That pussycat is now a giant-size and riled-up, super efficient predator – all claws and fangs.

Ionising also triggers its hunting instincts – aggressively dispersing away from itself in all directions, driven by electrostatic charge. That same charge seeks out and pounces on oppositely-charged viruses and bacteria. Oxygen atoms claw them to pieces.

Game over.

99.9999% safe

And that’s ALL germs in the air, on ALL surfaces, behind ALL objects, underneath ALL objects – and burying deep into ALL cracks and crevices – ALL hunted down and annihilated. 99.9999% of ALL germs gone – to a 6-log Sterility Assurance Level.

Total effort involved, pressing a button. Time taken, 20 minutes or so, depending on room size. And all that’s left, oxygen and water – in such small quantities it evaporates immediately.

Oh, and a microscopically thin layer of colloidal silver on everything. A further and lasting barrier protection against germs. So that room is sterile immediately, or stays that way as long as it’s closed – for up to a week or more.

Sterile room – yes, luxury.

But fast becoming a necessity in this jet-age world of ours – where virulent infections from the other side of the world are suddenly on our doorstep, courtesy of direct flight Boeing 787 or Airbus A380.

So it’s not just colds and flu that hotels are fighting against. It’s the whole alphabet soup of MERS, SARS, HIV/AIDS, MRSA and all the other nasties. So easily caught by touching a cushion or a room service menu. So easily neutralised by daily letting the big cat loose.

No viruses, no bacteria, no parasites, no fungi – that tiger really earns his stripes.

Picture Copyright: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo