Category Archives: Hygiene Focus

Ra, ra, workplace wellness – but what happens about workplace illness?

Dead girl on floor
Shouldn’t workplace wellness be more about avoiding illness?

Go round the mega-buck companies – the movers and shakers of the Fortune 500 – and workplace wellness is already the Next Big Thing. Must-have, sexy, feel-good for employees like never before.

Informal work spaces, laid-back management, on-site gym facilities, gourmet food round the clock, designer décor, therapeutic lighting, specialist ventilation, everything that opens and shuts.

The employee is Number One

Yeah, plus the stress goes with it. Only super-achievers get the full treatment. And super-achievers either super-achieve, or they’re on the next Lear jet out. Only the best of the best to keep the bottom line in the stratosphere.

Big bucks, big incentives, super-big on health and physical fitness – but nobody mentions the G-word.

Not possible, say the techno-geeks. HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters in the air conditioning don’t allow it. Super-effective down to less than 2 microns, no germs can get through it.

And there – almost glossed over – is the dreaded G-word.

Germs.

Invisible in wellness guru vocabularies. Invisible on hands, clothing, surfaces and in the air. Our biggest threat to wellness, in the workplace or anywhere – disdained or in denial.

Germs? No, no, let’s stick to issues we can see, the latest sexy lycra, follow the wellness fashion. Big help, especially for our colleagues trapped by obesity – how condescending can we get?

Chubby, overweight staff, sitting for hours at computer screens? There’s workout  programmes and personal trainers to help them shift the lard.

Headaches and anxiety attacks from pressure of work? There’s psychiatric care and counselling  right there on the premises.

Not sexy

But a gut-wrenching tummy bug going round because some hot-desking hot-shot didn’t wash his hands before chowing down  on the company’s famous double-layer pizza?

Hey, these things happen – everybody gets sick sometime.

Not wellness though, is it?

And for all the fitness investment and feng shui environment, entirely preventable and unnecessary.

So what’s the deal in germ prevention with most workplace wellness setups?

Yeah, those wellness initiatives about health and wellbeing are all good – right across the whole leadership, alignment, relevance, accessibility, partnerships and communications thing.

But germs aren’t on the memo list and don’t understand them anyway.

Which means let iffy hygiene take hold in any office, and illness can run through those high-earning super-achievers like wildfire.

Yeah OK, the washroom facilities are the finest in the land. All infrared, no-touch, state-of-the art – except who’s using the stuff?

The hard facts are that while 99% of people claim to wash their hands after going to the loo, only 32% of men and 64% of women actually do.

And out of those who actually do wash, a whopping 95% of them don’t even do the job properly.

Looking cool, in hospital?

Because let’s face it, a few seconds waggling fingers under the tap is not going to stop experienced germs like clostridium difficile or escherichia coli for one second. Get them in the wrong place and it’s a week in hospital for sure.

All it takes is sticky fingers in the first dish of good improving carrot and celery crudités, and those germs are down the throat quick as a flash.

Give it four hours, eight, and the bill arrives. End-of-the-world cramps, violent howitzer vomiting, hell-fire diarrhoea and the over-powering wish to be dead.

Uh huh. Thousands spent on glitzy washrooms, daylight balanced lighting and fragranced air.

But a couple of tenners could put a fresh pack of hand-wipes on every desk every day – or sofa-side coffee table, if that’s the way people choose to work.

Standing open of course, to encourage use. The superstars might be in a rush getting away from the loo – but in-your-face all the time at their work station might swing it. You can lead a horse to water…

Clean hands of course, are only part of it.

Yeah, the HEPA filters do their job, but it’s a fact of life all of us are surrounded by an invisible cloud of billions of bacteria and micro body-waste – hair, dead skin cells, etc – our personal signature microbiome.

These personal germ IDs are so potent, they colonise and take over any room within hours, displacing the germ-clouds of anyone previously there. And of course they mingle and cross-exchange with the microbiomes of our other colleagues as well.

Everyday germ threshold

All these on top of the background colonies of billions of bacteria present throughout the room and on every surface anyway – a fact of life we’re never aware of. And off the radar for most wellness gurus as well.

A heck of an influence on every one of us though. Our own microbiomes don’t affect us of course, they’re our beneficial bacteria, inside and out. So many trillions of them that we’re more bacteria than human – all our body cells together are only 10% of who we are.

Most of the other germs are hostile though, kept at bay by our own bacteria – who either outnumber them to crowd them out, or attack and eat them.

Unless of course, those hostiles find a way into our bodies. Off a dirty table, a computer keypad, a lift call button, on documents, our own mobile – or picked up in the air, interacting with the microbiomes of others around us.

One man’s meat is another man’s poison, right?

The same with our personal bacteria. Especially when most of us have some underlying condition or other that is our weakness – asthma, IBS, muscular wasting – anything that makes us vulnerable to unfamiliar foreign pathogens.

Other people’s bacteria.

Avoiding illness

Which means forget spending a mint on inspirational colour schemes and murals to set off the walls. Rather spend a few hundred getting rid of all the germs every night, so the place is safe and sterile in the morning. Yes, it can be done – and all it takes is the touch of a button, how sexy is that?

Yeah sure, the germ clouds will come back as people arrive for work, so it will have to be done every night – a bit like cleaning our teeth. Well, we’re always eating right? So we need to brush against tooth decay, bad breath and yellow teeth.

Same thing with getting rid of our ambient workplace germs. To remove smells, infection threats and keep us healthy.

Which makes it the other side of workplace wellness.

The side nobody remembers because it’s out of sight and not sexy – but probably the most important side of all.

Keeping well by AVOIDING ILLNESS.

So easy – and a fraction of the cost of wow-factor surroundings.

Good clean living.

Now what workplace can be weller than that?

Picture Copyright: demian1975 / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-08-11 13:18:16.

Dead by your own hand, or rescued by soap and water?

Suicide girl
Goodbye cruel world – self-inflicted killer tummy cramps, from eating with unwashed hands

OK, OK, “dead” might be a little OTT.

But make no error, plenty of people die from contamination on their fingers.

Like the old tin miners in Cornwall, back in the Thirteenth Century. There was arsenic in the dust that they gouged out of those tiny, confined tunnels – which killed plenty of them before they discovered what it was.

Poison protection

Which is how come those savvy Cornish womenfolk developed the world famous pasty.  That thick crust around the edge was so the men could grab hold without touching the good stuff in the middle.

Oggy, oggy, oggy,” the women would cry down the top of the mineshaft. “Oy, oy, oy,” the men would yell back from deep underground. And the women would throw the pasties down – the tough crust keeping it from bursting when it hit the bottom.

We don’t have crusts on a lot of our favourites these days, so a lot of people go sick from the swallowing the crud that’s on their hands – the price for sloppy hygiene.

Which is how come as many as a third of all norovirus cases are self-inflicted.

People don’t wash their hands – but launch straight into finger-food. Burgers, pizza, chips, sandwiches, wraps – just about every kind of food-on-the-go you can think of.

Finger-lickin’ dangerous

Straight off their fingers, straight into their gut – whatever germs might have decided to linger on the things they touched before they sat down to scoff. A whole day’s worth of being out and about, if you think of it. On the tube, on the bus, out in the street, lurking on cash and credit cards, on keys and clothes, on door handles and light switch – and of course on the phone.

Ever looked at the screen of your phone after making a call? Yucky, greasy stuff, right? Skin grease and grime mixed in with germs picked up from the air – as many as 10 million bacteria and even more viruses. The most visible demonstration yet of the stuff you swallow, if you eat without washing your hands.

And yes, death is possible.

Norovirus or some kind of gastroenteritis upset is the most likely result of eating with unwashed hands. And in America – fast-food nirvana – around 800 people die from it every year. From the dehydration that sets in with severe diarrhoea and vomiting. Not a nice way to go.

When it gets serious, your blood pressure drops and your whole system starts going tits up. A heavy price to pay for some fast food when you’re hungry, hey? Especially if you’re in such a hurry to eat, you neglect to wash your hands.

Stupid really, and we should all know better.

Wash hands, or die

Not enough time? Rubbish!

Choosing to die by not taking five minutes to wash and scrub up. Blind suicide is what it is. Maybe it won’t happen this time, or not even next. But what you’re doing is taking a risk just as deadly as crossing the road without looking.

So soap and water is cissy stuff, yeah?Washroom poster

Never mind, there’s plenty of time to reflect on the wisdom of it once you’re dead.

And if you don’t die, maybe you’ll wish you will with the cramps and the upchucks and the burning runs that never seem to stop.

You want to play silly buggers? Norovirus is not a nice playmate. Neither are any of the other billions and billions of harmful pathogens you could swallow just from a moment’s carelessness.

Which means, do yourself a favour, if you don’t want to wind up dead.

Wash your hands whenever you think of it – especially before food and always after the loo.

Otherwise you might just as well blow your brains out, right now.

For finger food? You must be nuts.

Picture Copyright: sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-08-03 16:55:35.

With antibiotics failing, what’s your insurance policy for staff going ill?

Anxious exec
Without antibiotics, not tightening up on office hygiene could mean a lot of empty desks

Once upon a time, you could let staff look after themselves.

It was their life, their wellbeing.

As long as they were safe while working for you, what they got up on their own time was their own business.

Not any more.

Rapidly accelerating antibiotics failure makes it your business now.

And super-urgent too.

Invisible health issue

You’ve heard of superbugs?

They’re the rocketing number of dangerous bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. Whatever we throw at them, nothing works.

Either medics battle with second-best alternatives, or the body has to fight the illness itself.

Which means, all of a sudden, we no longer have the safety net we used to have.

If we get ill, we get ill – with no miracle drugs to pull us out of it.

Kinda vital from a business angle.

If a staff member goes down with ANYTHING it could be life-threatening.

A paper cut from a document? Blood poisoning could lead to sepsis and possibly death in a week.

So it’s not just a gap in your professional team, or under-powered service that you’re looking at.

It’s the permanent loss of a member of staff – and the whole heart-breaking rigmarole of replacing them.

Plus the threat that whatever they were suffering from could spread to everybody else.

Germs everywhere

OK, you can’t watch them 24/7.

But they’re your top-performing assets, and when the end of the day comes, they go down in the lift and home – away from your protection.

Protection?

You do so much already, probably without thinking about it – the cost of doing business.

Making the place pleasant and inspirational to work in. Good lighting, nice décor, ergonomic furniture, intuitive IT systems, sound proofing, personal spaces, central heating, HEPA-filtered air con, security at the entrance – the whole nine yards.

Ah, but without the medical failsafe of antibiotics, there’s now an element missing.

Keeping your staff healthy and safe from harm. A bigger challenge than terrorism – because now, ALL businesses face it.

And we’re all up against it because nobody’s head is geared for a major hygiene threat.

Yes, everything is OK right now – as long as nothing happens.

But if you think about it, our day-to-day focus on fighting germs by keeping clean is pretty near non-existent.

Sure, everybody showers or bathes before coming to work – all washed and polished, ready for action.

We are the unwashed

But then it disappears off the radar. The day gets started and people get involved, nobody has time for washing hands or other niceties.

Not good for two reasons.

One – very few of us know it, but we all trail around a personal cloud of invisible bacteria, fungi, dead skin cells and other body detritus  – on our skin, our clothes and in the air around us – our own individual microbiome.

Which of course includes whatever germ clouds we might be towing around as well – a streaming cold, flu, a tummy bug, or anything more serious.

Two – we know that germs are transmitted mostly via our hands, but very few of us do anything about it.

Uh, huh. But that’s personal. What business is it of yours?

Plenty.

Because it’s the things those unhygienic members of staff touch that spread things around.

One of them had norovirus over the weekend?

So now their invisible paw-prints are all over the light switches, the lift call buttons, their keyboard, whatever phone they’ve used – and the sales proposal document currently sitting on your desk.

What goes around, comes around

Touch the pages, the rub your face in thought – chances are good you’ll catch their norovirus through the soft tissue round your eyes or mouth – and that’s you out of action.

But it doesn’t have to be norovirus. There’s other bugs out there, way more potent.

You might have a client breeze in straight off the plane from Mumbai, Nairobi or any one of a dozen places with local epidemics going on – direct by business class on hands unwashed because timing is tight.

And yes, the office gets cleaned and vacuumed every night. But the germs stay there –  on the light switches and door handles – floating in the air, too small to be captured by the air-con’s HEPA filters – waiting to be swallowed or breathed in.

Health and hygiene, you’re covered

So that’s where you deploy your insurance policy. A nightly mist-up of your offices with ionised hydrogen peroxide – oxidising ALL viruses and bacteria to nothing – sterilising the whole place safe.

No germs, no chance of infection. Your duty of care is 100%.

And you make doubly sure by making hand wipes available on every desk as a reminder that hygiene is now a high priority.

Maybe you can’t protect your staff so well when they go home. But you can protect them while they’re working for you.  Fewer absences. Fewer illnesses. Fewer threats to your bottom line.

Yes, antibiotic resistance is a snowballing disaster.

But it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

Picture Copyright: Elnur / 123RF Stock Photo and i3d / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-07-27 15:13:49.

Could you be criminally charged for infecting your work colleagues?

Bizgirl in handcuffs
It could happen – nicked for not washing your hands

We might not think we act criminally, and certainly not intentionally.

But if colleagues become ill or die from an infection we’ve introduced, can we not be held liable?

It is already an offence to transmit HIV – either knowingly, or unknowingly.

People are never the same once that affliction takes hold of them. So infection constitutes an crime under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

We’re all of us prone to seemingly limitless diseases, but nothing ever happens unless we’re exposed to them.

We all work and socialise together, which means we often cross-infect each other – passing round the snuffles or an upset tummy without really thinking about it.

Negligence and drug failure

Most of these infections are entirely preventable with proper hand hygiene, which we are unforgivably lax about. So that infection by the usual suspects – escherichia coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, MRSA, colds, flu and norovirus – is almost inevitable across a year.

As we are at the moment, we sort of take that in our stride.

There’s only one problem.

Without most of us knowing it, our Number One miracle drugs – antibiotics – are rapidly losing the battle against superbugs resistant to them. We’re already at the threshold where they stop working altogether.

Which changes things Big Time, if you think about HIV. Without antibiotics, ANY infection or disease is suddenly life-threatening. Particularly if there is an underlying condition to be made worse – which one way or another, most of us have by the time we reach 25.

Death threat

Which means if you breeze into the office with ANY kind of ailment – even a sniffle that you just laugh off – it could mean the death sentence for one of your colleagues.

And count on it, cross-infection is highly likely. These days, we all work together in big offices of 20 or more. Or smaller spaces all served by the same HVAC system. Constantly exposed to each other’s condition with zero protection.

As we’re now starting to realise, each of us is home to a massive colony of bacteria in, on, and around our bodies at all times – our very own personal and individually unique microbiome.

We carry around a cloud of microbes directly related to who we are, our health, our mental state, our gender, and a zillion other influences. A signature more detailed and accurate than any fingerprint, retina scan or DNA sample.

Not only that, our individual clouds can completely displace and take over from any existing cloud in a matter of hours. So that scientists can determine when we were in a location. Our physical state when we were there. Even what we may have had to eat or drink before we got there.

Biological fingerprint

That gives us each a forensic profile that can only be ours. Irrefutable proof that any infection or ailment we may be carrying is the source of exposure. And cause of colleagues succumbing to a particular illness and deterioration of their life condition.

Now here’s the thing. By analysing the traces of microbiome present in a scene, existing technology is barely a step away from finding us culpable of causing health detriments to others.

If for example, we’re negligent in ensuring proper hand hygiene after a visit to the toilet, are we not criminally responsible for the MRSA of a colleague? And without antibiotics that work any more, is our action not a threat to life – culpable negligence, manslaughter or murder?

Avoiding hygiene felony

Suddenly, not washing your hands could become an Offence Against the Person, punishable by long term or even life imprisonment.

And it’s not just us, but our bosses too.

We might get done for not washing our hands. They could get nicked for not keeping the workplace safe and free from germs.

Again, remembering that this is against the background of total antibiotics failure. Our only defence against serious illness is heightened hygiene discipline.

Which is why bosses will be glad to look at a Hypersteriliser. Press one button and forty minutes later, ALL viruses and bacteria are no more – oxidised to nothing by hydrogen peroxide mist.

The germs will be back next morning of course – our combined microbiomes quickly repopulating the space and laying claim to it.

But germ threshold levels will be reduced – and back down to zero at the end of the day, when repeat treatment annihilates them again. A daily discipline, just like cleaning your teeth.

Yes, daily.

Because think about it. If we all have the opportunity to eliminate germs to make us all safer, it must be criminally wrong not to use it.

Sterile is secure.

Picture Copyright: elnur / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-07-22 18:03:45.

No more life-saving with antibiotics – what do we do now?

Ophelia dead
Without antibiotics, everything around us becomes life-threatening

No life-saving because the antibiotics don’t work any more.

Ask any doctor, we’re already  living on borrowed time.

Maybe not today, or even tomorrow – but one day soon, we’re looking at total failure.

Antibiotic resistance, see? The bugs are too smart for the drugs we throw at them.

We’re better off with paracetamol.

A riskier world

OK, we’re safe as long as nothing happens to us.

But Sod’s Law says it will.

Hopefully not a runaway car crash – but suddenly even a paper cut could be a disaster.  And what life-saving do we have then?

No more protection from infection.  Something goes septic on us now and the Doc will have to cut it away. Yes, risky – but our miracle-drugs can’t crack it any more.

And us with our sloppy hygiene habits – those germs will be laughing all the way to the morgue. Overnight, life-saving is way more urgent than it ever used to be.

Hygiene first

Unless – we smarten up our act and put hygiene first – recognise germs are everywhere and start being seriously clean.

Yeah, the hands have it. Big time soap and water. Except now, we need to wash slightly more than once or twice a day. Always before food. Always after the loo. And always before we touch our faces.

Plus of course, everything else needs to be scrupulously clean too. Kitchen surfaces and utensils. Anything to do with food. And our workplaces, where millions of germs thrive that we’re not even aware of.

First rule in germ warfare is infection avoidance. There’s always billions and billions of bacteria around us – viruses and fungi too. And yes, it is a war – they never give up trying to invade us.

There’s trillions of them INSIDE us too – friendly gut bacteria we actually NEED to help our bodies survive. Harmless enough where they are. But deadly in the wrong place.

Escherichia coli for example, is a bacterium that lives in our gut to aid digestion and protect us from other harmful microbes. But disease-causing strains of it, like O157:H7, disrupt body functions, triggering diarrhoea or worse. And e.coli in the bloodstream is seriously life-threatening.

Hygiene technology

So sure, washing hands and everything else becomes essential – but with no antibiotics safety-net, is still woefully short of keeping us safe.

However hard we try, we can never reach every hidey-hole, crack or crevice where germs like to lurk and breed. And pulling things out to clean underneath and behind all the time makes effective protection impossible.

Which means we need another dimension – to use our smart Twenty-First Century technology to clobber the germs we can’t get to – in a way that allows us to relax.

Enter the Hypersteriliser – a familiar sight in hospitals like the Salford Royal, South Warwickshire, or Queen Victoria in East Grinstead. Expect them soon all over the place – the most effective all-in-one total room sterilisers yet.

You do the rub and scrub. The Hypersteriliser backs up with one press-button start – removing ALL  viruses and bacteria in a room completely, oxidising them to nothing.

It works by misting up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide – electrostatically charged so it reaches everywhere – behind, underneath and on top of things, walls and ceilings too. Germs are actively grabbed and shot through with oxygen atoms, their cell structures totally destroyed.

Forty minutes later, the room is sterile. No viruses, no bacteria – 99.9999% of harmful pathogens destroyed – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

Be watchful – and live

OK, that’s your front-end germ insurance taken care of, a hyped up level of hygiene – prevention is better than cure.

From now on, you have to be more watchful too – avoid germ hazards, don’ let accidents happen to you, be super-careful around anyone sick.

Maybe not as miraculous as antibiotics, but just as life-saving BEFORE any illness gets anywhere near your body.

Picture Copyright: diy13 / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-07-21 13:20:47.

Pretend your desk is covered in alien slime, what should you do next?

Paint spattered lady
If you could see them, you’d know germs are everywhere – and maybe be a bit more hyper about hygiene

Actually, it’s not alien slime, it’s genuine, 100% Earth-bound, gluey yuck.

And it’s not pretend, it’s for real.

In technical terms, a slimy bacterial biofilm – those greasy marks in between the sandwich crumbs, grit, dust bunnies and coffee mug rings that always seem appear between your first skinny latte and the end of the day. Bacteria hiding under a greasy stain.

And since we’re talking real, not pretend – it’s not just your desk that’s covered either.

It’s you.

All over everywhere

Surrounded and covered by billions of bacteria, tinier than our eyes can see.  Alien slime, de luxe.

Thank goodness we can’t see them too – because otherwise we’d all of us look a right mess.

OK, so if this yuck is all over the place, one thing you’re sure not going to do is eat lunch. At least maybe not right now.

No matter how workaholic you are, can you really face eating with that stuff on your hands? And what’s your food going to do to your insides? A Technicolor yawn in the making, right? No, no, norovirus, or something.

Uh, huh.

But stick with reality, our hands and desks REALLY are like that. Just like alien slime.

Total occupation

Maybe give lunch a miss, eh?

But yeah, let’s get some soap and water on our hands, quick. If we’re breathing and swallowing that yuck all the time, we’re likely to be whipped into A&E before the end of the day.

Calm down, dear.  It’s only alien slime.

Our bodies’ immune systems have done a pretty good job of looking after us so far – we’re not about to go belly up just yet.

But you’re right though.

Get our hands clean, because we use them to do everything.

So whatever yuck we have on there  – whatever virus, bacteria, noxious disease, noisome odour, or gungy murk – if we don’t get rid of it, it gets transferred to everything.

Right, so soap and water – pronto! Clean, clean, clean, er…

Did you spot the deliberate mistake?

Oops, not just hands

Our hands might be clean, but our surroundings aren’t. That riot of colour is still all over everything, the germs are still there, just waiting for the opportunity to infect somebody.

Waiting to get back onto our just-washed hands. Alien slime, WHOO-HOO!

Never heard of WAIs?

Stick around and you will. Workplace Acquired Infections are the NEXT BIG THING us nine-to-five lemmings are about to wake up to.

Never mind Workplace Wellness, with our sloppy hygiene – workers and bosses – Workplace Illness is our more likely scenario.

Unless our bosses are equally on the ball and doing something about it.

Because just like it’s easy to sort yucky hands out with soap and water – it’s easy to sort out a yucky office with hydrogen peroxide.

Exterminate, exterminate…

And when we say “sort out” we mean sterilise – make all viruses and bacteria non-existent. So however healthy or not-so-healthy we are, we’re protected. From any germs lying in wait for the unlucky, or from anything our colleagues might bring in with them.

It’s easier than soap and water too.

Press the button on a Hypersteriliser machine, and the whole place mists up with IONISED hydrogen peroxide that penetrates everywhere. Just press the button, that’s all.

Psst!

The stuff oxidises harmful pathogens on the fly, ripping their cell structure to shreds – a one-way ticket to oblivion. Alien slime meets its doom – yah, hah!

Forty minutes later, the place is sterile, the mist reverts to just oxygen and a little water, the water evaporates – no worries, job done.

Gone is gone

Unless of course you LIKE the riot of colour all over your dress and everything. Pity you can’t see it though.

Guess we’ll have to wait till real alien slime hits us – from a returning space probe maybe.

Or, gasp, the real thing.

More fun blasting office bacteria to the Nether Void with hydrogen peroxide.

Take that – AARGH!

Picture Copyright: artzzz / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-07-18 15:34:32.

Should your boss penalise you if you bring a cold to work?

Sceptical lady
Good hygiene is good business – and shows on the balance sheet

Yes, penalise.

You’re not off from work, so you can’t claim sick leave.

But since you’ve dragged yourself in, what are the implications?

Never mind that you feel like grim death. You shouldn’t be showing yourself at all.

Sneezing all over the place, all round your desk littered with tissues – could be that penalising you is right.

Most obvious of course is, you’ll give your germs to everyone else.

So it’s not just you under-performing, it’s the whole office. Not good.

Especially on the boss’s calculator.

Do the math

Start with efficiency and productivity.

You might be at your desk, but is your job getting done? Your head’s like boiled knitting, so how good are the decisions you take? Are you really on the ball, or a blundering loose cannon –colleagues chasing after you for damage control?

All by yourself you could be costing a bomb.

For instance, if you get things wrong, they have to be done again – paying for the same thing twice.

And how about if they’re at the negotiation stage, or subject to a time crunch? Business lost altogether, more red ink on the balance sheet.

And when everybody else comes down with what you’ve got, what then? Two, three days at the wrong time and the place could go bankrupt.

At least if you stay away, the boss is only paying for your empty desk. And staff absences are probably already factored in – part of the cost of doing business, a staggering £29 billion a year for the whole country.

Which means you owe it to yourself and your work mates to steer clear of the place if you’re not well. Your work ethic is admirable, but more liability than asset.

Or if your conscience is troubling you, you’re probably in the wrong job anyway.

Where from the guilt-trip of having to work extra hours and weekends or when you’re feeling sick? If the work can’t be done in the proper time allowed, there’s something wrong with the management.

A business partnership

OK, there’s two sides to every relationship, including business ones.

So here’s a poser for you.

Shouldn’t the boss penalise you for allowing yourself to get sick in the first place?

Colds, flu, tummy bugs and a lot of others are all mostly self-caused.

Oh yes, they are. Just think about how they’re spread.

Mostly by contact, right? Either direct touching, or from fomites – common objects that all of us handle – light switches, door handles, keypads, documents, phones, money, keys.

Which makes hand washing the single most effective way to prevent the spread of your cold or flu, or whatever it is you’ve got – hopefully not norovirus, that’s the pits for everyone.

Yeah, so why don’t we do it?

Because if the boss made 1p from every time staff forgot to wash their hands, there’d be enough for everyone to do a company jaunt to Venice all expenses paid – flights, two nights in a hotel, dinner–dance, special concert and guided sight-seeing – at least once, or maybe twice a year.

Think we’re joking?

Get the picture? We are our own worst enemies at making ourselves sick.

So why shouldn’t the boss DEMAND that all staff wash their hands whenever appropriate – or be penalised?

Payback time

Yeah, well like we said, there’s two sides to every relationship, including business ones.

Because while the boss is jumping up and down, saying “wash your hands” – you’ve got the goods on her with how dirty the place is. Dirty and germ-laden.

So no sooner have you washed your hands than they’re contaminated again – from all the day-to-day filth and detritus gathered throughout the office and on everyone’s desk.

Despite an every day swamp out by cleaning teams, most office desks still harbour around 10 million pathogenic bacteria – in the dust bunnies under and behind keyboards – and the hard-to-reach places that never get touched.

That next attack of norovirus could come from no further away than the latest memo in your IN-tray.

Uh, huh.

So don’t staff and management owe it to each other to get this right?

Germs at work are unproductive, unprofitable and no good for anybody.

Which means staff owe it to themselves and everyone else to wash their hands regularly – always after the loo and always before food as the very minimum discipline.

To maintain momentum, management can also put hand-wipes or gel on every desk, every day, so there’s never a time anyone’s hands should stay contaminated.

At the same time, management owe it to staff and the balance sheet to eliminate germs in the workplace. Easily accomplished by a nightly mist-up with a Hypersteriliser – sterilising the whole place and destroying germs on and behind surfaces, in the air, everywhere – all in one go.

Nobody penalises anyone, everybody wins.

Easy to keep justifying the Venice trip too – check the profit figures and decreased downtimes.

See what we mean?

Picture Copyright: devas / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-07-13 13:28:23.

When will we ever get serious about hygiene?

Girl with Serious Warning
So hygiene is not sexy – neither is being dead

Serious? We never think about hygiene – let alone that it could kill us.

Washing hands, keeping clean – it’s boring, nag-nag nannying stuff. Not for grown-ups with jobs to do and lives to run.

Not sexy. Totally uncool.

Wishy-washy doesn’t touch us

We never connect hygiene with when we’re sick either.

Somehow germs get to us without any of our own doing. Nothing to do with us, we’re innocent as driven snow.

Yeah, right.

Reality is, it’s usually something we’ve eaten, or breathed in, or allowed to get infected through an injury we haven’t tended properly. And nine times out of ten in circumstances where things weren’t clean, germs were breeding and we walked right into them.

Caused by ourselves – by our hygiene blind spot.

Yeah, boring. Soap and water, who needs it?

Yet the penny never drops that we’re playing with our lives. That from germs already on our skin, even a simple paper cut could develop into sepsis, that we could be dead inside a week.

Feel-good tops being clean

No, we’re not serious. Which makes us stupid.

Because hygiene, to one level or another, saves our lives every day.

Including default hygiene. Stuff we do that we don’t even think about.

For instance, we don’t wash to get clean, do we? Too super-boring for speech.

But ritual and indulgence – that’s something else.

The long, soaking bath, the invigorating morning shower. Neither are about getting clean – we’re into the feel-good hype and extravagance of it, exactly like the soap ads offer. Treat yourself, relax, enjoy a moment of luxury.

Yeah OK, so we’re clean. But what kind of germ defence is that?

We can’t carry it with us into the day, can we? No lingering in a long, hot tub after making a Number Two at the office – that just isn’t practical. Wrong time, wrong place – we’re at work, gotta perform, go, go, go.

Which puts hygiene out of sight and out of mind, right the way through until our moment of indulgence again.

Most of the time, we get away with it too. Our bodies’ immune systems work overtime to keep us safe, glitching slightly with allergies and intolerances, but otherwise fine.

Horrible habits

Meanwhile, our bad habits run unchecked and out of control:

Because it’s not important is why. There’s billions and billions of germs all around us every day, any one of which could kill us or make us vegetables. We don’t see them, so we don’t recognise them for what they are.

Life threats.

And we just imagine that as long as we LOOK clean, therefore we are.

So we flounce through the day without a care in the world – only going near a wash basin when our bodies demand the toilet. Inconvenient, so we rush it as quickly as possible – keen to get back to the buzz of living.

Wash hands? Not even on the radar.

Not surprising either with all the limp-wristed appeals around us to do something about it.

PLEASE WASH YOUR HANDS has no sense of urgency.

No scare factor either. WASH YOUR HANDS OR DIE is a lot more appropriate.

Particularly when more and more of our miracle drugs are no longer able to pull us back from the jaws of death to compensate for our sloppy hygiene.

Antibiotic resistance is already a global nightmare. And when antibiotics no longer work, washing our hands becomes our ONLY defence against misadventures with dirt and deadly pathogens.

Dead is dead, better to live

OK, so we need to make hygiene urgent. To impress upon ourselves we really are seriously at hazard unless we see the light. Folksy symbols of washing hands won’t crack it – besides the message is boring.Electricity warning

We don’t pussy-foot around with electricity for example. Dead is dead – just as all-conclusive by a dose of harmful bacteria as it is by 30,000 volts.

And dead is what can happen to us if we don’t wash our hands.

Not that it always does – we’re more likely to be ill, sometimes seriously.

E. coli, for example naturally lives in our lower intestine and most strains are harmless. On top of diarrhoea and dehydration however, virulent strains can cause gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections, and neonatal meningitis. Few people die from it, but any of those symptoms can develop complications and kill.

And count on it, faecal traces of e. coli are inevitable on many of our trips to the loo – and that’s just one of the many trillions of bacteria we have living in our digestive tract. One of the bugs we have clinging to our fingers.

Not all of them are friendly, so the life threat from sloppy hygiene is very real and we need to change our mind-set.

Get serious or face the consequences, will we ever learn?

Nobody wants to die though, so better pass the soap.

Picture Copyright: ostill / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-07-12 13:14:59.

New building feel-good? Real workplace wellness starts with a button

Pretty girl enters building
However splendiferous any place might be, nowhere is invulnerable to germs

A lot of thought goes into creating feel-good.

A lot of money too. Modern concepts in access, spaciousness, air, light, colour, furnishings don’t come cheap. Nor do personal considerations like nourishment, fitness, comfort and mind. If money is no object, the results can be amazing.

From feel-good to feel-lousy

Or not.

However good the vibes, the location, the views, the whole biz-buzz hype – it all falls apart with the first touch of flu, the beginning twinges of a tummy bug, or the onset of feverish headaches.

All of a sudden, feel-good is feel-lousy. Make that feel-awful. The professional smile slips, the upbeat attitude falters – performing your best becomes impossible when you’re ill.

Not much wellness now, hey? Especially if it spreads.

And count on it, that’s highly likely. Not because we all breathe the same air or walk the same space – though that definitely has a bearing.

The building might be brand spanking new, but it’s usually old-hat bad habits that bring us down – our legacy of sloppy hygiene.

There they are, the most amazing designer washrooms ever. Hands-free taps, no-touch dryers – everything that opens and shuts.

Pity so few of us use them.

Because we don’t, you know.

We think we’re clean and wholesome, but we’re not.

Invisible to see because they’re so small, most of us are crawling in germs. And small wonder.

Sloppy hygiene de luxe

Makes kinda nonsense now, doesn’t it?

A multi-million pound building with all the mod cons. Half the staff out of action and feel-good down to zero, simply because there’s a bug going round. Another casualty to the £29 billion lost on staff absenteeism every year.

Uh, huh. Workplace illness. Possibly even a killer. Sudden death to sales results, red ink on the balance sheets, commission pay-packets ransacked.

All that money, an amazing monument to commerce and creativity, and nobody has a plan for germ control. Viruses wreak havoc, bacteria rule unchecked – with no more defences than a prestige heritage building that might be centuries old.

Which makes it extra short-sighted, since we’re all mostly bacteria ourselves.

Only 10% of our body cells are human, the rest are bacteria – a millions-of-years-old partnership that takes care of the heavy lifting of digestion, distributing nutrients, controlling our immune systems and a zillion other things – leaving us free to have a ball.

And we’re not only made of bacteria, we’re surrounded by bacteria, with our own personal cloud of bacteria that follows us around too. Most of them good, some of them bad – and all of them constantly interchanging with everyone else’s around us – through the air, by direct contact, picked up from objects and food we share.

And all utterly preventable at the touch of a button – the start switch on a Hypersteriliser.

Push button wellness

Push it after staff have left to go home in the evening, and a total sterility treatment is set in motion.

Ionised hydrogen peroxide mists up the air, spreading in all directions – through the air, hard up against all surfaces, and actively pushing into cracks and crevices. For the record, hydrogen peroxide is the same stuff our own bodies produce to fight germs around cuts and wounds.

Charged with electricity from being ionised, the hydrogen peroxide particles aggressively reach out and grab at bacteria and viruses, oxidising them to oblivion. Forty minutes later for the average room, the whole place is sterilised – safe and secure for a fresh start in the morning.

No germs, no illness, back to full-strength feel-good. Beyond décor and looks and sex appeal, it’s workplace wellness that works.

Which means back to being positive, feeding initiative, performing better and loving it because everything is right. Back to climbing bank balances too.

It doesn’t get better than that.

Picture Copyright: sergeyponomarenko / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-07-08 14:13:50.

OK, so how does “health” work in Health & Safety?

Assertive woman boss
Health means keeping you well – we need protection from all the germs around us

Er, health? That’s easy, there’s lots of stuff – check out the website.

Sure, sure – there’s plenty about protecting people from unhealthy conditions – rules, regulations, all kinds of stuff. Not a lot though, about KEEPING people well.

You mean workplace wellness?

Something like that – a practical dimension beyond work-related illness and injury.

Right, codes of practice for employers, protecting the workplace environment, dealing with stress, that kind of thing. Like it says on the website, “HSE aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health”.

Promoting health

Yes, yes, reducing hazards – but how about promoting and maintaining everyone’s health in the everyday?

You mean beyond hard hats and protective clothing, proper working conditions, that kind of thing?

Lots of us have “ordinary” jobs. We sit at desks, sometimes lots of us together.  Health is important there too.

There’s plenty of procedures – about proper warmth and light, adequate ventilation, it’s all covered.

Well no, it’s not – what about protection from each other?

There’s guidelines for workplace confrontation, how to deal with bullying too.

Ah, but your colleague on the next desk sneezes, what then? It’s an open plan office – what goes around, comes around. Half the staff could come down with flu and there’s nothing to stop it.

They could all have jabs.

That’s not the point, every single one of us could have some kind of condition and we bring it into the workplace. Actually, most of us do have something, with all the challenges life throws at us, few of us are perfect.

You mean like a tummy upset, or something more serious?

Exactly, maybe a toxic bug brought back from holiday – nobody’s caught Ebola yet, but it could happen.

Unlikely though, the health services would pick that up first – besides, there’s plenty of info about handling infections at work.

Sloppy hygiene

Nobody picks up anything in the early stages. Many bugs have an incubation time of several weeks. Meantime they spread, through direct contact and breathing the same air. A whole office could go down without warning.

And there’s guidance for that, staying away from work, giving an illness time to recover.

Absolutely right. But how about the environment itself? There’s always the risk of re-infection. And what steps are ever taken to ensure everyone’s safe? Our own sloppy hygiene could bring us down, simply by being careless.

Sloppy hygiene?

We are our own worst enemies. Most of us never wash our hands properly, so we pick up and transfer all kinds of nasties. We’re workaholics too, so we eat at our desks – munching food with unwashed hands on unclean desks – we’re asking for trouble.

We can regulate employers, but we can’t force workers to do anything.

A bit of a cop-out, isn’t it? They MUST wear special clothing, head covering and gloves when the job requires it, but nobody MUST wash their hands?

Employers must provide adequate washing and toilet facilities, it’s all legal.

Self-inflicted illnesses

Do us a favour, 95% of people don’t wash their hands properly – just a wriggle under the tap. And around 60% of us never even bother to wash our hands after using the loo – we’re all instant norovirus transfer machines.

You mean self-infecting?

Exactly, illness brought on by ourselves through our own carelessness. Where’s the health and safety in that? Which means we contaminate our own workplace too – bits of food, dirt, dust everywhere. Run your finger over your desk and there’s 10 million germs on there. Lots of fun if you’re starting a pregnancy, battling with IBS, or sniffing away from the TB you had as a child.

But all workplaces are cleaned out regularly, it’s an employer’s responsibility – part of duty of care.

A quick wipe and a vacuum and empty the bins? Not nearly enough. Very little gets cleaned beyond working surfaces – under the cupboards, behind the desks in the tangle of computer wires. No contractor would risk causing a system fault. And the air itself. Full of our own germs and everybody else’s too – ready to continue breathing in tomorrow.

You mean it’s unhealthy?

Just as hazardous as high tension electricity or dealing with asbestos – in fact worse, because we know those things are there and take precautions. But germs are invisible and there’s billions everywhere. We know they can make us ill, sometimes even kill us.

And we can protect ourselves against them?

Protection against germs

You bet, do your homework. Mist up any workplace with ionised hydrogen peroxide overnight after everyone’s gone. Next morning the whole place is safe, sterile and totally germ-free. No infections hanging around to bring anyone down.

Isn’t hydrogen peroxide hazardous?

Not when it’s ionised. That makes it so effective, it only needs to be a 6% solution. Your chemist sells the same stuff over the counter. Anyway, when the germs are dead, it reverts back to oxygen and water.

So proactively promoting health is possible?

Employers can buy the machines to do it themselves – or have somebody come in and “do” for them. Any enclosed space, completely sterile. Easy.

Do HSE know about this?

They ought to. So many of us are unhealthy and prone to casual infections, five years from now we’ll all be needing active health maintenance like this.

Works for me.

Picture Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-07-07 14:26:15.