Category Archives: Legionella

Why your biggest threat to business is one you can’t see

Blindfolded businesswoman
Blind to the risks – just because we can’t SEE germs doesn’t mean they’re not there

Can’t see it – and possibly don’t even know that it exists.

But one just like it recently killed two people and hospitalised 21 others – landing discount warehouse JTF Wholesale with a £1 million fine, plus £200,000 in damages.

They were lucky it didn’t cost them jail sentences – for negligence contributing to manslaughter.

And why couldn’t they see it?

Because a single cell of the bacteria that caused this tragedy – legionella pneumophila, known more commonly as legionnaire’s disease – is only 3 microns across. Invisible to the naked eye without 10,000 times microscope magnification.

It was lurking in a hot tub on display, waiting for customers to prey on. The tub hadn’t been used for weeks, allowing the bacteria to grow – spreading through the air as soon as it was turned on.

Anywhere, any time, germs are waiting

Which is all it takes to spread legionella anywhere – a water system that stands still for a few days, or even hours. Like hot water systems for showers and central heating. Or holding tanks for air conditioning systems.

Basically any business premises – office or shop.

And by law it is the duty of any management to ensure that staff and employees are protected from exposure to this deadly killer.

Bet you didn’t know that – but it’s there.

And ignorantia juris non excusat – ignorance of the law is no excuse.

You ARE obliged to provide protection from germs – part of your duty of care.

Check out the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA), the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).

Fail to ensure your people are safe and a £1 million fine is not impossible. It’s happened before. Last year, G4S Cash Solutions was fined £1.8 million for similarly putting people at risk.

Out of money, out of business

Big bucks. Enough to put even rock solid companies well and truly out of business.

But that’s only the beginning of what invisible germs are already costing you – if only you knew it. Threats you can’t see, chomping away at your bottom line.

For a start, business experts PwC put absenteeism – days off sick from work – at £29 BILLION.

But more realistically, germs cost 10 TIMES MORE than that in presenteeism – people struggling to work while still unwell.

And it’s not just legionella.

In any unprotected business, staff and customers have all kinds of other germs to cope with. From everyday colds and flu, or tummy bugs like norovirus – to serious illnesses like e.coli, clostridium difficile, campylobacter and MRSA. All superbugs that cannot be treated by antibiotics.

And all costing THOUSANDS right now without really realising it. The price of accepting illness as a fact of life – instead of doing something about it.

Get out of jail free

Because it’s all fixable for very little effort or expense – including legionella.

OK, with legionella, you DO need to know what you’re doing, so you’re best off consulting the experts.

But for pretty well everything else, a daily mist up of ionised hydrogen peroxide is all it takes to remove ALL viruses and bacteria. Easily handled by your existing cleaning service or your own facilities management team.

You can’t see it working apart from the mist. But you can tell it has.

Any smells that were lingering in your premises are now gone. And any trace of mould has now turned from black to grey – dead cells ready to be swept away.

Still can’t see it?

Ask your bank

Wait till you check your bank balance and productivity levels.

Fewer absences, fewer underperformances from staff unwell at work. More enthusiasm, more commitment to succeed. Greater support from customers and suppliers.

Worth a bob or two, no?

And you’d have to be blind not to see it.

It’s the law: protect staff from workplace germs – or go to jail

Bizgirl in jail
Not protecting staff from germs is criminal – you could get up to two years for it

A harsh law but necessary. Because it’s about putting people at risk.

At risk from harmful, but all too common legionella germs. Deadly – and naturally occurring just about anywhere.

Do not be ignorant, forgetful or negligent of this law – the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Fail to comply and you face unlimited fines, court costs, compensation claims, disqualification and up to two years’ in prison.

Because legionnaire’s disease – the most virulent form of legionella bacteria – IS a killer.

Between 2011 and 2013, 84 people died from it in England and Wales. Hundreds more were affected but lucky enough to recover.

A kind of super pneumonia, it’s an airborne infection that lurks in air conditioning and water systems – both essential to modern workplaces.

Not on your everyday radar

OK, so how many managers are ventilation experts or plumbers?

That’s the kind of expertise needed to guard against legionnaire’s disease. To set up the necessary maintenance and keep it running safely. The kind of thing you need a professional consultant to advise.

Plus legionnaire’s disease is a notifiable disease.

If a doctor diagnoses it, it must be reported urgently to the local authority under The Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010. Right up alongside encephalitis, infectious hepatitis, cholera, malaria, smallpox, typhoid and all the other heavyweight nasties.

You don’t want you or any of your staff coming down with any of these.

Which means getting your facilities management people or building supervisor on the case right away. If your water systems are the wrong temperature or spend many hours dormant, you are all at risk. This bacteria is comfortable between 10 – 60⁰C and feeds off rust, sludge and limescale.

Catching it is as simple as breathing it in. Which means that until your systems are checked, your staff could be vulnerable right now.

Need a panic button?

There’s no need to panic though. You can take emergency action just by picking up the phone.

You won’t fix the CAUSE of the problem. But you can eliminate any airborne germs just by sterilising the place – legionella included. Along with all the other afflictions that threaten health and productivity – colds and flu, norovirus, e.coli, ALL of them.

At the end of the day when staff go home, have your cleaning service mist up the place with hydrogen peroxide. If they can’t do it, call a specialist.

The dry mist penetrates everywhere, including through the air. It oxidises germs by ripping them apart – bacteria, viruses, fungi, you name it. You and your staff are safe – walking in to a zero germ threshold next morning.

Leave the air con off if you can stand it. Avoid using showers or anything that sprays water droplets into the air. That will reduce fresh exposure to any legionella still in the tanks or pipework.

Then listen very carefully to what your consultant says. The law is very specific – and you want to make sure you comply.

On-going all-round protection

Of course it might take a while for the necessary work to be done. Relax, the nightly mist-up of hydrogen peroxide should keep everyone protected – from legionella and everything else.

In fact you might want to keep up with this treatment once your system checks out as legionella-free. It’s not the law to protect against salmonella, c.difficile or MERS, but should give your bottom line a boost if you do.

Fewer absentees. Fewer glitches from hero staff soldiering on unwell at work. More feel-good motivation. Better productivity.  Big savings to your bottom line.

Plus of course, you’re legal.

You’re taking immediate steps, as the law requires – and you’ve actioned an on-going fix.

It’s your GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card.

How good are workplace wellness programmes if they DON’T get rid of germs?

Gym hunk unwell
Keeping fit gives you the bod – getting rid of germs saves your life

Pump up the feel-good. Gotta stay healthy, gotta keep fit. All very nice and motivational – but how come nobody talks about getting rid of germs?

OK, a major chunk of health problems at work are about stress. Staff suffer all kinds of insecurities -and having a few endorphins kick in after exercise can only be good.

Except how many of these get physical / gym activities are really treating symptoms, not cause?

Because for all the thousands of staff facing stress issues, how many are caused by the reality of a bad manager?

Bad managers are to blame for the UK’s current productivity crisis, according to the Bank of England. Wanting in business abilities – and even more often, lacking in people skills.

Bad boss syndrome

Poor people skills, particularly by bosses, are the bedrock of job stress.

Start with an inability to communicate – add glory-seeking, inconsistent decision-making, side-stepping, favouritism and helicopter supervision – it’s no wonder even senior staff become paranoid.

But find a manager who knows how to motivate and inspire – and watch the psychological problems just melt away.

Better add attentiveness as well. Observant of staff needs and sensitive to them, sometimes before they’re even aware of them themselves.

For instance – staff disposition. Tired, lethargic, run-down and prone to headaches?

That’s as much environment as physical wellbeing. Poor lighting, stale air and uncomfortable furniture are all fixable issues that present as feeling unwell. So is the grey area of sick building syndrome – it feels unhealthy, and therefore it is.

So that flogging just the feel-good aspect of workplace wellness is compensatory side-stepping. Staff participation is rewarded by keep-fit activities and exercise, while the whole responsibility of protecting their health is brushed under the carpet.

Protection – it’s the law

It is a manager’s responsibility for example, to protect staff from exposure to legionnaire’s disease or legionella – a bacterial killer that lurks in water systems and air conditioning.

By law, this is an illness any manager must take the right precautions and control risks against.  Failure to do so can trigger million-pound fines or even a custodial sentence.

Which puts the focus squarely on what ANY wellness programme should – the safety and health of staff. Anything else is just window dressing.

Of course, legionnaire’s disease is just one affliction of billions we’re all threatened with. Viruses, bacteria, fungi – and the whole business of getting rid of germs.

And workplaces are more at risk from them simply because of the number of people grouped together in an enclosed space. Sharing the same air, taking up the same space, interacting with each other and touching the same objects – all germ delivery methods.

Unwell at work

Make no error, nothing knocks the feel-good worse than experiencing illness.

It doesn’t have to be big either – a headache or tummy cramp is enough to put people off their stroke. And most of us suffer ailments like that once every three days. 57.5 days a year, almost three working months.

Which flags up a major productivity hiccup right there. People unwell at work, because they don’t think it’s serious enough to stay home. But the feeling off-colour is real, so how well do they perform?

More to the point, how motivated are they? How reliable are their actions? No wonder being unwell at work costs 10 times more than straight absenteeism. Plus all the other costs – of mistakes, impaired judgement and lack of attention.

Yes, so?

Get rid of the germs. Make all the health problems go away. See staff revitalise because they feel healthy. Watch productivity accelerate – from the right kind of feel-good.

Overweight and smokers

Including among the fatties and smokers, who most wellness programmes try to penalise. Kind of a mistake isn’t it? Don’t ALL young achievers over-indulge early in their careers? Eat too much, smoke too much, drink too much, party too much – doesn’t that describe just about every hot-shot performer in the City?

Protecting them from themselves they won’t thank us for. But protecting them from germs in the workplace is a doddle. Keeping them safe from all the usual bugs that interrupt getting on with the job.

And all the dangerous ones that could kill them, given the chance. Including the law-decreed murderer you’re supposed to shield them against – legionella.

The easy way out

So, get rid of germs.

All it takes is a small addition to your regular cleaning schedule. Wipe-down, vacuum, empty the waste – AND a mist up with hydrogen peroxide.

Just forty minutes and the place is sterile – ALL germs are destroyed. No viruses, no bacteria, no fungi, no nothing. With immediately achievable results.

A lot less expensive – and better contributor to productivity – than the 10 grand one company spent on gym membership.

Good business sense really.

Motivate staff with wellness programmes if you like – and can live with the expense.

But get rid of germs – and they’ll feel well all by themselves.

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Productivity boost: our £290 billon antidote for presenteeism

Chasing profits
£290 billion – the cost to UK of being unwell at work. Make that go away and you’re chasing big bucks

It’s ours, and it’s right in front of us. A whole £290 billion worth.

Unwell at work costs out the door. Everybody up and going flat out. About as efficient as it’s ever going to get. Every penny of everyone’s salary working for you.

Not actually the end of presenteeism – that dicey compulsion to be at work instead of staying sick in bed. More like a sidestep – an effective way to avoid it.

Germ avoidance – Workplace Hygiene 101

Antidote, yes.

Because you can’t be unwell at work if you don’t get sick in the first place.

Yeah, right. So where does the £290 billion come in? If that’s the kind of money we’re saving, how come every business in the country isn’t bankrupt already?

Because all the time, they’re absorbing that cost. The invisible overhead disguised as part of salary appropriations. Like absentee costs but worse – the sick costs which business experts PwC calculate at £29 million a year.

The CIPD spell it out further – reckoning on a median cost for absence due to sickness of £522 per employee over 6 days per year – depending on the activity sector. Basically £87 per staff member per  day.

Ah, but absenteeism is a small fraction.

Unwell at work – the biggest money drain

The real overhead is in presenteeism – paying out for all those days that staff underperform by coming to work unwell. Ten times more according to a GCC study validated by the World Health Organization. A staggering 57.5 days a year – almost three working months.

OK, so ten times £29 billion is £290 billion – the cost to the nation of all those days struggling through the work day at half-power. The all-up sickness cost is even more if you add absenteeism – £319 billion. But with this kind of saving to make, who’s counting?

So now we have your attention with these megabuck figures, what’s the big breakthrough solution?

Like we said, avoidance. Protecting staff from becoming ill in the first place. An antidote.

Up front we have to say that nothing can be done outside business. People will pick up bugs wherever their lives take them and there’s not a lot we can do about it out there.

Indoor health protection

It’s a different story at work. Because it’s indoors, the whole environment is enclosed. A double-edged sword if you think about it. Staff all share the same space, breathe the same air. If any one of them goes down with something – they all can.

But you don’t let them.

Every night when the cleaning crew come in, you add a new element to the schedule.

Sterilising.

On top of cleaning desks, emptying bins and vacuuming, the whole place is rendered germ-free. Viruses, bacteria, mould and fungi eliminated by oxidising with hydrogen peroxide.

Next morning, when staff come in, the workplace is safe and sterile. No germs to catch or pass around. No chance to fall ill. Part of your duty of care – like making sure they’re warm and dry, with proper ventilation, and light to work by.

Required by law

Part of your legal commitment too, if you consider legionnaire’s disease – just one bacteria out of billions, but a potentially lethal one. As an employer, you are responsible for protecting staff from this nasty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – which makes you liable should any of them fall ill.

You can relax though. As a bacteria, airborne legionnaire’s disease is destroyed just as thoroughly as all others. To a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of all germs obliterated. The antidote in action.

Your staff might still fall ill – but not at work. With the germ threshold reduced to zero every night, there’s not much chance to. Nor will they sit there battling with ailments =- aches and pains and tummy cramps and stuff. They’re back to being 100%, pretty well all of the time.

Laughing all the way…

57.5 days of under-powered output that will save you – almost three working months. Which if we’ve done our sums right restores a third more productivity out of nowhere, all on the same salary.

Not bad for an antidote, hey?

Now what will you do with your share of £290 billion?

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Avoidable: the invisible overhead you’re always paying a bomb for

Stealing money
You don’t see it, but germs at work steal a whopping chunk of income every year, and we do nothing

Can’t see it yet? Of course not, it’s invisible.

So here’s a clue.

Look around your office, count the empty desks.

People off sick, work not happening, lost revenue – we’re talking absentees, right?

Nice try, but that’s not it.

Now count the desks with people who look under-par.

Martyrs sick at work

Head down, avoiding your gaze because of a headache. Rheumy eyed. Sniffling. Twisting with gut ache. Waiting till you’ve gone to run to the loo – again.

They’re your walking wounded. Martyrs all. The ones who shouldn’t be at work, but came anyway. Sick as dogs,  feeling like death. About as useful as elephants on roller skates.

Yeah, we’ve all been there – including yourself. More liability than asset. Going through the motions, making mistakes, just wishing it was time to go home.

57 days a year, we’re like that. Almost three working months. Not sick enough to take leave, but not well enough to be on top of things either. Blundering on with some bug we probably caught at work anyway – because that’s where we spend most of our time.

Always at risk

Some bug at work. How sensible is that?

We wouldn’t expose ourselves to noxious fumes or toxic chemicals. Too dangerous, impossible to do business.

Yet we expose ourselves to other hazards every day without a thought. Invisible, so we don’t even twig that they are there. Always and every day, waiting to do us down. We can’t see germs.

We sure as hell know when they hit us though – and still we do nothing.

Totally crazy, right?

If the germs were a notifiable disease like polio, or mumps, or SARS, the Health & Safety people would be all over us, trying to shut us down.

Yeah, but they’re invisible, see? Rotten, horrible germs. How can we plan for hazards we can’t see?

We don’t see them, so we don’t think of them. Not lazy, just not on the radar. But dangerous, just the same. And big money losers too.

Just a hint of legionnaire’s disease and we’re hauled into court, fined, shackled with a criminal record and lucky if we don’t get nailed with a custodial sentence.

OK, it’s against the law to gloss over hazards like legionnaire’s disease. Every business is responsible for the safety of its staff. To protect them from hazards like dangerous germs and care for their health. And legionnaire’s is one the law gets tough on.

Where’s the protection?

But how nuts is it that we don’t have protection from any others?

There’s billions of germs all around us and we do nothing. Not even wash our hands if we’re honest – which 95% of us don’t even bother to do properly.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

And it costs money, money, money.

Utterly nuts because it’s all avoidable, just by taking precautions.

If there’s no germs, we can’t get sick. And if we’re not sick, there’s nothing to stop us working at full power. Nothing to stop us going to the top, ready to take on the world.

All it takes to stop germs is to make the place sterile. Which your cleaning service can do right alongside the nightly swamp-out of desks and waste bins after everyone goes home.

Push button easy

Easy peasy, and about as difficult as using a vacuum cleaner.

A lot less effort though, machines do it automatically. Press a button and forty minutes later, all those invisible germs are dead.

So instead of paying a bomb, you’re saving a bomb. Instead of being underpowered, you’re firing on all four. No more invisible hazards, more like visible money-making.

Come on! What are you waiting for?

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Stop germs at work and save thousands. Ignore them and risk millions – even going to jail

Man in jail
Germs don’t just make you sick, you could wind up in jail too

Protecting staff health is a real money-maker. Neglecting it can mean two years in jail.

So what’s it going to be?

Like, stop people coming to work with colds and flu because there’s no germs to catch – and you could boost productivity by as much as third. Three months extra work, all for the same pay.

But gloss over checks on your water system for the bacteria that causes legionnaire’s disease – a notifiable disease, which means super-dangerous, you’re in trouble if they finds signs of this in your prem – and you are going down, baby.

Not good for your health

A criminal health and safety record, no more company directorship, unlimited fines, two years porridge. More if a staff member dies, and manslaughter charges stick.

Didn’t know germs were that important to business, huh?

Better wise up.

Get familiar with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Plus the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations controlling health and safety at work.

Not forgetting the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 – germs can be just as deadly as asbestos, toxic fumes or any other hazardous chemicals.

Not that your staff are exposed to any of them.

But they might be.

Since germs are too small to see, you  can’t say what they’re exposed to with any certainty.

Fixing the downside

You can see the effects though.

Workaholics determined not to lose a day’s pay, they drag themselves in with churning tummies and pounding heads. Sick as dogs but intent on being heroes. Not really capable, but going through the motions, And passing their germs on to everyone else in the process.

Except you’re savvy enough to add office hygiene to the daily cleaning routine. So together with regular vacuuming and wipe-down, you have the place sterilised overnight as well. All viruses and bacteria sent to oblivion, so your staff start safe in the morning.

Full of beans, ready to go at full power – with all capabilities in play that you hired them for. Plus the motivation of feel-good. No germs, no problems, an unstoppable drive to success.

Yeah, well. Duty of care and all that. You know how to make it pay off.

The price of not caring

Compare that with shrugging it off – never needed anything before, so why start now?

Ask G4S Cash Solutions.

When one of their workers went down with legionnaire’s disease, the local council launched an investigation. No legionella assessment on their site for three years, 200 people at risk, they threw the book at them.

£1.8m fine for water systems safety breaches. Very nearly a jail sentence.

Which means mess with the wrong germ and it can cost your business plenty.

Because G4S aren’t the only ones.

£300,000 each for cider-maker HP Bulmer and water contractor Nalco in 2008 after two deaths in Hereford.

Manslaughter charges for JTF Discount Warehouse for three deaths in Stoke-on-Trent in 2012.

And countless other fines up and down the country.

Avoidable – and profitable

Not worth taking chances, hey?

Reckon there’s always germs there. Take action to eliminate them  – and laugh all the way to the bank.

Easy-peasy. Not rocket science. And a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card

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Staff at risk: the invisible killer that could put you out of business

Blindfolded businesswoman
Blind to the risks – just because we can’t SEE germs doesn’t mean they’re not there

Invisible because it’s too small to see.

But at a tiny 2 microns long, it could be the biggest challenge your business ever faced.

Right, we’re talking bacteria. A single cell of legionella pneumophila in this case.

Not something we think about every day, but a daily threat that lurks in water systems – at home, at work, anywhere.

Wherever it might be possible to breathe in water droplets.

Why is it dangerous?

Because it leads to flu or pneumonia-like illness – legionnaire’s disease (legionella) – a serious lung infection that can make you very ill, or even kill you.

And it spreads very rapidly through big buildings like hotels, hospitals, museums and office blocks – particularly through air conditioning.

The threat we never know is there

Hear the alarm bells ringing?

You should.

Because by law, you are responsible for the health and safety of your staff. It’s your duty to protect them from the risks of legionella. Yes, the stuff is invisible – but that doesn’t mean it’s not there, waiting.

Even if you haven’t heard of it, you are accountable. And not knowing about the law is no excuse. You could be sued if somebody catches it – even tried for manslaughter if somebody dies.

Which should start you thinking about what you should do. Not just to be fully compliant. But to protect your staff as far as possible – they are after all, your biggest assets.

Because legionella is not the only invisible germ threat.

Billions and billions more

Living and working in enclosed spaces as we do, there are all kinds of other bacteria and viruses we’re exposed to daily as well. Just as invisible, just as dangerous. And your duty of care means you should be taking precautions against them as well.

Most of them, our immune systems can shrug off. And if we do catch a bug, it’s usually of the inconvenient or nuisance variety – colds, flu or a tummy upset.

Not serious, unless you look at the money they cost. All staff get expensive when they can’t function at 100%. Slaving at your desk, nobody is more committed. But how good are your maths reflexes when your head is pounding and you’re all bunged up?

Of greater concern are other heavyweight bugs we COULD get. Especially living in the jet age, when colleagues on business or holiday can bring back all kinds of illnesses at incubation stage – with no immediate sign that anything is wrong.

Breathed in or communicated on contact, they’re quick to spread though. Via high touch objects like light switches, door handles, keypads and touchscreens. Or simply on documents handed around.

Safety in our own hands

Handed – how most germs actually spread. And they’re invisible, remember?

We’re not very good at preventing them either. Because most of the time our hands don’t LOOK dirty, so we reckon we’re safe.

Meanwhile, the reality is that:

Which leaves us wide open to all kinds of dread diseases. MERS or bird flu from Asia. Yellow fever, cholera, malaria or Ebola from Africa. Zika from South America.

And all the other nasties from everywhere – hepatitis A and B, HIV/AIDS, measles, meningitis, TB or typhoid. Plus the more familiar miseries our sloppy hygiene can bring – norovirus, rotavirus, shigella and strep throat.

Ramp up the hygiene

OK, it’s YOUR duty of care to ensure your staff are safe. Not exactly easy when you have to protect them  from themselves.

You can’t FORCE them to wash their hands. But you can give them reminders – antiseptic gel on every desk, antibacterial wipes too. Positive but unobtrusive against invisible threats.

You can also shorten the odds. Eliminate ALL germs in the workplace after they go home in the evening.

For instance, get your cleaning company to give a good going over with hydrogen peroxide mist and you KNOW your staff are safe. 99.9999% of germs destroyed, you can breathe easy.

Sure, they’ll bring in loads more germs when they return in the morning. We all carry clouds of invisible germs with us, so that is inevitable.

How to stay in business

But with the workplace totally sterile first thing when they get started, there’s less chance for anybody to catch anything.

Worth doing to stay in business. And avoid a record of criminal negligence.

Which is what will happen if legionella pneumophila or any of these other invisible germs DOES strike.

You want to stay clean out of it.

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