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.

Picture Copyright: bds / 123RF Stock Photo