Tag Archives: Health & Safety

What’s your crisis plan for Aussie flu, or other business health threat?

Send hime home
Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Send anyone infected home.

Your plan had better be good. Once these things get started, they go round like wildfire.

Half your office, out in one go. A whole team, down for weeks.

And just maybe a law suit, because you didn’t protect your team enough.

Plan, or else

Sure, flu jabs. Except it’s common knowledge this year’s vaccine is only 20% effective against the killer H3N2 strain. Lots of refusals from people who don’t want stuff injected into their bodies if it isn’t going to work.

What if it’s not Aussie flu, but the Japanese B / Yamagata strain – and the vaccine’s not available yet?

Or not flu at all, but some other illness that snuck in while everyone was looking elsewhere?

Can’t plan for everything? Quite true, you can’t – there’s no controlling anything your team might have picked up outside.

But again it’s common knowledge most offices are germ factories. Everybody all close together in the same space. Exposed to each other for hours, touching the same things, breathing the same air.

Just one person comes down with something and the ripple effect can last for months. Round and round, infecting and re-infecting each other. Enough to bring the whole business down, how do you plan for that?

You HAVE got a plan, right?

Not just flu

Like if it’s legionnaire’s disease, protecting your team is legally part of your duty of care. Not a virus, but a bacteria – legionella pneumophila. As its name suggests, an illness very much like pneumonia, which is where H3N2 can lead to if it gets out of control. And pneumonia is deadly – killing 50 million people back in 1918, the world’s worst ever epidemic.

But yes, legionnaire’s disease. One of a list of about 30 diseases you are legally required to shield your team from. It breeds in water systems and air conditioning units, but is breathed in from the air.

Gloss over taking precautions and the Health & Safety people will be all over you – a £1 million fine for Stoke-on-Trent based JTF Wholesale last year. Enough to put you out of business.

Getting sued of course is only part of it. Which is why having a plan is so crucial. What does it do to your business to have a load of people out of action all at once? And how do you contain infection from the handful you have left, holding the fort?

A big thanks to all our readers

This post today is our 500th  since we started, appropriately enough with How I Survived When Germs Killed My Business. Thank you for your support and interest, it’s people like you who keep us alive.

If nothing else, make your plan insist on one thing.

First sign of anyone being the slightest bit unwell, SEND THEM HOME.

They’re useless to you at work anyway – unable to concentrate, fighting an uphill battle with their bodies, spreading contagion to everyone else.

SEND THEM HOME and don’t let them log on either. They need to get better – and worrying about work stuff is only going to delay that. Paracetamol, rest – and at worst, mindless daytime television are about all they’re capable of handling. Let them be.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, you’ve got some rear-guarding to do.

Time for Plan B

Because the smitten ones might be gone, but not the germs they leave behind. And germs can survive in warm centrally-heated offices for weeks at a time.

Some of them might be airborne, swirled around in the continuously circulating air. Others lurk on surfaces, waiting to infect – on high-touch objects like keypads, touchscreens, light switches and control buttons. On all the other things people use too – documents, pens, keys, money, phones, handbags, wallets, clothing.

Better get your cleaning service on it, Priority One. Not just a wipe-down, but a deep clean. Give it the works, to take out everything that might hit you, not just Aussie flu.

Norovirus for instance gets everywhere and keeps bouncing back if not clobbered hard enough. The violent vomiting it causes is not just gruesome, it deliberately spreads tiny particles of itself everywhere, every little crack and crevice. Miss any out and it’ll be back, surer than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Better still, not just a deep clean but actually sterilise the place. Make it so that all germs are gone completely. No Aussie flu, no legionnaire’s disease, no norovirus, no nothing – the only way to make 100% sure your team don’t catch anything.

Other than that, sit tight and wait for everybody to get better.

Kick in that other plan you have too. The one for dire emergencies. Like what to do when your building has a fire, a power-out loses your data, or floods stop you getting near for few months. If you need to know how to set one up, Newcastle City Council have a blueprint right here.

Good luck with everything. See you in summer when this is all over.

About this blog

Back Off, Bacteria! is the blog of Hyper Hygiene Ltd, supplier of what we’re convinced is the most effective health protection system in the world. A fully mobile, all-automatic Hypersteriliser machine mists up workplaces with ionised hydrogen peroxide, spreading everywhere and eliminating all bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Hypersteriliser units are supplied to businesses and institutions across the UK, notably the haematology and other critical units at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester; Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital; South Warwickshire Hospital; Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital; and Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.

The Halo Hypersteriliser system achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. It is the only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. It is also EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

Productivity: how most British businesses are standing on the brake

Employee Health Protection
Not healthy – business spend a fortune on accelerating productivity, but peanuts on taking the brakes off

OK, so we’re lagging behind if you believe the Office for Budget Responsibility. Not keeping up, hanging onto our shekels, not investing in the future.

Doesn’t look like it with the new start-ups making the headlines. New ideas, new technology, the front-runners are showing the world.

Across the board though, there’s no doubt performance could be better. Bigger, more established businesses are not so quick to jump in the gaps – and too many cut corners with low income immigrant labour.

They might look like they’re trying to go places, but the fact is that pretty well all of them are standing on the brake. Holding back, without even knowing they’re doing it.

But as winter draws in and the days get colder, the evidence becomes more obvious.

The first sneeze, the first sore throat, the first coughing attack in the office. A team member gamely pushing themselves at their desk, determined not to give in to whatever bug it is – common cold, H3N2 Aussie flu virus, MERS, SARS, or any one of a billion possible illnesses.

No protection against germs

And that’s the clue – being unwell at work. Trying to keep going, but feeling like death warmed up – at what kind of capability level? 60% of their normal? 40%? 25%?

Under-powered performance and under-powered concentration. So the work load suffers and accuracy with it. Lots of good intentions, but unwell staff are unable to deliver their best – which means productivity can only take a dive.

And how long will it be before other team members start coughing too? Everyone sharing the same work space, breathing the same air, touching the same things – it’s going to happen isn’t it? What goes around, comes around – a setback is almost inevitable.

Which is what we mean by standing on the brake.

Because what do most businesses do about protecting staff from colds and flu – or anything else for that matter? A company flu jab, maybe – and that’s your lot.

And how about prevention?

It’s winter – so expectations  are high for norovirus,  the vomiting bug, to appear. What measures are taken against that?

Or legionnaire’s disease, a pneumonia-like killer that spreads through the air via the HVAC system? Neglect that one and it can cost millions in health and safety fines, as G4S Cash Solutions found out.

What about duty of care?

Also on top of the health risk, other hazards like mould and damp can trigger a £5K spot fine. Or as one charity found out, £12,000 in compensation and six months of expensive renovations.

That’s in addition to the 30 other notifiable diseases listed by Public Health England – along with 60 notifiable organisms that present a significant risk to human health. 90 illnesses any business is liable for if found negligent in duty of care.

All of which are expensive oversights to make. But a drop in the ocean compared to on-going unwell-at-work costs and the impact of under-performance on productivity.

Because unlike time off for sick leave, which for most people is just 6 days a year according to the CIPD – being unwell at work is likely to be 10 times that at 57.5 days a year, almost three working months.

Three working months of under-powered performance. And that’s for EVERY team member – from the lowliest apprentice to the top-ranking CEO – because we’re all human. No wonder productivity is less than it could be!

And the cause?

Germs holding us back

Sure, we’re exposed to germs all the time, so some of them may have come from outside.

Reality is though that we spend 90% of our time indoor, particularly in winter – and most of our waking hours are spent at work. So it’s no surprise our workplace is where we’re exposed the most.

On top of which, because we can’t see germs, we don’t imagine we’re at risk. We LOOK clean, therefore we are. But again in reality:

There’s another dimension too. Germs are so tiny, they’re airborne most of the time. And around 80% of any room space we work in is air.

We might clean our workplace thoroughly, scrub every surface within an inch of its life, but there’s no way to scrub the air. And in a study prepared for the Wall Street Journal, germs were found to spread from the front door handle to more than half the office in less than four hours.

Up in the air – and waiting

Uh huh, the air. We share it, we breathe it, we move through it – and all the time we’re immersed in germs, surrounded by them, constantly in contact.

Sometimes we fall victim, sometimes we’re lucky. We get something and throw it off quickly, or it has us seriously out of action for several days. We’re at constant hazard, yet how many businesses provide protection against it?

Surprisingly, nobody thinks about it, accepting getting unwell as a fact of life. Productivity with the brake on, even when money and technology are trying to accelerate it.

Yet releasing the brake is easy. Mist the place up with an effective biocide like ionised hydrogen peroxide, and ALL germs are eliminated in under an hour depending on room size. Throughout the air space, across all surfaces, and into all the nooks and crannies too.

Back to 100%

And with no germs to catch, there are no illnesses to fall victim to. Those three lost working months are restored, with team members able to perform at full capacity all the time – 33% more than they could previously.

33% better productivity.

The brake is well and truly off – there’s nothing to hold back from a rapidly brightening future.

Full throttle – look out world!

What’s the worst about mould – staff off sick, your own asthma, or the straight up £5K fine?

Office mould problem
Workplace mould – asthma, respiratory problems and one big expensive headache

Disaster, isn’t it? You never had asthma before, now you’re permanently gasping for breath.

Your staff aren’t much better. Most of them off half the time. The rest struggling with headaches, colds, flu.

Or whatever else feels like a heart attack, just climbing the office step ladder.

That horrible mould problem again. Those black marks on the wall last winter? 20 times worse now with summer humidity – and everybody’s paying for it.

£5,000 fines – and worse

Including you, now Health & Safety have got to hear about it.

Toxic black mould – you’re in for it now. At least a £5K arbitrary fine – possibly more if any staff have a condition that’s got worse, COPD or the like.

Sure, you were busy – but staff well-being has to come first. That’s the law.

It’s also your duty of care. And even if the building landlord won’t play ball, YOU’RE the one who should report it to Health & Safety, or your local council’s environmental health department.

Forget that, and it’s a £5K fine or worse.

Like the £12K compensation paid out recently for a claim of occupational asthma after 5 MONTHS of ignoring the problem.

Fix it, or else

And it’s not going away until you fix it.

OK, so it’s probably structural. Damp in the walls or something. Landlord’s problem.

But it could equally be YOUR FAULT.

Not enough ventilation. Or the reverse – running air conditioners all the time and the things leak moisture.

Which puts you in a JAM situation – Just Add Money.

Weeks or months of builders thumping through the place while everyone’s trying to work. Or shelling out for temporary prem while they get the place sorted.

And the costs keep racking up.

Because you’re liable at all times for staff safety. And as long as you keep exposing them to hazardous germs, you could get the book thrown at you – specifically the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

You keep LOSING money too – the downside of “germonomics”. Productivity goes through the floorboards – staff are listless, under-performing, a long way from the extra mile they always used to go for you.

But there IS a quick-fix.

It won’t solve the problem long term, but it will stop toxic black mould dead in its tracks – and any other harmful germs floating around too.

The 80% – 80% phenomenon

And we mean floating. Because in the enclosed environments we spend more than 80% of our time in, 80% of the space we move around in is air. Home to dust, pollution, tiny bits of human detritus –billions of viruses and bacteria – and billions of airborne mould spores.

Get rid of them – and you get rid of the mould problem, at least temporarily.

For 24 hours, definitely – maybe even up to a week.

But they won’t go for good until that leaky roof, busted pipe, missing damp course or unventilated cavity wall gets fixed.

All it takes is to mist the place up with ionised hydrogen peroxide after everyone’s gone home. In around 40 minutes for the average room, it permeates everywhere – including through the air – oxidising ALL germs to nothing.

You can tell it’s worked because that toxic mould is no longer black. It’s pale grey and lifeless, safe to brush off and sweep away. And there’s no smell either. Your staff are safe in sterile surroundings. To a 6-log Sterility Assurance Level.

And since you’re being proactive in looking after their safety, you might just stave off the £5K penalty. You’ve done your bit, so the liability is the landlord’s.

Now all you have to do is work on that asthma.

How about two weeks in the sun? The staff too – they’ll probably earn it with their mojo back.

Then you’ll all be ready to reach for the stars.

Picture Copyright: skdesign / 123RF Stock Photo

Wheezy question, iffy answer: should we sue for mould at work?

Two men crouching2
Wheezy mould at work is a misery you don’t have to live with

Wheezy, wheezy – isn’t it?

You’re coughing your guts out, that cannot be good.

Your mate’s in agonies, why shouldn’t you have a go?

Not so cut and dried, though – is it?

You sue, and they sling you out on your ear.

Even though there’s mould there, plain as day. Big black marks, right next to your desk.

Sure, it’s hazardous to your health – and sure, you should do something about it.

Health & Safety on your side

But there’s channels for this – big guns on your side.

And there’s no point putting your job on the line.

You already know the score. Mould triggers asthma, chest infections, allergies.

Which means you’re protected by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

Not just against mould, but all kinds of germs – because of the stuff you do and the things you work with. Or just plain germs at work that make you ill.

One phone call to Health & Safety and things start rolling.

Scoring brownie points

But before you make it, there’s maybe things you can do to soften the blow.

No point making enemies if you don’t have to.

Like for instance, you live with the mould every day. But does everyone else?

Maybe the brass don’t know about it and your report is the first.

Thing is though, mould is expensive to fix. And time-consuming.

Like, what’s the cause?

A leaky pipe? Rain seeping through the wall? Busted roof? Or is it ventilation problems? The whole place airtight to hold in warmth, not enough circulation, humidity climbing through the roof – bang, mould everywhere.

In which case, tell the brass there’s a quick-fix way to take the mould down. Get relief from it now, today – before all the hoo-hah of getting inspectors in, building consultants, and ripping the place apart to get rid of it permanently.

The overnight quick-fix

Mist the place up with ionised hydrogen peroxide after everyone’s gone home. The stuff permeates everywhere and oxidises ALL germs to nothing – bacteria, viruses and fungi, which of course includes mould.

Next day, you can tell straight away that it’s worked. Those black marks are now grey – and there’s no pong. Breathe easy instead of wheezy, the air’s safe now. And all that grey stuff just brushes away.

Oh, yes. And doing a non-invasive hit like that is a lot cheaper and faster than hammering and plastering with Bob the Builder all over the place. A real short-term money-saver.

You might even get a raise for it.

Easy, right? And not so wheezy any more.

Health alert: those black mould marks could cost you thousands

Mould accuse
Mould in the workplace is a whole can of worms

So what? Mould marks are everywhere. This is Britain, for heck’s sake – it rains.

Sure it rains. But not inside.

Mould and damp conditions are unhealthy as you can get. For your staff and your balance sheet.

A full house of trouble. Sick building syndrome, asthma, colds, flu, rheumatism, pneumonia. Outbreaks over and over again, accelerating as the mould gets worse.

The paying starts – and never stops

Staff off sick, productivity down the plughole, profits plunging – feelgood become feelbad.

And even worse once the council finds out. Health & Safety people all over you, building inspectors ripping up the walls, dragging days in court.

Then the fines.

How much could you be in for?

Depends.

Could be a one-off £5K fine.

Or the whole deal. Sickness compensation, absentee costs, insurance claims, nasty.

And all on your watch.

Duty of care

Like we said yesterday with legionnaire’s disease, it’s your duty to protect staff against hazards.

And believe us, mould might look like nothing – but those ugly black marks can kill as effectively as any bullet.

All it needs is an underlying complication. Respiratory problems, a weak heart – if your staff member dies, it could even be manslaughter.

Or you could leave it be.

Do nothing and let exposure for healthy staff rack up. Until one day, they have an underlying complication of their own. Or maybe it’s you, lying on oxygen in ICU, wondering if you’ll ever get your life back.

Wet, wet, wet – moisture is the enemy

OK, so do something.

But before you rush off and call in the steam cleaners, remember mould thrives when it’s warm and wet.

So here’s a few no-go words to keep in mind.

Wet, vapour, humidity, condensation, moisture and steam equals mould, respiratory problems and legionella.

Sure, you might get the stuff off the walls. But the lasting moisture accelerates it coming back.

And not just mould, but other pathogens. Viruses, bacteria. Get the place wet, and you’re opening a restaurant for them.

Which means you’ve got to go dry.

Besides, who wants moisture dripping on cables in the IT suite? Or getting into documents, come to that. Crinkled paper, water marks, pages sticking together. Not so easy to look professional.

Wake the tiger

Only one thing for it.

Ionised hydrogen peroxide in an ultra-fine mist. A mild 6% solution that doesn’t need lots of water to help it disperse. So it sits, light and agile in the air, not really wet at all.

A sleeping tiger that wakens to pounce.

Ionising makes it aggressively disperse in all directions. Hard up against all surfaces, probing deep into inaccessible places, clawing through the air itself.

Which means germs don’t stand a chance, including mould. Ionised particles seize them like prey, ripping them to pieces by oxidising their cells.

Look again, and those ugly black marks have turned to grey. Nobody home any more. So with almost no effort, they brush easily away.

No smell either – the usual sign of pathogens at work. All stopped now, the place is sterile.

End of the feelbad.

All germs gone, now for the cause

The place is dry too. No moisture to encourage a comeback. The stuff evaporates to nothing.

Job done.

At least, for now.

Because the mould might be gone, but not the cause.

That leaky roof or busted pipe needs fixing fast, or it will be back again.

And sure, you can keep hitting the place with hydrogen peroxide, your staff will always be safe.

But that won’t get the council off your back. Or the Health & Safety brigade.

Fix the problem, or they WILL hit you.

Like they did with these guys. Leaky pipe, occupational asthma, £12,000 compensation PLUS six months building work to make good.

Not worth the PT – and who wants that kind of black mark against them?