Tag Archives: hygiene

Shock, horror – infections at work

Bugs at the Office
Count on it – if it’s going around,
it’s gonna get you

In hospitals they call them HAIs – Hospital Acquired Infections.

Outside medical circles, nobody’s started talking about Work Acquired Infections (WAIs) yet. But they’re gonna.

Controversial topic, HAIs.

A lot of people think they’re proof of incompetence – it’s a disgrace that infections should happen in the first place. Totally unfair and not very realistic.

Because if you’re in hospital for an accident or operation, you’ll most likely have some kind of cut or incision. And right there, is a major risk of infection. It can happen, even with the most stringent hygiene measures.

Not so safe any more

But the world has changed since the last time you looked.

Hospitals have an even bigger threat to face behind HAIs. Because we’re so gung-ho and Harry Casual about antibiotics, there’s a whole load of viruses and bacteria out there that have learned how to resist them.

You get an infection, the Doc can’t shoot you full of penicillin any more because a lot of the time it won’t always work.

Take MRSA, the first line infection most hospitals are so worried about. The name says it all – Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. Against that, antibiotics are about as useful as coffee sweeteners – your body just has to tough it out.

More hazards

Now think of that in the wider world.

Antibiotics are starting not to respond  – so if something happens to you, you could be in big trouble.

And things do. Accidents at work happen way more than you think. Check how the Health & Safety people see things happening in a year:

  • 133 workers killed at work (2013/14)
  • 2,535 mesothelioma deaths in 2012 due to past asbestos exposures
  • 78,000 other injuries to employees were reported under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences)(2012/13)
  • 175,000 over-7-day absence injuries occurred (LFS) (2012/13)
  • 1.1 million working people were suffering from a work-related illness (2011/12)

Those are the big dramas. But what about the little ones?

It’s just a scratch

You drop something, you cut yourself, something digs into you. What’s the bet hygiene levels at work are nothing like in hospitals?

Even an office can be anything but “harmless”.

Just think of it. Maybe thirty or fifty of you, all in the same room. All breathing the same air, all exposed to the same environment.

You don’t even have to have an accident, there’s plenty of germs ready to have a go at you. With so many people concentrated together – more viruses, more bacteria – the threshold is higher. WAIs are almost inevitable.

High germ thresholds for instance, are almost certainly the cause of “sick building syndrome”. Headaches, nausea – you’re not sick of the job, you genuinely have a health issue.

Germs everywhere

But you don’t have to. And as the effect of antibiotics not working becomes more acute, you’re going to see a lot of places taking active steps so you never do.

You’re probably already aware that desks and computer keyboards are breeding places of germs – as many as 20,961 microbes per square inch according to research.

Sure, your workplace gets vacuumed and wiped down every day by good, professional services – but they can’t do everything. What about under things, or nooks and crannies – or even the air itself?

Higher-level hygiene

Know how the smell of fish and chips lingers when everyone has gone? Germs linger the same, able to survive up to a week or more – floating in the air because they’re so incredibly small. An infection waiting to happen.

You guessed it, our hygiene habits need to ramp up a level. Clean isn’t necessarily safe. And once somebody catches a bug, sure as anything, you know it’s going to get everyone.

So the trick is to sterilise the place. Not just the desks and floors – those are done already, and look at the hazards we face. We need to do the air too – after all, it’s 80% of the space – and day to day, it never gets touched.

All automatic

Enter the hygiene robots – machines that take down germs and make the place totally safe from viruses and bacteria. They may be ultra violet generators or oxidising foggers – but they work, and very effectively.

Still feeling queasy at your desk? If it’s not lunch, maybe you should pressure the boss into getting the place sterilised every night. A hydrogen peroxide super-mister eliminates all germs in around twenty minutes.

It won’t stop infection if you get a cut of course. There’s germs on your skin and clothes from outside, so you still have to take all precautions. You’re less likely to develop problems though, because the germ threshold is less – at zero when you walked in this morning.

WAIs are likely to increase – but not on your watch.

Originally posted 2014-10-22 11:51:55.

How Ebola could save your life

Operating theatre
Why die, when you don’t need to?

It’s the panic of the moment – and that’s why.

For the first time in forever, people are concerned about their level of daily hygiene. And they’re right to be scared.

There’s a huge difference between the daily shower and brushing your teeth to the full-body bio-hazard protection suits worn by Ebola care-medicos.

It is a good parallel though. Day-to-day, we go through life without any protection – constantly surrounded by billions of microbes, many as deadly as Ebola.

A recent BBC report cites “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the world’s deadliest to date.”  Deadliest among Ebola outbreaks, that is.

Not a new disease

There were others: in 1976 (Sudan, Zaire and 1 isolated case in UK), 1977 (Zaire), 1979 (Sudan), 1989 (Philippines), 1990 (USA – 4 cases caught from monkeys in quarantine), 1994 (Gabon and Ivory Coast), 1995 (Zaire),1996 (Gabon and South Africa), 1997 (Gabon), 2000 (Uganda), 2001 (Gabon and Congo Republic), 2002 (Congo Republic,  2003 (Congo Republic), 2004 (Sudan and 1 case in Russia from laboratory contamination), 2007 Congo Republic, 2008 (Uganda and Philippines), 2009 (Congo Republic), 2012 (Uganda and Congo Republic), 2013 (current outbreak – Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, United States and Spain).

But Ebola is by no means the deadliest. In the Fourteenth Century, mortality from The Plague was 95%. In the Twentieth, 300 million people died from smallpox. Every year, 100,000 people die from cholera. Anthrax, once inhaled kills 93% of victims. HIV/AIDS kills 80% and upwards if untreated. There are plenty of others. Spanish Flu, for instance, which killed 50 million people at the end of World War One.

And that’s why people are scared.

With so many dread diseases out there, what protection do we have?

The body at risk

Against direct contact, not a lot – physical touching, exposure to body fluids, contamination from coughing and sneezing, an open wound. Once any germ gets INSIDE the body, you are at risk. Which means care and consideration in our relationships with others never goes away.

But look at the Ebola protection suits. They’re out of body protection – admittedly against extremes.

Out of body protection

Day-to-day it’s a lot easier. Because on top of all the cleaning and janitorial we routinely do, there are varying degrees of sanitising and sterilising we can apply.

Most of us use disinfectants or have them handy in the event of hazard. Bleaching agents are also a tried and tested way of getting rid of germs. Unfortunately they only work on surfaces.
Because slowly but surely, the world is waking up to the reality that ALL Infection can be airborne.

But we’re not dead yet.

There’s a whole stack of ways to clobber pathogens in the air – viruses and bacteria both, including Ebola. All of which destroy their actual cell structures so they cannot survive.

Our pathogen defence weapons

Most effective of these is undoubtedly ozone, which kills by oxidising – shoving oxygen atoms at the microorganism and ripping their cells to shreds.

The downside is, it’s too powerful. Though it’s like oxygen with one extra atom, ozone is poisonous. It kills germs, yes. It also kills people. Which means wherever it is used, the place has to be evacuated first.

That is of course, ozone in its natural concentration. In milder doses, it’s used extensively as a kind of room freshener, particularly effective at getting rid of odours – which are in turn caused by germs. An effective defence against sick building syndrome and keeping infections at bay in old age homes.

Hydrogen peroxide is another effective oxidiser. It sterilises an average room in as little as twenty minutes. And as reported extensively in the fight against Ebola, ultraviolet generators are in increasing use, particularly in American hospitals.

We’re not yet at the stage where every home has an oxidiser. But it’s coming. Expect to see all of these defences in increasing use in the near future – in hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants, public transport – everywhere the people come together in large groups.

Ebola is dangerous. It’s also a life-saving wake-up call – to do something about our hygiene defences.

Originally posted 2014-10-14 12:22:48.

If soap won’t hold against Ebola, should we burn the place down?

Burning HouseThey didn’t have soap when the world-wide Plague first hit in 1348.

Not unless you were landed gentry and brought the stuff back from Italy or France.

Nobody knew about hygiene or anything, so if you caught the Plague it was a death sentence.

Ebola is a virus.

The Plague was, and is, a bacterium – yersinia pestis. It’s still alive today in various parts of the world – like the south-western US.

And way more deadly.

Virulent as it is, the World Health Organisation puts the average survival rate from Ebola at 50%.

But if you come down with the pneumonic form of the Plague, you’d be lucky to make it at all. Mortality averages at 95% or higher. No wonder they called it the Black Death.

Today of course, we know about hygiene and keeping things clean. Which means controlling vermin and their parasites too – ie, the bacteria-carrying fleas on the rats that brought the Plague to Europe throughout the Fourteenth Century.

Half of Europe died in that first pandemic. And again, right through to the Seventeenth Century.

No soap, no hygiene – so Britain was ravaged repeatedly.

Until the Great Fire of London stopped it dead in its tracks.

By which time Black Death had killed half the people.

Up to 7,000 a week died in the months leading up to that catastrophic blaze.

Which made burning it all down one of the biggest hygiene levellers in history.

So should we get out the matches to stop Ebola?

Surprisingly, good plain old soap and keeping ourselves clean stops a lot of bugs getting to us already. Without dirt and slovenly habits, even Ebola finds it more difficult to get traction.

But just as people were ignorant about germ defence in the Fourteenth Century, so our heads are in the sand about serious protection in the Twenty-First.

Ebola can be stopped, totally – before it even gets to us.

Because like all viruses and bacteria, it cannot survive being oxidised.

OK, we can’t exactly fumigate the whole planet.

But we can mist up enclosed spaces – especially where larger numbers of us congregate – office buildings, schools, hotels, restaurants.

And the super-oxidiser that works is hydrogen peroxide.

Right now, we have the machines and the know-how to mist places up.

Ionising them as it happens, to boost spread and reach. With an electrostatic charge, so it reaches out and grabs germs as it finds them, ripping their cell structure to bits.

Slightly more effective than soap.

And less devastating than reaching for the matches.

You’re still right to be worried about Ebola.

But before anything happens, it IS possible to do something about it.

Originally posted 2014-10-07 11:54:22.

Keeping kids healthy – daydream or nightmare?

Girl with tissue
Germs in the air – catching as long as they’re there

Roula chose Budding Leaf for the name of her nursery school. It seemed perfect for young minds and bodies starting out and growing up.

Mums loved it too. There were plants all over the place and an adventure garden outside for when the weather was good. And every child had a growing patch of their own. A place to grow carrots, or lavender, or whatever.

The first year was fantastic. A nice bunch of children, a glowing write-up in the local glossy, smiling faces at the bank. A real story-book success.

The second year was great too – for the first three days.

Then the coughs and sneezes started. And the upchucks. Went round the little ones like wildfire.

It was the slippery slope. Parents all aggro and swearing, double-parked to rescue their darlings. The awful CLOSED sign. Neighbours looking daggers. Police ranting about causing obstructions. The community people demanding an inspection.

The doc put Roula on Xanax. Her husband took the double scotch option. Neither of them knew what the heck had hit them. First-time victims. Severe After-Holiday-itis.

Why? The whole place was spotless. Roula did the charring herself every afternoon. The front room, the loo, the whole disinfectant and air freshener treatment.

Her husband, Matt, made the connection. Stuck on the wall in the “What I did for the holidays” drawings. Long-distance bugs, brought home on the plane from Phuket, Kerala, Fuerteventura and Orlando. And that twinge of upchuck from little Ravi – that kind of smell never went away.

Aeroplane-flu or runny tummy, it didn’t matter. With the kids all together, they had to come down with it. And the germs hung in the air at the end of the day. Ready to have another go if the first time didn’t work.

Orlando. Disney spells. One of the Mums had brought her a goody-bag. Roula half-looked at it, thinking about the closing notices she would have to send out.

Half-wrapped in a Cruella de Vil T-shirt was an aerosol can. Total release fogger – kills germs in seconds. A curiosity from her friend Siobhan, as OCD about hygiene as she was.

Germs in the air. Roula hadn’t thought of that. Coughing, sneezing, of course. No wipe-down would ever fix it, no matter how thorough. What they breathed was not sterilised.

She put the can in the middle of the floor, shut the windows and doors, pressed the button and left. Then peered in from outside to watch what it did. Billowing clouds of white nothing. Her heart sank.

An hour later she dared to open the door. No cloud, no smell. The lingering pong of upchuck was gone. Nothing else, but it felt fresh, with a slight lemony tang.

Right there and then, her confidence spiked and she took the CLOSED sign off the front door. Budding Leaf was back in business and she would tough it out.

There were stayaways of course. Ravi with his Delhi-belly. Trinity and Andrew with their sniffles. The Allen twins with their funny cough. Half the school.

But the next day was a gas and nobody got sick or anything. The germs were gone.

Of course Roula was on the phone to Siobhan for more of the stuff. And Siobhan didn’t know. She’d lifted it from the room-valeting trolley as a lark. Total room steriliser, had to be good for something.

It took Roula a day on the phone and another on the Internet. Now Budding Leaf gets treated every night with hydrogen peroxide. Cost a bit to set it up, but all the Mums were up for it. Sterilised nursery school – what was not to like?

Budding Leaf is moving next spring. A bigger place round the corner. They need it for all the extra kids. Extra healthy kids. The local glossy made a big thing about that too.

Originally posted 2014-09-01 14:03:05.

Super hygiene stops superbugs – non-medical DIY that works

Superhero flying
Super hygiene to the rescue

Anxiety, panic attacks and feeling depressed can all be helped by your doctor. But how about when your doctor gets them?

Sure, there are capsules to be swallow and tablets to take. But that’s treating symptoms, not cause.

Because your doctor’s biggest concern right now is the increasing failure of antibiotics. Or more accurately, the emergence of the all-resistant superbug. If you’re unlucky enough to fall ill, those once reliable medicines are beginning not to work any more.

There’s no panic yet, because health professionals don’t work that way. Most of the hysteria is to sell newspapers. A lot of medicines still work, and doctors soldier on with their life-saving work, the way they have always.

But the clock is ticking. No less a heavy than Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies points out that developing a new drug and making it safe takes up to twenty years.

Too long, isn’t it? Because people are falling ill now. And not just from diseases. From infections after injury or surgery. From that cut on your leg, shaving in the bath.

Now hold on a minute. Doctors are only treating people who are ill already. Quaint Chinese traditions aside, we can’t ALSO expect them to prevent us getting sick in the first place.

If you’re injured in a road accident, your doctor can patch you up. But it’s the work of local councils, the highways agency, police and the DVLA to keep the roads safe and ensure they don’t happen in the first place. And your own watchfulness, of course.

It’s the same with superbugs. The Doc piles into action if you come down with something. But it’s hygiene laws, sanitation procedures and your own life habits that help you avoid them. A non-medical solution.

Which makes it more a house-keeping issue than a medical one. More like Janitor versus Doctor.

You see, washing and scrubbing is often not enough against superbugs.

We need to up our daily hygiene measures – make them way more effective than they are at the moment.

Washing hands and antibiotics worked fine in the Twentieth Century. To survive in the Twenty-First, we have to do better.

And we can.

Most people don’t know it, but it’s possible to destroy pretty well all viruses and bacteria before they get to us. To sterilise the whole place so there is nothing there to threaten us.

Imagine doing that to schools and crèches. Or hotel rooms and restaurants. Or planes, ships, trains and buses. Or public places, libraries, gyms, theatres – anywhere where people congregate.

You walk in and the whole place is sterile, no germs, no nothing. You’re safe. Or more to the point, your kids are.

That doesn’t mean that little Johnny with a cold is not going to give it to someone. But it does mean there are no lingering pathogens from yesterday or last week. They’ve all been eliminated.

And just for perspective, it’s worth remembering that most viruses can survive for seven days or more – probably their entire life-cycle. Why is why, after a long weekend, an untreated classroom may not be as safe as you think it is.

No, you don’t go at these killers with bleach, scrubbing down counters and floors in a frenzy. Bleach won’t do the job and most microbes are up in the air anyway. 80% of any room is the air space we move around in, with the microbes floating round in their billions.

You got that right. Cleaning countertops, work surfaces and floors is only 20% of the job.

And at just 0.02 microns across – the size of a rhinovirus cell – microorganisms are so light, they’re always in suspension. Waiting to be breathed in or swallowed, or settle on cuts and abrasions – just because they’re in the same place at the same time.

Yes, doctors are worried. But we can do something now.

Most effective is a machine not much bigger than a vacuum cleaner that automatically mists the air in a room with hydrogen peroxide.

Doctors know about hydrogen peroxide – a tried and tested germ-fighter since the Nineteenth Century. The body manufactures it to kill germs internally. But not in quantities enough to kill superbugs.

The “mistifying” machine sprays ionised hydrogen peroxide – finer and lighter than water droplets, able to disperse upwards and outwards – even underneath things that seldom get cleaned.

The stuff destroys pathogens by shoving oxygen atoms at them. Their cell structure is ripped apart and they cannot survive. 45 minutes later, all that’s left is oxygen and the finest film of water.

And a sterilised room, of course – 99,9999% of germs dead, per clinical evaluation tests.

Count on it, as superbugs get smarter, you’re going to see a lot of these machines in the future. You may even have one at home, though they’re a bit on the expensive side at the moment – about the same as a commercial floor cleaning machine.

They’re going to be necessary. Because the bugs don’t just get smarter, they kill better. And it’s you and your loved ones they’re having a go at.

As an effective defence though, hydrogen peroxide works against even the deadliest killers. Keeping you safe by avoidance – more realistic than hoping you’ll get better once you’ve got something.

Think about it. A new level of daily hygiene. A non-medical precaution you can take now.

Not rocket science. Just super hygiene agaist superbugs.

Originally posted 2014-08-05 17:26:23.

Hygiene is two thirds of health – so why do we keep dicing with death?

Tightrope
It’s only soap and water, but deadly if we forget it. Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash

It’s an old Lebanese proverb, that hygiene is two thirds of health. More accurately, hygiene is the one thing we can all practice that keeps us from death.

The truth of this is everywhere. Look no further than the Great Plague or Black Death – in Fourteenth Century Europe, the greatest health catastrophe ever.

Poor hygiene, certain death

Bubonic plague, yersinia pestis, was thought to be spread by rats and the fleas that infested them. More recent studies suspect humans themselves, through “ectoparasites”, such as body lice and human fleas. Exposure to any of them – together with the low levels of hygiene that prevailed at that time – and you were lucky not to be a goner.

Because rats were common in Fourteenth Century Europe. So were all manner of diseases and illnesses. Poor hygiene guaranteed it. People crammed in cities on top of each other. Few sewers. Pretty well zero sanitation. Human excrement dumped straight into the streets, then into the rivers that provided drinking water.

Not at all a healthy place to be.

Which is how the Black Death killed 50 million people, 60% of Europe’s population. Three to five days to react to a flea bite. Three to five days breaking out in suppurating buboes – and an 80% chance you would die within hours.

Goodbye cruel world. The end of everything through poor hygiene. Halted only by three days of germ-killing, purifying flames in the Great Fire of London, September 1666.

Halted, but without any advance in hygiene. Still the same lack of sewerage, no access to running water, wearing the same clothes for the whole winter, not even a bath once a year. And all the while, everybody’s body waste and faecal matter was discharged into the Thames.

The Great Stink

So that inevitably, nearly two hundred years after the Great Fire, came the Great Stink.

By that time, London had doubled and quadrupled, then quadrupled again. Newly-laid drains took away the never-ending effluent – increasingly from flushing toilets, the new invention of the age. Flush it away, get rid of the smell, out of sight, out of mind.

Except of course, it still wound up in the Thames. And surprise, surprise, Londoners still weren’t very healthy – the river was still the major source of drinking water.

Exactly how it was before the rats arrived, with cholera from drinking contaminated water back in top spot as the Number One killer. 40,000 died from cholera between 1831 and 1866 – most lethal killer since the Black Death itself – with infant mortality hovering at 50% and children under five not much better.

The summer of 1858 made it even worse. With a once-in-a-century drought and corresponding heatwave –temperatures climbed day after day to 48°C, as hot as North Africa. The Thames shrank to a trickle – and as water levels dropped, exposed more and more layers of faecal matter on the riverbed, baking and fermenting in the summer sun.

The smell, accumulated from hundreds of years of raw sewage, was unbearable.

People avoided the river, now a disgusting brown slurry of poo. The posh and aristocracy moved out of town. MPs abandoned the Houses of Parliament, newly rebuilt after a fire in 1834. But not before passing long-overdue laws for a massive new sewer scheme.

Down the drain

It took twenty years, but thanks to the brilliant engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette – the unique and awe-inspiring Victoria, Albert and Lambeth Embankments were the result, with yawning great sewerage tunnels concealed underneath. All supported by 82 miles of main intercepting sewers, 1,100 miles of street sewers, four pumping stations and two treatment works.

Slowly, the Thames revived, to become one of the cleanest cityscapes in Europe.

The water became safer too – with the discovery by physician Sir John Snow that cholera was spread by polluted water, not airborne. Famously, he persuaded the local authority in Soho, St James Vestry, to remove the handle of the public water pump in Broad Street, identified as the source of the most recent cholera outbreak.

Today London’s drinking water still comes mostly from the Thames, but only after screening, clarification, filtration, aeration, removal of pesticides and organic compounds by Granular Activated Carbon (GAC), ozone dosing, disinfection and ammoniation to ensure its purity.

And in case of another hundred-year drought like the one that brought the Great Stink, London’s water is further supplemented by the reverse osmosis treatment of sea water in a massive new processing plant at Beckton.

All of which keeps us a lot safer than the way we were in Victorian times. So safe that we seldom bother about it. We live in a clean, well-kept environment where the thought of germs is far away, unaware of our lucky escape from the clutches of bubonic plague and cholera.

Both are still around of course. Cholera ready to break out wherever flooding contaminates drinking water. And the plague still lurking in Madagascar, where 2,348 case were confirmed just last November – a mere 13½-hour hop away by Boeing.

Out of sight, out of mind

Our thoughts might be far away, but germs aren’t. Viruses, bacteria and fungi are part of our daily life and all around us. We’re even half bacteria ourselves, microorganisms in our gut helping us digest food, create proteins and even manage our immune systems.

So we take chances. Every day dicing with death without even knowing we’re doing it.

We KNOW about germs and how dangerous they are. But because we feel safe, we don’t think about them. So every day we put our lives at risk, as surely as back in Victorian times.

At work we’re careless, heads full of business, too busy to worry about hygiene. Which is why we take no notice that our workplace is teeming with health hazards.

Our personal attitudes aren’t much better. We might have a bath more than once a year, but you’d never think so from the research on our hygiene levels.

Bubonic plague and cholera haven’t gone away, they’re just held back by massive hygiene defence systems.

Even so, from our own behaviour, there’s nothing to stop us from coming down with tummy bugs like norovirus, salmonella, campylobacter and e.coli. Or respiratory illnesses like Aussie flu, MERS, SARS, TB or pneumonia. Any one of which could be the death of us, if modern medicine wasn’t there to catch when we fall.

Makes you think twice about keeping ourselves clean, doesn’t it?

Two thirds of health?

It never feels like it, but forgetting to wash our hands is just as deadly as playing Russian roulette.

May you live long and happy.

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.

Boost productivity by up to a third – without investing millions

Exec pondering millions in invesment
Millions for the future – by recovering millions from the present

Yes, yes, British productivity is lagging. We have to up our game – millions for infrastructure, millions for digital technology.

Which is great, if we’ve got millions. But what if we haven’t?

What if, like a lot of businesses, things are just scraping by, productivity is down and it’s slowing everything further?

Hold that thought, slowing everything down.

Held back and handicapped

Like things are dragging, wheels locked and brakes full on.

Because that’s exactly what’s happening.

We’re all working harder and longer, going the extra mile – slaving an extra 29 days every year according to reports, with one in 10 of us working the equivalent of 15 months a year

And still our productivity trails 18 points behind other G7 nations.

How come we work more and produce less – compared with the Germans, who work less (35 hours a week average) and produce more?

It’s not like we’re stupid or lazy. Our brightest minds are world leaders, and lazy people could never stomach the hours most of us put in.

So however much we splurge on the latest bells and whistles, we might at best still find ourselves level pegging with the other G7. While the Germans motor past us, laughing all the way to the bank.

Millions and millions and millions.

Breaking the shackles

But driving things forward has never been our problem – it’s breaking the shackles that hold us back.

OK, a lot of businesses are starting to recognise this – and revising the ways they value their human capital. They’re not machines, they need looking after. Inspiration, engagement and involvement are the new watchwords – and wellbeing is the new game.

Lots of positive thinking – which is why nobody ever addresses the negative. It’s treating symptoms, not cause. Exploring remedies before isolating what ails us.

What ails us – meet the elephant in the room.

What makes us sick is seldom on anybody’s radar – including the sufferer’s. We get sick, we get sick – it happens, and most of us just accept it.

Accept and keep schtum.

Because sick is what most of us are, a lot of the time at work.

The stiff upper lip

But we don’t let on, in case it gets us fired. Replaced by somebody younger and hungrier. Or in case our colleagues feel let down. Forced into double tasking without a by your leave. Or because we’re too damned responsible for our own good and can’t relinquish the work load.

It’s the curse of presenteeism – and we’re all party to it. The British stiff upper lip.

Being unwell at work, but carrying on anyway. Slogging onwards with head pounding and guts heaving, hoping nobody will notice. Desk-pounding when we should be home in bed with antibiotics and a hot water bottle, keeping our germs away from colleagues.

57.5 days a year, we’re like that – almost three working months. Stressed out like crazy because we know we’re not performing. And shockingly ignorant that a lot of the time, we’re ill from sloppy hygiene at work.

And sloppy is being kind, most of the time it’s disgusting. Because we can’t see germs, we don’t even think of the danger, let alone trying to avoid it.

But germs can, and do, kill. Or do us permanent damage. Even the smallest infection can trigger life-threatening consequences, ten or twenty years down the line.

For hygiene, read logiene

Meanwhile, our workplace preventive measures are almost non-existent.

On the personal level, we’re even worse – as if we have a death wish:

Which is why, for nearly three months of the year, the work we’re capable of is sometimes barely competent. Everything has to be done twice, and is invariably late when it gets there. Nobody can concentrate when they’re not themselves – though we like to kid ourselves that we can.

Millions in germonomics

But look at the economics of that – or should we say, the germonomics.

Three months of the year, the team are basically out of action – at their desks yes, but really just going through the motions. Effectively that means they only work nine months of the year, not twelve. Nowhere near as productive as we’d like to think.

Now suppose with just a little investment in health protection, you could remove germs from the workplace entirely. Make the place sterile – no viruses, no bacteria, no fungi, no nothing. Yes, it can be done – and yes, the technology exists now.

Get rid of the germs and 57.5 days a year of being unwell at work melt into the distant past. Out of the blue, three extra working months become available, alongside the nine months worth of work currently – productivity up a third.

The self-funding future

Better still, it’s already paid for.

Salaries stay the same, at a full twelve months worth. Only now the business is getting its full money’s worth – three months up on the minimal nine months possible previously. The end of a three months handicap – no wonder productivity was down!

Which means unlike investing millions in a digital future, the business saves millions from the existing present. Millions, which if then invested in technology, are like setting the afterburners to warp speed.

Them Germans had better watch out – laughing all the way to the bank indeed.

Hans, was ist los?

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. Achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. The only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

Britain’s productivity illness: prevention, not cure

Doctors with pound sign
Productivity illness: prevention, not cure. It’s worth a fortune

Looming larger than ever with the impending Budget and Brexit, Britain’s productivity illness is not going away soon.

Or is it?

It is significant that our present productivity handicap is referred to as an illness – and in the same breath something to accelerate out of, usually by throwing  money at it.

Prevent illness, or make super-well?

Quite how to accelerate with an illness is not explained. Even top performers like Jessica Ennis–Hill are unlikely to surge ahead in the grip of a common cold or flu.

But illness is right, and in a word explains what is wrong with our productivity.

It’s less than it should be.

Not surprising when you consider our track record of workplace performance. Three years ago, business experts PwC calculated the national cost of absences due to illness at £29 billion a year. A figure that assumed an average of 6 days off sick for every earner in the country.

Not chicken feed.

But it pales into insignificance alongside the cost of presenteeism or being unwell at work – calculated in a GCC report (now Virgin Pulse) at 10 times absenteeism or £290 billion.

Together that’s £319 billion, substantially more than any of the figures  promised by government to boost R&D of super-performers in the high-tech/AI sector – side-stepping and ignoring also-rans like retail and hospitality.

£319 billion on illness. Isn’t it worth doing something about fixing that – instead of chasing pie in the sky dreams?

Sloppy hygiene

Mind you, it’s not surprising that such illness is associated with work. Look around, and our workplace standards of protection against germs are truly frightening.

Small wonder that on average we’re each of us feeling less than ourselves at work for 57.5 days a year, or nearly three working months. Or closer to home, we all have some kind of ailment giving us grief roughly every three days.

We never think about it of course, because we can’t see germs – too microscopically small. We just accept that not being well is par for the course – and business does too. As Churchill, or was it Teddy Roosevelt (?) said, “Most of the world’s work is done by people who don’t feel very well.”

And yes, they’re ill all right. Because we can’t see germs, we don’t think we’re dirty. And alongside sloppy hygiene in the workplace, our personal standards are even worse.

All of which means we’re sitting at our desks waiting for illness to happen.

Sub-standard capability

And what is the quality of work we’re capable of, feeling like that?

Some bug we picked up at the office does our head in so we’re not able to concentrate. Which means it’s done wrong and has to be done again. Or done wrong and not picked up, to let the fox loose among the chickens later on down the line.

Three working months we’re out of it.

Which means for every twelve months we get paid, we’re only delivering nine.

That’s productivity illness all right. And why retail and hospitality bear the brunt. Higher exposure to other people, more physical interchange and contact with commonly touched objects. More germs.

So here’s the thing.

Get rid of the germs and our productivity illness goes away. It might still be less than it should – but at least it won’t be held back. And three months of our salaries won’t be going to waste paying for us to be out of it.

Better still, get rid of the germs before we’re exposed to them.

Prevention, not cure.

And more easily achievable than we might ever imagine.

For starters, what health protection if any is in most workplaces right now?

You’re right, it’s zero.

A nightly hit teams comes in and vacuums the floors, empties the rubbish bins and wipes down the desks with a damp rag. And that’s your lot!

Now look down the back of your computer or under the keyboard. Hold your phone up to the light and look at the touchscreen.

Dust bunnies and crumbs. Smears and finger marks. Leftover detritus from chicken tikka marsala, birthday cake, biscuit crumbs and dirt off laptops picked up off the floor in the Underground. And all of it untouched since your organisation moved into the building five years ago.

Poor productivity: the antidote

So how to fix it?

Start off with putting antibacterial wipes or gel on every desk first thing in the morning. Not so easy to forget washing hands when there’s an alternative right in your face.

Next, fumigate the place.

Well, not quite as drastic as that – and a lot safer. Actually to sterilise the place, mist it up with a mild but effective germ-killing biocide that spreads everywhere – through the air, across every surface, into every nook and cranny, you name it.

Result, no germs – no illnesses for anyone to catch. No more underperforming feeling like death.

Twelve months’ productivity instead of nine – UP BY A THIRD.

Do that every day and productivity illness becomes a thing of the past.

Better than G7 countries

So things take one day longer each week to do in Britain than in other G7 countries?

Not any more.

Up by a third means six days are now four. One day LESS to do in Britain than in other G7 countries.

How about it, all you business eggheads?

Up for a little prevention not cure?

Come on people, there’s £319 billion in it for you.

Productivity: why you’re not getting your money’s worth (Part 1)

Rich exec
With everyone at full strength for 100% of the time, you’re laughing all the way to the bank

Always a worry isn’t it? You think you’re getting your money’s worth – but there are doubts.

Especially with productivity.

Why does everything have to be so difficult? Why does it take so long? Doesn’t anyone care what they’re doing?

And you can’t blame your team, or even think of it.

You hired them. They’re all professionals. Carefully motivated and they love working for you.

So is it Murphy’s Law that so many things go pear-shaped?

Don’t beat yourself up about it.

You’re a victim of presenteeism. Team members coming to work unwell.

Invisible black hole

A lot of businesses – mainly old school – reckon that’s a good thing. Everybody at their desks, you’re up to full strength. Optimum efficiency.

If only.

Because just think about the implications of being unwell at work. You’ve been there yourself, so you know what it’s like. How do you cope?

The short answer is, you don’t.

Yes, you can tough it out and put in the hours. But the lousy way you feel means the spark isn’t there.

It might be the most involving and satisfying job in the world – but you haven’t got the sharp edge. Performance is down and you know it. You might be the most brilliant MBA ever hired, but right now you’d struggle through Key Stage One SATS.

Which is what being unwell does.

The sweats, the swimmy head, the roiling guts, the wanting to throw up all the time.

It might be flu, food poisoning, meningitis, or whatever. Basically you’ve been exposed to germs  – and your productivity is down the tubes.

All very commendable, coming in to work, from a commitment point of view. The martyr fighting off demons, defiantly standing by your post.

Until you consider the cost.

Start counting

You’re an MBA, right? Or some equally commendable professional. With a salary north of £50K. An imbursement spread over 12 months a year and probably worth every penny.

But right now you don’t have MBA capabilities, do you? Or anywhere close.

You’re closer to flying your desk as a Key Stage One SATS, and not a very happy one at that.

Which means how good is the work you’re doing? How accurate? How professional?

Without meaning to, you could be doing a lot of damage. And because you’re a trusted high-level performer, any glitches you cause might not be picked up for months.

That’s not doing the business any favours – or yourself, come to that.

You should be resting up, at home in bed, or in hospital. Somewhere safe where you can shake it off and avoid infecting any of your colleagues. But sure, you’ve already used up your leave allocation – so here you are, hanging in there and pretending everything is normal.

And right there is why presenteeism is such a major liability – 10 times the cost of absenteeism , if not more. And according to at least one business study, most of us are like that 57.5 days a year – almost 3 working months.

Down the tubes

Which on your MBA package – and through no fault of your own – is £12.5K’s worth of productivity you’re NOT providing.

In reality you’re only worth £37.5K. But the business is committed to paying £50K – so what happens to the difference?

Only one answer – the business absorbs the cost. Your salary is £50K plus and that’s a given overhead – cast in bronze until the next wage review.

Nor is that the only way the business is out of pocket.

What about the value of all the work you do with your Key Stage One SATS capability?

Way below par, the business has to kick in to compensate. At best for sub-standard work – at worst for all the mistakes, oversights and omissions  you make, without ever meaning to.

OK, so now it’s magic wand time.

What if you never became unwell in the first place? If something stopped you from becoming sick? Some kind of prevention – to protect you and all your fellow team members.

Abracadabra

Suddenly that £12.5K isn’t money down the drain any more.

Instead of turbo-charging through 9 nine months and then spluttering through 3 – you’re on after-burners for the full year. Up and going for it with the bit between your teeth, seriously delivering your money’s worth.

So are your colleagues – because they’re human, they have the same 57.5 day handicap you do. But with no germs to catch and so no illness to feel, they’re delivering 12 months too.

Which means if there’s 10 of them on your team, that’s £125K worth of productivity suddenly laid on the line – the equivalent of another 2¼ of you. Not exactly peanuts!

So how’s it done, socking it to presenteeism – getting rid of all the germs so the problem goes away?

A lot easier than you think.

Washing your hands of it

By upping business hygiene levels and keeping them there.

We can’t see germs, so most of the time we don’t even think that they’re there. Plus, we associate germs with dirt – and if things don’t LOOK dirty, it never occurs to us that they’re there either.

Which why we should never judge by appearances.

Germs are always everywhere. We are constantly exposed to them – viruses, bacteria, fungi.

We’re  even half-bacteria ourselves. The good bacteria that colonise our bodies, handling digestion, creating proteins, even managing our immune system.

Unaware of all this, we take chances. Horrific risks that would appal us if we realised.

Simultaneous with that are the hazards we expose ourselves to:

To make matters worse, by reflex habit, most of us touch our face up to 3,000 times a day. Responding to an an itch, pausing in thought, rubbing our eyes – playing with the soft tissue that is germs’ No 1 way into the body.

Getting rid of germs

All of which means, if you do nothing else – just putting antibacterial wipes or gel on every desk every day will bring the odds down of catching anything.

Better still, it’s possible to eliminate germs from the workplace completely – by misting up the premises with germ-killing hydrogen peroxide.  A quick and easy addition to the evening cleaning routine.

In sterile conditions, germs can’t survive. No exposure, no illnesses to catch. Everyone’s safe – at least inside. Germ zero at the start of everyday – the only germs are the ones people bring in from outside.

Sounds expensive?

It is if you’re used to paying £12 an hour for cleaning and suddenly you’re sterilising the place.

Depending on the size of the place, £1K a month or more. Around the same money the business loses in productivity through your existing presenteeism – and that’s just for one of you!

All the way to the bank

But do the math yourself. 10 on your team losing £125K a year on productivity – against £12K a year eliminating germs and winning it all back again.

That’s getting your money’s worth, surely?

Aussie flu is coming – got your workplace defence ready?

Aussie flu threat
Aussie flu is a killer – and more than people, it kills productivity too – whole organisations taken down by a germ

Yes, workplace defence.

Because who can afford to be without it when Aussie flu actually strikes?

And not just because it’s a proven killer – 73 dead already and 170,000 cases reported.

Or how much you might pay out in sick leave.

Because it’s not just staff off ill, it’s the snowballing costs that happen when sick staff cannot, or will not, stay away.

Heroes that cost you money

There they are, all rugged up and sniffly – keeping to themselves and determinedly at their desks.

Yes, loyal. And yes, committed.

Which should immediately trigger two HR alarms.

What’s so urgent that they can’t take a few days off to get well? And are they so worried about job security they’re too scared there won’t be a job when they come back?

Organisational issues, both. Except they’re the least of your worries.

Because ask yourself, how good is the work anyone can do battling with the flu?

Difficult to concentrate, right? Can’t keep your mind focused.

Or keep aware of detail either. The thousand-and-one things that good professional reflexes cope with every day.

Which means glitches inevitably.

Productivity nosedive

Quality of work way below normal – or even acceptable.

Perhaps monumental mistakes made without meaning to. Expensive oversights like a misplaced decimal point. Or failsafe procedures completely forgotten and not implemented.

Reality is that staff unwell at work are loose cannons. Costing at least 10 times more than those off sick – and more besides.

They don’t know the damage they can do – or have done.  Liabilities, not assets.

On top of which, they’re highly contagious.

A threat to other staff as well.

So it’s not just individuals out of action, it’s potentially a whole team.

Awkward in the least with any special projects or tight deadlines on the go. A downside risk not worth taking.

OK, so the bug might have originated outside the office.

But what business is safe without an effective workplace defence to protect the whole investment and everybody in it?

Deceptive appearances

Sure, the office might LOOK safe – clean, tidy and non-threatening.

But you can’t see germs. And because we’re most of the time OK, we don’t take precautions.

Which is why our day-to-day hygiene is so iffy and makes us vulnerable.

Our track record is frankly  frightening:

Nor is it just personal. Again because everything LOOKS safe, we’re careless about our surroundings as well.

It gets worse.

Because shocking those these statistics are, they only deal with surface germs.  Viruses and bacteria on our skin, clothes and the objects we come in contact with.

It’s in the air

But 80% of any workplace is also air space. Room to move around in, room to breathe, room to stop us feeling claustrophobic.

And remember, Aussie flu is highly contagious. And ALL germs are airborne – difficult not to be when they weigh nothing and are only 2 microns across.

Which makes riding the air the major cause of how germs spread. A good many may only infect on contact, but they ALL disperse by being airborne. How else do new infections turn up out of nowhere for the very first time?

On top of which, we all drag our own personal cloud of germs around with us like a halo.

So it’s not just the exploding sneeze that spreads Aussie flu round the office. There’s millions more germ particles wafting around already. Waiting to infect their next victim unless there’s a workplace defence in place.

All of which says it’s not IF Aussie flu might strike in your workplace, but WHEN. And if not Aussie flu, then for certain something equally damaging to productivity, morale and physical wellbeing.

Effective defence

So what kind of workplace defence is effective?

You could do a lot worse than put bottles of antibacterial gel or hand-wipes  on every desk.

Our hands touch everything we use and work with. As well as our faces, which we subconsciously reach for several times a minute – as many as 2,000–3,000 times a day.  Bingo, unwashed hands on soft sensitive tissue around eyes and mouth are germs’ number one way into our bodies.

That still of course leaves the air – and all those un-get-at-able places that regular cleaning never reaches.

No problem. If germs can be airborne, so can your workplace defence system.

Which is what makes misting up the place with hydrogen peroxide so effective.

IONISED hydrogen peroxide that is. So it actively disperses everywhere – through the air and across all surfaces – reaching out and grabbing germs like magnets grab iron filings.

Sterile and safe

Result, the workplace is sterilised. No germs anywhere, they’re all completely oxidised. Nothing lingering anywhere, so no infection to catch – including Aussie flu.

Now all you have to do is make sure sick staff actually do stay away. You have an effective workplace defence now, don’t let unwell workaholics undo all the good work.

Good on yer, Bruce!

Picture Copyright: trustieee / 123RF Stock Photo