Tag 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.

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

Picture Copyright: bowie15 / 123RF Stock Photo

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