By Dr. Peter Barratt, Technical Manager at Initial Hygiene.

The DWP estimates that sickness among working age people costs Britain £100 billion per year. A new report conducted by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) on behalf of Initial Washroom Hygiene, which surveyed 1000 office workers in the UK, identified that by investing and improving workplace hygiene, it is within employers’ power to reduce this figure by 13%, and in turn save £13.7 billion, equating to around £700 per employee.

Sick leave due to poor hygiene cost the UK economy £4.2 billion last year and £9.5 billion was lost because of poor workplace hygiene facilities, including the time taken queuing for a clean toilet, washing dirty dishes or finding a washroom with suitable facilities.

During these winter months, vomiting bugs such as Norovirus become increasingly common, which can cause major disruption to a business, and the CEBR report found that it can sometimes affect up to 40% of staff. A simple way to stop these illnesses from spreading is for the employer to create better hygiene standards and encourage employees to practice effective handwashing.

Office buildings, where people are in close proximity and where humidity levels are relatively high, provide optimum conditions for viruses and bacteria to spread. It’s a general rule that the better you care for something, the better it will perform. The British workforce is no exception. Thirty nine percent of office workers in the UK believe improving office hygiene would increase their level of job satisfaction, while the average UK office worker would be willing to sacrifice £130 per annum to ensure their offices are maintained to a higher hygiene standard.

Five steps for maintaining a healthy environment

1. Minimise the spread: Risk hotspots in the washroom include toilets, flush handles and cubicle handles. Norovirus and bacteria such as Campylobacter can be found in these areas, both cause gastroenteritis. The germs are transferred from surface to hand. The spread of infection can be minimised with surface and flush sanitisers and toilet cleaners.

2. Improve your reception / entrance area: Door handles are a risk hotspot in reception and entrance areas, harbouring bacteria which can be transferred by surface to hand and from hand to hand. It can cause skin infections, food poisoning and respiratory diseases. Hand and surface sanitisers will kill germs and help prevent the spread of infection.

3. Power of smell: High footfall makes corridors and common areas germ hotspots. Scenting products will help control and minimise aromas that might be derived from malodour producing bacteria. Air disinfection units will also help reduce airborne micro organisms.

4. Desks/meeting rooms: Door handles and desk surfaces are risk hotspots in meeting rooms, harbouring for example Rhinovirus. It is transferred from surface to hands and causes the common cold. Surface sanitisers from Initial can help minimise the spread of germs.

5. Watch where you eat: Food preparation surfaces in kitchens can be home to pathenogenic strains of E.Coli and the Norovirus. It can be transmitted from surface to hand, hand to mouth or by infected food and can cause gastroenteritis and urinary tract infections. Good hand washing and drying products can help to minimise the risk of infection.

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