Hands on hygiene approach

07 March 2013

Your washroom may be awash with infection - trouble is, you can't see it. So what do you do? Mike Burton of Albany Hygiene Facilities offers advice

Your washroom may be awash with infection - trouble is, you can't see it. So what do you do? Mike Burton of Albany Hygiene Facilities offers advice

Bacteria and viruses are just about everywhere. Some of them, like common cold viruses, do us little harm.Others, like E.coli or pneumococcus, can be downright dangerous in the wrong circumstances, and many, like the winter vomiting virus norovirus or H1N1 swine flu, are in most cases, short-lived but extremely unpleasant. Most cause absence from work, lost production and inefficiency if communicated by cross-infection. A serious outbreak of norovirus or swine flu can endanger a company's profitability and lose it customers because of compromised service.

The problem for companies is that, despite endless publicity on the dangers of inadequate hygiene, the majority of people do not clean their hands after going to the lavatory, do not ensure that they use a tissue when they sneeze and, even if they do, do not dispose of the tissue hygienically after the sneeze.

People bring infection on their hands into work - surveys have shown that the majority of public transport commuters have traces of human faeces on their hands when boarding buses and trains and that only three people in every 100 clean their hands after visiting the lavatory.During the day, pathogens are added to desk surfaces, the arms of office chairs, keyboards and equipment. It has been calculated that UK business loses £1.4 billion per year to avoidable illness. It is essential that those in charge of cleaning look again at the real purpose of what they are doing.

Looks aren't everything
There has to be a shift of emphasis away from 'polished and tidy' and a move towards 'clean and infection-free'. Cleaning companies,who understand the importance of hygiene in the washroom and lavatories, have to become more aware of the less obvious sources of cross-infection, such as the handles and finger-plates on doors, the receptionist's desk and computer keyboards.Workers must stop regarding disinfection as somebody else's job, and use disinfectant wipes during the day. People must be made to realise that they do not clean their hands thoroughly enough or often enough.

Albany Hygiene Facilities, sponsors the annual 'Loo of the Year' competition as part of its national drive to raise standards of washroom hygiene. On the age-old Jesuit principle 'Give me the child until he is seven years old, and I will give you the man', Albany has undertaken a leading role in educating children to understand the necessity of frequent hand cleaning, particularly after visiting the lavatory.

Schooling hygiene habits
Albany believes that the government's National Healthy Schools Programme does not sufficiently cover the hygiene of the built environment that the pupils, staff and teachers inhabit.We think it also fails to encompass the critical area of infection control within the school.

The Albany Healthy Schools Programme has been launched to help children to understand about viruses and bacteria that cause illness and how thorough and frequent hand cleaning can help to keep everybody well. Albany is making learning about infection and hand cleaning fun for children by running the Albany Max Roadshow, which has been touring independent preparatory schools since October 2009 with a live animated character - Albany Max - to get the message across to the children.

Albany Hygiene Facilities is also offering schools a free A+ Hygiene Audit, which includes a report highlighting non-compliance with legislation, recommendations for hygiene improvement and suggestions for saving water and energy.

With norovirus and swine flu at the forefront of people's minds, maintenance of washrooms, lavatories and kitchens in near-aseptic condition is as vital as teaching children to keep their hands clean.

Efficient modern washrooms are easier to clean and keep infection-free than older ones, but whatever their age, they must be maintained effectively to minimise infection.

More and more companies are looking to their washrooms to make savings. We advise many companies on how they can save thousands of pounds with effective water management systems, by eradicating paper towels and using the new generation of hand dryers which we believe are far more energy efficient. When times are tough companies need to be smart about the solutions they use.

Albany offers a free consultation service and cost savings analysis to advise customers on the most cost effective and sustainable way forward.We also offer a comprehensive rental package which means that there is no initial outlay - a particular benefit in the current economic climate.

Albany provides its customers with hygiene consultancy services nationwide, offering advice on sustainable washroom design, maintenance and education.