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Empowering personnel hygiene

13 October 2017

Oliver Johnson, managing director at Zenith Washroom Solutions, discusses the opportunities for establishing employee ownership of infection control in the corporate environment

For many sectors personal hygiene and infection control are well promoted. Healthcare, for example, is synonymous with hygiene and infection control. For these sectors effective hand hygiene, sterile clothing and environments with hygiene controls are as much a part of daily working life as a decent cup of coffee. There are debates about optimal practices but there is no doubt as to whether engaging in hygiene practices is vital for infection control. Move outside of healthcare and there is a more generic problem. How many times have you been in a washroom and seen a user bypass the soap? How many times have you seen a user simply "splash and dash"? Will you have to shake their hand? So how big a problem is this?

Sickness statistics

Naturally we need to turn to data. Let's head into averages. 2014 figures show a median of 2.5% absence through sickness each year which translates to 5.7 days per employee. With the average employee in the UK costing £29,059.07 per year and working 253 days per year you can quickly derive a value of £654.69 in sickness costs per employee per year. Even a small business with only 10 employees will see a loss of £6,549.90 per year through sickness. So what percentage reduction in infection does effective hygiene produce?

This is, understandably, a far less accurate figure than those given for the cost of absenteeism. The main figure we need here is presented by the Office for National Statistics and shows minor illnesses (cough, colds, infectious diseases, etc.) as being responsible for 24.8% of absence. This means that each employee costs £162.36 per year through absence from infectious illnesses. Naturally we can't control the environments that our employees interact with outside of the workplace but we have a responsibility to ensure provision of excellent hygiene controls in the workplace. What can be done to make these effective?

Easy ways to educate users

Your business provides excellent hygiene facilities. This, however, is only half of the battle. Getting our employees and site visitors to use them is the other half.  Back to the "splash and dash" user. Why is that happening? Why aren't people performing basic hygiene tasks effectively? Lack of perceived importance. Take the example of the washroom. In all cases we have a user who is static for a small amount of time in a defined location. Whether sat on the toilet or standing at a urinal we do have their focus. In service stations we are advertised to at these points. It obviously works or these companies would not continue to spend their money for these key sites. So why not use these to your company's advantage? It is yours to do. Perhaps quoting the numerous statistics about hand hygiene that are available for free on the internet? Remind people that they can reduce their own sickness levels simply by improving their own personal hygiene standards. "All it takes is 15-20 seconds to significantly reduce your risk". Once they move to the sink area present them with easy to follow instructions on effective hand hygiene.  Posters next to antibacterial dispensers with "Cleaning your hands can reduce your infection risk by up to 75%", and similar, to remind people of the importance.  Take advantage of your available spaces to educate your users.

Overall we can observe that people just don't see the risk (quite literally) from poor hand hygiene. If germs were visible then people would spend far longer washing their hands after a washroom visit. That antibacterial dispenser would see far more use than it does at present. Changing perception empowers your staff to take responsibility not just for their own health but the health of others around them too. The return on this investment is easy to understand so take the time to review how you empower your facilities users to improve your bottom line and promote the health of your workforce.