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February 2018

What you need to know about Hygiene - part 1 [Ask the expert]

Written by Nicole Horne
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In this brand new blog series, we interview our very own hygiene expert, Bev Wentzel, Regional Business Manager of Rentokil Initial in Gauteng. Bev sheds some light on hygiene in workplaces - specifically discussing the main concerns businesses face when it comes to hygiene in the work environment - as well as the commonly debated topic of daily cleaning versus hygiene.

1. You are the resident “go-to” person at Initial when we need an expert opinion on any type of hygiene issue. You have a background in hospital hygiene, having worked as a nursing sister. What makes you excited about health and hygiene and everything in between?

Having a medical background made joining Rentokil Initial a perfect marriage of skills. Knowledge of hygiene principles is not as common as we’d like it to be and that, for me, has been the joy of working with our company and our team; sharing these principles and creating a conversation and language that is easily grasped by everybody from the cleaning team up to the CEO.

The importance of hygiene and therefore health, is a fact of life. Every second of the day, we’re exposed to hygiene risks in the workplace, public spaces, shopping centres, airports, on public transport, in schooling environments - or any environment where there is a gathering of many people. Our personal circumstances differ, and we really have little knowledge or control over the risks we are exposed to, because, in many cases, they are private and hidden matters.

It’s important to note that we don’t set about creating sterile environments, which are impossibly difficult to achieve in any event. What good hygiene it is about, is putting in place simple, effective and reliable interventions to ensure we have shields against the exposure to risks.

The reward in seeing an environment being restored from a problematic space to a space where people are happy and confident, and safe, is huge, for both ourselves and our customers. We put in place personalised hygiene programmes to create and support a pleasant and hygienic environment, and then we then leave the day to day cleaning task to the resident daily cleaning team.

2. Based on your experience, what is the primary concern businesses face in terms of hygiene in the workplace?

The primary concern of any business in the working environment is that they have to provide from a collection of people (may be just a handful, or may be a few thousand) sharing common facilities. The burden of responsibility rests with the company (the employer) to ensure that the environment is properly equipped, serviced and maintained at a level which does not represent a health risk to the users.

A lack of hygiene doesn’t only affect the users, but it also affects the company and their employees. If the bathroom, office and kitchen facilities are not kept up to standard, then within a relatively short space of time, it is possible that productivity could be severely affected through the transmission and sharing of illness.

We’re not talking about headline illnesses here (the kind that the Minister of Health would do a public announcement about), but rather illnesses that impact the bottom line. Examples of these are bladder infections, upper respiratory tract infections, the common cold, coughs, sneezes, headaches, pneumonia, skin illnesses (such as boils) that can all be easily contracted by sharing the use in a common area - especially bathrooms, that is not hygienically maintained.

This ties into the knowledge (or lack thereof) that businesses have regarding the difference between cleaning and hygiene. The local resident team i.e. the daily cleaners, the custodial staff, the contractors - whomever - who are always present on site play an important role - they are the cleaning team. As the definition suggests, cleaning is quick, surface orientated, ensuring that there is no dust, litter or dirt about, and floors are looked after - all really visible solutions. Hygiene on the other hand requires special skills, formal application methods, and products that achieve hygienic results. Having a hygiene service in place means that there is an active intervention in protecting the users of the shared space or facility from cross-infection, and contributing to staff well-being.

“It is not unusual for the ‘little room’ in the house to have a big impact on reputation.”

3. The majority of businesses rely on daily cleaners to take care of bathrooms, kitchens and office areas. Of course, there is a difference between daily cleaning and expert hygiene. In your opinion, what is the motivating factor for having a hygiene services company on site, compared to having daily cleaning only?

The argument for having both hygiene and daily cleaning services working in parallel is ever present. Very often it is an economical or a financial discussion, questioning whether it is really necessary to have both layers of service. The answer - simply - is yes.

As hygiene service providers, we work in conjunction with the daily cleaning crew in order to achieve a successful outcome - we do not provide the same services that they do. We supplement and support their success and we do that by delivering specialist and targeted solutions - services and products - in an organised and scheduled way.

Typically, the daily cleaning staff are what their name suggests; general cleaners, or custodial staff. Sometimes they also make make tea. If there is a spill on the floor they get called from wherever they are, or from whatever they are doing, to clean and mop up. If there are meetings scheduled, the daily cleaning routine might not take place as it should. It is really good to have a hygiene programme in place behind this daily activity to create a layer of protection in the workplace, which is not at all vulnerable to disruption of task.

Then there is the question of cost - where we often discover cleaning staff using excessive volumes of cleaning product to try and achieve an odour free, and visually pleasing environment.

This is where Initial comes in. Professional hygiene services contribute to good environmental practices by restricting the use of excess chemicals and wastage on customers’ premises, thus providing a cost saving to customers.

The most significant difference between a cleaning team and a hygiene team is skill. The products and methodology we use are not the same as those used on a daily basis by the daily cleaners. We take occupation of areas and reach into hard-to-access areas, like the overflows of the basins, as well as the flushing rim of the toilet, or the outlet of the urinal.

The products that we use are environmentally safe and highly effective at removing waste build-up on surfaces, such as uric salt, scale and other organic deposits. We have a trained, experienced and skilled workforce that execute these services and we support their efforts with a range of specialist hygiene products. These include soap and air freshener, sanitary disposal, a variety of sanitising options; including toilet seat sanitiser, and hand sanitisers placed in a water restricted areas or where access to water is structurally impossible.

If you do not have both cleaning and hygiene services, you are making a fundamental error. You are hoping that hygiene will be established on a cleaning platform, and worse than that, you might even be expecting the cleaning staff to establish and maintain a hygiene standard which is both unfair and unlikely.

4. Investing in your people positively impacts your bottom line

As Bev mentioned, hygiene in a workplace is about adding a layer of protection against pathogens that we come into contact with on a daily basis. Of course not all germs are harmful to us, but businesses need to ensure that they provide pleasant facilities that encourage and support good hygiene practices.

This in turn, positively impacts in the wellbeing and health of colleagues, providing them with reassurance that they are looked after, while businesses also face a cost saving in terms of decreased levels of absenteeism - and thus increased levels of productivity.

Do you have a question for our Experts? 
Fill in the form and we’ll try our best to answer them in the next “Ask an Expert” blog series.

Or if you want to setup a time to discuss your unique hygiene challenges, why not contact us and we will evaluate your business' hygiene needs.

Contact us

Nicole Horne

Nicole Horne

Nicole is a Digital Marketing Executive at Rentokil Initial Hygiene in Johannesburg. A self-proclaimed germaphobe, her love for hygienic environments and curiosity of all things “beneath the surface” fuels her enthusiasm for writing about the impact of germs in the workplace. She is passionate about creating awareness and sharing her knowledge on the impact of good hygiene practices. Follow Nicole on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates on the the good, the bad and the germy.

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