In the fourth and final part of our blog series - Ask the Expert - we interview hygiene expert, Diane Luck; Quality Assurance Manager of Initial in KZN. Diane shares some of her hygiene horror stories with us, as well as her views on how to be more hygienic at work.
Q: You are the resident “go-to” person in KZN when we need an expert opinion on any type of hygiene issue. Tell us a little about your background, and how you came to be in this field.
A: My background is in hospitality management and catering, working in hotels, lodges and remote locations in West Africa. Health and hygiene has always been a focus point over the years, so when I was offered the opportunity to join Rentokil Initial, it felt like a natural career progression for me.
Q: What makes you excited about health and hygiene and everything in between?
A: Healthy and hygienic workplaces are happy workplaces, and I believe there is a direct link between employee morale and how a company maintains their bathroom facilities and workplace hygiene levels. I love being able to assist our clients in creating hygienic and happy working environments.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is creating hygiene awareness at client health and wellness days, and also participating in the community projects Initial supports, such as Global Handwashing Day. These initiatives are all about creating awareness around the fact that the simple act of washing your hands can save lives.
Q: Based on your experience, what is the primary concern businesses face in terms of hygiene in the workplace?
A: I think the primary concern that most businesses face is around hygiene awareness. Many business have the facilities and products available for their employees, but if there is no awareness or education around why the facilities and products are provided then we find that they are not used.
So our job as the experts is not just to provide these solutions to our clients but also to assist our clients in creating awareness and educating their employees on the importance of using all the products and facilities that are provided, and how this will benefit them on a daily basis in the workplace.
Q: Share a hygiene horror story or two with our readers:
A: That’s a tough question. Being someone who is in and out of bathroom facilities on a daily basis I’m not sure where to start. Perhaps one day I could write a book on all the weird and not so wonderful things I have seen!
Among my all time “favourites” (if you can call it that!) was the time I had to investigate a very bad smelling feminine hygiene unit, only to find that the carcass of an entire cooked chicken had been disposed of into this sanitary bin! As you can imagine, it not only smelled terrible, but had started to attract some nasty pests to the cubicle.
A regular find is used teabags being disposed of in our sanitary bins. This one I’m still trying to figure out! How and why - after making a cup of tea - would the tea bag end up in one of our Feminine Hygiene units in the toilet cubicle? Strange as it may sound, it seems that taking food and drinks into the bathroom is a regular occurrence for some people.
Q: What is the most important aspect to keep in mind in terms of hygiene in the office environment?
Education and creating constant awareness in the workplace, along with regular updates on health and hygiene are - in my opinion - definitely the most important aspects of workplace hygiene.
In my travels I see a multitude of posters that have been placed in bathrooms at some or other time. Usually these have been printed and put up to target specific hygiene issues and frustrations in shared facilities, and they give me a real insight into the hygiene challenges that the client and their employees are facing.
However just printing out notices telling people how to use the facilities is not sufficient; awareness must be created around WHY it is so important and this should relate back to the individuals health and wellness in the workplace. Only then will you will get the buy-in required to see real change, once employees realise the importance of simple hygiene practises such as hand washing.
Q: What role do colleagues play in workplace hygiene?
Health and hygiene starts with you!
Each employee is responsible for their own health and wellbeing at work; we can’t point fingers and try and single out who the non hand washers are. We all need to take responsibility as individuals to make sure that we are aware of the hygiene risks in the workplace and make use of all the facilities and products that are provided to protect ourselves on a daily basis from the germs that can be lurking in our work environments.
Our favourite tagline in KZN when speaking with employees at health and wellness days is “the only thing we would like employees to take home at the end of the day is their salary” - not any germs or bugs from the workplace!
Q:If you had to suggest only one change that businesses should make to keep colleagues healthy, what would it be?
Like I said before, businesses can provide amazing bathroom facilities with all the latest products, however if there is no hygiene awareness in the workplace these facilities will not be used to their full potential.
I firmly believe that businesses should make hygiene a regular part of their health and safety awareness programmes and in so doing will be able to educate their employees and reduce absenteeism from cross contamination in the workplace.
Do you have a question for Diane?
Drop them down in the comments and we’ll try our best to answer them in the next “Ask an Expert” blog series.