Thursday 10th October 2024
Showground, Wadebridge

Cornwall Hygiene Firm came to Visit Us – and You’ll be Horrified by the Germs in your Office

These beautiful micro-organisms were found in Cornwall Live’s offices, despite regular cleaning, and we’re not even the worst.

You may be a stickler for hygiene and a maniac for cleanliness, but this may count for very little in the fight against germs and bugs – especially at work.

Despite your best intentions to keep your work station clean and your desk and keyboard spotless, they may still be as dirty as toilets.

And spraying Dettol all over the place won’t make any difference.

“All you’re doing when you spray some antiseptic on your desk is rub it off immediately and spread the germs around,” Justin Ramsay, one of the two directors at disinfection firm Sanondaf Cornwall.

Do you know what lurgy, germs, bad bacteria and other viruses thrive on your keyboard?

The firm is one of 22 franchises in the UK and, in the short time it has been established in the Duchy, it has picked up more and more business from companies, schools and Cornwall Health, which manages Cornwall’s out of hours GP services, but the potential for growth is enormous.

Mr Ramsay added: “While cleanliness and good hygiene practices are on everyone’s mind, it’s been shown that the norovirus bug can survive outside the body on a hard surface for up to two weeks.

“People can transfer bacteria on their hands to doors, keyboards, phones, thus spreading millions of potentially harmful and highly infectious bacteria and bugs to colleagues and customers.”

The Sanondaf Cornwall team disinfecting Marlborough School in Falmouth.

It comes as a survey of 100,000 carried out by Initial Washroom Hygiene, showed that 62% of men and 40% of women do not wash their hands after going to the toilets.

The survey also revealed that 32% of UK workers said they use their smartphones in the loo with Facebook (60%), Whatsapp (36%), game playing, and emailing (18%) the most popular activities.In addition, one in 12 admitted eating while in the loo.

In a growing blame culture, cleanliness and disinfected work premises may become as important as customer service, especially as companies have a duty of care towards their staff and customers to ensure they remain as healthy as possible.

The Norovirus vomiting bug in all its glory.

Yet it can cost a hospital £140,000 for deep cleaning a ward after an outbreak of Norovirus. For schools, any outbreak means a three to four-day deep-clean and a shut school, staff at home and children not learning.

Winter times are the worst times for companies and sickness when members of staff are off sick and spread their germs around the office.

Sanondaf claims that a £35-a-classroom treatment every couple of months could save a school a lot of cash as both staff and children are less likely to pick up and transmit bugs and viruses which could in turn close the school down for days.

Marlborough School in Falmouth is the latest business to invite the Sanondaf team over to give the place a deep disinfection treatment.

Mr Ramsay and his business partner Kevin Pickin spent half a day spraying their special chemical in all seven classrooms, staff rooms and other facilities during the half term break.

Jackie Jorey, bursar and estates manager at the school, said: “Although we employ our own cleaning team at Marlborough we wanted to eradicate as far as possible the risk of cross infection from class to class by improving our cleaning regimes.

“Manual cleaning is very time consuming and doesn’t reach the areas where viruses can remain and spread very easily.

“Sanondaf offers a very efficient way of eliminating these viruses with very little down time and by taking swabs before and after has shown how the everyday objects used in the school, for example keyboards, harbour many bacteria and other nasty germs.

“Although we haven’t been able to compare any absence figures yet as we have only had two treatments, we feel that we are doing out utmost to satisfy our duty of care to our children and staff at the school.”

Swabs showing how germ-ridden the photocopier keypad is in Cornwall Live’s offices.

Mr Ramsay said Sanondaf and its portable disinfection system can give a business back to its owner and staff five hours after a Norovirus outbreak.

The company’s product can kill almost all micro-organisms and leaves a long lasting protective barrier on all surfaces that is not harmful to humans, animals and plants, but can be used anywhere from classrooms to vet and GP practices, farm buildings and offices.

Basic hygiene involving soap and hot water will kill most germs and keep Norovirus at bay but it’s when your colleagues don’t wash their hands and touch the photocopier that you have to worry.

With its claim that its hospital grade disinfection system kills 99.99% of all germs and bugs, yet remaining dubious as to how the Sanondaf system works, Cornwall Live decided to put it to the test.

We invited Justin and Kevin to our offices in Truro so they could swab the place over and we could see for ourselves how clean or dirty our desks, keyboards, toilets, kitchen and meeting room are.

Kevin and Justin spent an hour in our office collecting samples from various hotspots for germs. They left and Justin returned four days later with his incubated swabs.

The results were strikingly visual and somewhat worrying.

Swab tests from Cornwall Live’s offices showing what lives on our desks, keyboards, and photocopiers. Worried? Your offices are probably the same.

Despite our offices being cleaned every day by a subcontractor firm and hopefully a majority of our staff do wash their hands after going to the loo, there were mould spores on desks and keyboard, bacteria from milk, and more germs found in fecal matter on the photocopier’s keypad.

The worst infected area was revealed as the door handle to the gents’ toilets. There were even things (on yours truly’s desk) which Mr Ramsay had never seen in his career before.

Tim Rumblelow, business development manager with Cornwall Live, has a seemingly spotless desk, which he says he cleans regularly with Dettol. And on the right is the swab test carried out by Sanondaf showing the bacteria and germ living on his desk.

Justin said: “What this show is that some people are eating at their desks and others don’t wash their hands after going to the loo.

“That means that even if you do wash your hands you’ll pick up someones’s else germs from the door handle of the toilets and spread them on everything you touch after that.”

Senior reporter Olivier Vergnault’s desk and, right, whatever that weird thing is which is apparently loving the habitat of his desk.

The results showed a prevalence of enterobacteriaceae. Enterobacteria are bacteria known for causing intestinal upset and can cause urinary tract infections, wound infections, gastroenteritis and even meningitis. They are often associated with poor hygiene when people don’t wash their hands after going to the loo.

Sanondaf also found coliform bacteria, which are lactose-fermenting bacteria of which E-coli is the most important member. Most coliforms are harmless to humans, but, since they arise from faeces, they are useful as a test of faecal contamination.

Despite the alarmist results, were Cornwall Live’s offices a filthy hotbed of germs?

“The results are average for an office this size,” Mr Ramsay reassured us. “Nothing abnormal, but it’s not as clean as people may think.”

Kevin added: “People’s attitude to cleanliness and disinfection need to change. To do a deep clean could cost businesses a fortune especially if they have to shut down their premises. We want them to think prevention.”

We’re not sure mind over matter works anymore.