Cold and Flu Season is inevitable. However, exposing your workforce to the unnecessary risk of infection is not. Matt Hayas, Global Product Manager at Hydro Systems, describes the significant role that chemical dispensers have to play in increasing cleanliness to protect the health of your workforce and your bottom line.

Sneezing, coughing and sniffling are the unmistakeable signs that the cold and flu season has arrived again. Out of all infectious diseases, seasonal influenza is the one associated with the highest mortality in Europe.[1] Between 15,000 – 70,000 European citizens die every year of causes associated with influenza, indicating its high burden, the increasing social and economic costs, and the importance of influenza prevention for seasonal epidemics.[2]

The annual influenza epidemic may infect up to 20 per cent of the population, depending on which viruses are circulating.[3] More certain is that when employees begin to call in sick, it will significantly impact your workplace.

Preparing for the inevitable

Workplace items such as desks, counters, sinks, keyboards, handles, light switches, floors, phones, and other frequently touched surfaces, create an environment for harbouring and spreading infection. Highly infectious, flu can be passed from one employee to another one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after.[4] According to the CDC, the manner in which the new Coronavirus is spread is similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread.[5] Consequently, it’s vital to take the necessary steps to keep work environments as clean as possible.

From high-traffic reception areas, to restrooms and open plan offices, the appropriate chemical dispensing systems help clean and disinfect key areas and surfaces, while measuring the right amount of chemical and water required to eliminate harmful pathogens and create a healthier workplace.

There’s no simple remedy, however, there’s a number of ways of reducing the risk of infection. These include: encouraging employees to get their annual flu jab – although in a bad year, the seasonal flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by only 20 per cent – 30 per cent[6], promoting efficient hand hygiene, reminding workers to take a sick day when needed, and using the right cleaning tools.

A key role in targeting infection

Flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces like stainless steel and plastic for up to 24 hours, while cold viruses can also live for several.[7] These spread quickly through cross- contamination. Some common cleaning chemicals and methods don’t kill cold and flu germs, so it’s important to clean and disinfect regularly with proven disinfectant products.

Keeping staff healthy means prioritising safety. Installing a chemical dispenser prevents exposure to cleaning chemicals and enhances cleaning effectiveness and productivity by providing accuracy and safety. Guesswork from traditional and unsafe “glug-glug” methods involving measuring chemical by hand are eliminated by chemical dispensing systems. Accurately dispensing the right amount of chemical and water makes cleaning and disinfecting easier, which in turn encourages employees to clean more frequently and to a higher standard.

Using a chemical dispenser to fill spray bottles for surface cleaning and mop buckets, or autoscrubber tanks for floor cleaning, promotes a healthy working environment. Performing these tasks helps reduce the spread of germs, in addition to maintaining your reputation.

Enhancing sustainability and cost savings

Dosing the right amount of chemical helps reduce chemical and water use, limits packaging waste and supports environmental stewardship, while increasing your bottom line. Ensuring cleaning is done right the first time improves productivity and reduces labour costs.

When first investing in a dispensing system check out all the features, as well as tips for installation, training and maintenance. This will help you adopt best practice. For example, a user-friendly interface simplifies training and encourages employees to conduct frequent cleaning. A compact dispensing system takes up a minimum of valuable wall space and should be installed in an area that is easy to access and where water is readily available. During cold and flu season, it’s especially important for employees to clean and disinfect on a daily basis, so the dispensing system needs to function without interruption.

Your system should also be well-suited for current and future needs within the business. If you use numerous types of chemical, you’ll need a dispenser capable of managing these without carryover issues. A dispenser that uses technology to channel incoming water to the educator ensures the right amount of chemical in the water stream. When using multi-purpose products your dispenser will need to provide multiple dilutions to give accurate measurements.

All buildings have different water pressure and flow which can vary throughout the day. A dispensing system designed to eliminate dilution variance, including venturi-based units regulating water flow automatically, is ideal. Some systems offer predictive maintenance, remote monitoring and automated adjustments. Recording and capturing data on key performance indicators can help you understand how much product, water and energy is being used and track how often the system is being used to meet cleanliness goals.

Beyond direct medical costs, the most significant cost of infection is the indirect cost of lost productivity and absenteeism. In Europe, influenza accounts for approximately 10 per cent of sickness absence from work.[8] Having dispensing systems in place that support health and wellness will help you better maintain cleanliness and improve productivity during the inevitable months of elevated flu and cold risk.