Healthy Clean Workplaces

Leading Microbiologist links absenteeism in work and schools to basic hygiene

World renowned expert on bacteria and viruses Dr Charles Gerba is calling on New Zealand workplace and education facilities to lift their standards of hygiene in order to lift the country’s productivity levels.

“There is a direct link between workplace hygiene and productivity. The reality is that workplace illness is a significant health issue in New Zealand with 10-20% of people affected by viruses such as influenza which is then passed onto their family members,” said Dr Gerba, who is one of the first microbiologists to intensely study bacteria counts in the workplace.

“The importance of effective hygiene practices should not be underestimated as there is a direct link between poor cleaning and absenteeism in the workplace, which impacts on productivity.”

“By implementing a few simple steps of basic hygiene practices our research has demonstrated that employers can potentially cut absenteeism in half,” said Dr Gerba.

Dr Gerba, widely known as “Dr Germ” is one of the world’s leading microbiologists and a recognised expert on infectious diseases. Brought to New Zealand by Crest Commercial Cleaning, who have arranged a series of speaking events around the country including Dr Gerba’s key-note address to the Employers’ & Manufacturing Association’s ‘Occupational Health & Safety Conference’.

Hygiene in the workplace is a real issue with Dr Gerba’s research showing that influenza A viruses were detected in up to 50 per cent of workplaces and novo viruses found on over 20% of surfaces throughout the day. His research in schools found that where proper standards of hygiene were not maintained through the simple wiping with disinfectant wipes, school children were 2.32 times more likely to report absenteeism due to illness.

“Unfortunately New Zealand does not have any statistics on absenteeism or even statistics on the causes of absenteeism,” commended Dr Gerba, who said “we can show that if companies and schools followed relatively simple hygiene steps, then both ultimately see an increase in profitability and productivity”.