A recent study carried out by Kimberley-Clark Professional in the US has revealed that office kitchens and break rooms harbour considerably larger amounts of germs than restrooms, prompting the company to highlight the important benefits of its recently launched Healthy Workplace Project, which is designed to reduce the risk of cross contamination of germs in offices and help employers to create a healthier more productive space for their employees.
The findings, which were officially released in May 2012, revealed that the place where employees eat and prepare their lunch topped the list of office germ hot-spots, with microwave door handles found to be the dirtiest surfaces touched by office workers on a daily basis.
Where germs thrive
Kimberley Clark Professional South Africa end-user manager Nthato Malope notes that the study is one of the most comprehensive ever conducted on identifying workplace hotspots where germs thrive.
“Hygienists from Kimberly Clark Professional’s Healthy Workplace Project collected approximately 5 000 individual swabs from office buildings housing more than 3 000 employees. The participating office buildings represented a broad cross-section of office types, including manufacturing facilities, law firms, insurance companies, healthcare companies and call centres.”
Using Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) – a measurement of a living cell’s source of energy, scientists measured the biological concentration of bacteria on a number of surfaces. The study revealed that the percentage of the office surfaces tested and found to have high levels of contamination with an ATP count of 300 or higher, included: Taps: 75%, microwave door handles: 48%, keyboards: 27%, fridge door handles: 26%, water fountain buttons: 23%, vending machine buttons: 21%.
In addition, half of all computer mice and desk phones were found to have ATP levels above 100, suggesting that while people appear to be taking more responsibility for the cleanliness of their personal spaces, there is still a need for increased awareness of the importance of hand and surface hygiene in the office.
Exposure to illness-causing germs
Malope stresses the fact that local office environments are similar to that of the US, and that through tests that Kimberly Clark Professional have conducted at a number of companies locally, it has become clear that South African office workers are regularly being exposed to illness-causing bacteria in their own workspaces.
“People are aware of the risk of germs in the restroom, but areas like break rooms have not received the same degree of attention. This study demonstrates that contamination can be spread throughout the workplace when office workers heat up lunch, make coffee or simply type on their keyboards,” he continues.
In order to address these health risks, the Kimberly Clark Professional Healthy Workplace Project has been launched nationwide to educate and encourage employers to help their staff reduce the risk of cross contamination of germs in typical office hot spots through a simple wash, wipe and sanitise protocol that enhances hand hygiene in the workplace.
The Healthy Workplace Project comprises a simple three step process, namely:
Workplace site assessment: Businesses who are interested in the Healthy Workplace Project will be offered the opportunity to receive a comprehensive assessment of their entire working environment, from reception desks to individual workstations. Following this visit and in consultation with their customer, Kimberly Clark Professional will make tailored recommendations on where to place products such as hand sanitisers and desk wipes.
Installing Kleenex branded hygiene products: With advice and practical support, the Kimberly Clark Professional team will help customers to install the best possible hygiene systems around the workplace and, most importantly, inspire staff to use them regularly – which could help prevent the spread of germs that cause a range of illnesses.
An interactive communication campaign: In addition, companies who take advantage of the assessment will receive an engagement activation pack comprising posters, stickers and other internal communication material, all carrying information and messages about workplace hygiene. The materials in the pack have been carefully designed to attract the attention of employees, and persuade them to use the hygiene products made available by their employer, helping to achieve a long-term positive change in their behaviour.
“Simple solutions such as placing sanitising wipes in kitchens and providing employees with easy access to hand sanitizers, underscored by education in hand and surface hygiene, can serve as the impetus to actively engage employees in maintaining a healthy office environment. This study demonstrates that contamination is across the workplace, and has the potential to reach people where they eat and prepare food. Nobody can avoid it entirely, but by washing, wiping and sanitising, employees can reduce their rates of cold, flu and stomach illness by up to 80%,” Malope concludes.
For more information on Kimberly-Clark Professional and The Healthy Workplace Project visit www.healthyworkplaceproject.com
Top Sectors For SMEs In 2019
“As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
While the South African economy has been underperforming for a number of years, the first positive signs of turnaround started to become visible by the second quarter of 2018, and by the end of the third quarter, data supplied by Statistics South Africa showed that the economy had indeed grown by 2.2 percent, compared to the previous quarter. This uptick is expected to have a positive effect on business confidence in 2019.
This is according to Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that certain business sectors have already seen an increase in opportunities for small businesses and start-ups.
“While these sectors will not be without challenges, the following four industries are likely to offer the best opportunities for small and medium enterprise (SME) owners to grow their enterprises in the coming year.”
The World Travel and Tourism report 2018, revealed that the direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to South Africa’s GDP has been projected to rise from R136bn in 2016 to R197.9bn by 2028 – set to make up a total of 3.3 percent of the country’s total GDP, says Lang.
“Although this sector experienced some setbacks in 2018, such as the drought in the Western Cape and stricter visa regulations for children entering the country, both the water restrictions and visa regulations have been relaxed and the sector is once again poised for growth,” he says.
Statistics South Africa has credited this industry with being the biggest driver of growth in the country’s GDP, having expanded by 7.5 percent in September 2018, says Lang. “To bolster this, Government has made a concerted effort to stimulate small business growth in this area with initiatives such as the Black Industrialist Programme and the SA Automotive Masterplan.”
He adds that businesses in the manufacturing sphere could therefore likely see significant opportunities in the form of outsourcing contracts and new partnerships with large corporates.
“The debate around land expropriation has occupied most of the discussions surrounding the agricultural sector in 2018, with some questioning growth prospects of this sector. However, this industry has a lot of growth ahead of it, as demonstrated by its 6.5 percent growth over the last three months of 2018,” explains Lang.
“Further to this, the industry is also already taking significant advantage of seven climatic regions in South Africa, with the export of a wide variety of high quality fruit and vegetables increasing substantially,” he points out. The recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has resulted in the suspension of the country’s FMD-free status will however significantly impact meat exporters.
In terms of opportunities for SMEs, he says that these may most likely be found in the rural and underdeveloped regions, where the need for resources like efficient transport, state-of-the-art cold storage, better irrigation and private power generation will be key to making agriculture projects more productive and competitive in the export market.
Data and information technology
Connectivity and information technology infrastructure are both crucial to business and employment growth in South Africa, says Lang.
“With many municipalities and the Western Cape government committing to providing all of its residents with free data as part of a plan to expand public Wi-Fi network access, it is clear that this is also becoming a high priority on a state level.”
It has also been reported that South Africa is awaiting the arrival of three international data centres, and large players in the communications sphere, including Vodacom, Telkom and Vumatel, are making huge strides in drastically growing the country’s fibre optic backbone, he adds. “As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
In conclusion, Lang says that as South Africa’s economic growth has started to turn around, business owners should keep their ears to the ground as 2019 is highly likely to be a year of opportunity.
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SME Insurance Checklist For New Year
Malesela Maupa, Head of Product and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers, advises SMEs to consider the following factors when reviewing their policies.
Business owners who are planning for the year ahead should not overlook the importance of reviewing their insurance policies to ensure they are adequately covered against insurable risks.
Malesela Maupa, Head of Product and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers says, every year businesses face unique challenges ranging from credit and market risks, technological disruptions, compliance, operational and regulatory risks, amongst others. As a matter of precaution, insurance policies should at least be reviewed or updated once a year.
He advises SMEs to consider the following factors when reviewing their policies:
- Employee movements – if there are any employees who have left or joined the company, ensure that your policy is updated accordingly.
This type of cover normally depends on the role and contribution of the employee to the business. For instance, directors may be covered for Key Person Insurance and Directors & Officers Liability insurance.
- Protest Actions – this year is the national election year and leading up to elections we can expect to see an increase in the frequency and severity of protest actions, riots and strikes. Thus, it is essential to ensure that adequate special risks cover is in place from the South African Special Risks Insurance Association (SASRIA).
SASRIA provides cover to both individuals and businesses against special risks like civil commotion, public disorder, strikes, riots and terrorism at affordable premiums.
- Cyber risks – it is essential to communicate with your insurer or broker and find out if there are any new risks that your business should be protected against. Cyber incidents continue to be a major risk for businesses especially in the SME sector. Over the last couple of years there has been a major increase in the number of reported cyber incidences.
More businesses are now facing increased cyber threats due to their increased dependency on technology, relating to their internal and customer data being compromised by fraudsters. It is therefore essential to have some form of cyber risk insurance cover and/or enhancement of data security protocols.
- Regulatory changes – every year there are a number of regulatory changes that impact businesses directly or indirectly, which may result in fines and penalties for non-compliance.
- Natural catastrophes – the increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather conditions, coupled with intensifying natural catastrophes will continue to have a significant impact on businesses.
Businesses should ensure they are adequately protected against these risks to avoid incurring sever financial losses.
- Business changes – should a business consider moving to a new location, purchasing new premises or venture into new business activities, these types of changes could have a major impact on its risks profile. As a result, the policy needs to be updated accordingly.
- New and Enhanced products – An innovative culture has taken over the insurance industry and ever so often we see the introduction of new products or the enhancement of existing products. Get in touch with you broker to advise you on any new products that might add value to your existing insurance portfolio.
“Reviewing your policy regularly gives you peace of mind knowing that you can focus on running your business effectively, without worrying about unforeseen risks,” concludes Maupa.
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