Whether you’re a full time safety professional or you wear many hats and only wear that hat on occasion, you should be worried… very worried indeed!
Now that I have your attention, open your mind for a couple of minutes, because what you are about to read may cause your mind to question what I am saying here and throw up listening barriers along the way. Think about these questions:
Are leaders, managers, supervisors and employees wearing more or fewer hats than before the pandemic?
Is the risk of illness and injury greater or less than before COVID-19?
Has the frequency and cost of musculoskeletal injuries (backs, necks, shoulders, knees) gone up or down?
How many people are dying every day, how many more variants are coming our way, and how destructive will they be?
Vaccines may help the situation, but they do not appear to be the cure...
What About Economics?
Is your company, organization, hotel or school district in such a great financial position that it can afford to lose employees, students, productivity, customers or profit? Or would you prefer to increase efficiency, reduce absenteeism & increase attendance, prevent loss and take care of the health & safety of your employees?
I am fairly confident that you will agree that the answers to these questions are: more, greater, up, and too many. Even though we all want to put an end to the effects of COVID, it looks like it's here to stay for sometime, as in years, so we must adapt rather than try to forget about COVID-19 and other viruses, like the flu and the common cold.
Accurate Ergonomics & Xtreme Prevention personnel have visited a number of companies over the last few months, and what we have witnessed with our own eyes and our camera, is very concerning.
If you haven't yet noticed, the places where you, your family and employees shop and spend time for one reason or another, are not cleaning and disinfecting like they used to just a month or two ago. We have visited an assortment of businesses in the last month: 2 post office box/shipping stores, 2 hair salons, 6 big box stores, 3 grocery stores, 2 hospitals, 2 manufacturing plants, 3 schools, 4 churches, 8 restaurants, and 7 retail stores.
What we found was disturbing, especially when you think about how our lives and livelihoods are in clear and present danger. Here is what we found, plus a story or two to emphasize the point.
With a few exceptions, which I will explain in the following stories, not one person in all of these locations was seen cleaning or disinfecting any surface. Zero, nada, zilch! There may be some cleaning going on after hours, but we watched customers come and go, cough and sneeze, touching numerous items and surfaces along the way. People have let down their guard! That spells risk, and risk means there's trouble ahead.
Next comes the excuses! Am I going to tell you that people have excuses for why they don't do the right thing... absolutely and here are a few good ones:
We're more concerned with getting everyone to wear a mask than we are about disinfecting. If wearing a mask (which I do in public) is so important, why are 95% of people wearing an inefficient mask vs. an N95? In addition, masking will end eventually. We are not a 3rd world country, our air is much cleaner and Americans like exercising their freedom of choice.
No one has gotten sick from COVID here. Is that the only statistic that matters? While that is always good news, many people who work at a company, customers who visit stores, travelers, parents, school children and more, are very concerned about maintaining their health and wonder how clean the environment is where they spend their time. Just because you haven't been shut down by the health department lately, does not mean that all is good. People will and are choosing to spend their time in places and spaces where they know that people care about their health and wellbeing.
We practice good hand hygiene here. Really. I can tell you stories about using the men's room at many of these locations. For awhile, my fellow men were doing a better job at washing their hands, but even that has waned big time. Now it's back to where it was before the pandemic, which is not a good metric.
We have plastic wellness/sneeze barriers. In half of the locations mentioned above, plastic barriers have been removed. In the other half, they are rarely disinfected and it probably won't be long until they vanish completely, just like masks will, in time.
We practice social distancing. That's nice, but what once was 6 feet, turned into 3 feet. All someone has to do is tune into a sporting event to see that most people are now sitting elbow to elbow with total strangers, and not wearing masks.
Vaccines are the only solution that will work and put an end to this pandemic. Obviously, vaccines are a topic of great concern at this time and probably will be for the foreseeable future. In addition:
Not every person will get the jab.
No one knows how long any of the vaccines will work.
None of the vaccines offer 100% protection, or work 100% of the time.
Vaccinated people can still carry the virus and pass it to other people.
How many vaccines are enough, 1, 2, 3, 4 or more?
"Experts" are already talking about needing a new jab every 4 months!
The CDC just changed the definition of vaccine, from something that produces immunity, to something that helps the body respond better.
The CDC says that transmission rates are low from contact with surfaces and that it's the droplets you have to worry about. While that may be the case in some circumstances, what we have noticed is that people glob onto that as if it were scientific proof. That one cancels out the need for the other. That can't be any further from the truth. If you read what the CDC says, they say to try and prevent droplets from spreading around as one means of defense, but they also say that cleaning and disinfecting is a frontline defense and a staple in maintaining health and safety.
If viruses and germs have been and are virtually everywhere, what happens when people stop wearing masks and start existing closer together? Let me tell you what will happen. Surfaces and touch points where infectious diseases live for hours and days, will be spreading illnesses and wreaking havoc every day, at a high cost to everyone.
Story 1 (Grocery Store):
I was in a store just the other day talking to the owner and manager about COVID and their disinfecting process. They assured me that they clean their checkout stands thoroughly, with a popular disinfectant. It was early in the morning, so there were few if any customers that had come and gone at that hour. I asked if I could test their product against ours (Xtreme Treatment Compound) by doing a quick ATP test on a surface in the closest checkout stand, and they agreed.
I swabbed about 3 inches of the touch screen surface where a clerk punches in numbers. I placed the swab in the ATP meter, pressed the button and held up the meter so that everyone could see the reading. In 15 seconds the readout said that there were 187 live germs on that 3 inches of space. I cleaned and disinfected the same surface with Xtreme, then retested the surface with a new swab. The new reading was below 10 (10 or below is the goal for surgical rooms).
They were impressed with the reduction of germs. After all who would want to touch a surface with hundreds or thousands of germs on it? No one in their right mind, that's who. I went on to explain that Xtreme kills (inactivates) the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus in just 30 seconds, and that Xtreme provides 4 days of protection. Not only did they order Xtreme for their store, they ordered enough for all 4 of their stores. The best part was that they felt that the timing was perfect and that they recognized that they had to do a better job at protecting their employees and customers, every day.
After engaging with us and seeing how easy it is to us clean & disinfect surfaces with Xtreme, these leaders made a commitment to reinvigorate their infectious disease control efforts and promised not to let their guard down again,
Story 2 (School):
We met with a school to talk about the product/s they use to disinfect classrooms and other areas. Schools are petri dishes because of all of their different challenges (children of all ages, teachers, classrooms, busses, shower & locker rooms, cafeterias, computers, sports gear, people coming and going, community spread, and more).
We asked the Superintendent what they currently use and he told us Brand X. I asked him to let us see the bottle so that I could do a side by side analysis for the school, and guess what I discovered...
Like many chemicals, the one that someone sold them was made with QUATs. I won't get into a long dissertation about QUATs here, but I will say is this:
QUATs are toxic. Some studies now link these chemicals to cancer
They take longer to kill germs (up to 10 minutes of wet/dwell time)
The mist from QUATs, peroxides and many other chemicals should not be inhaled
QUATs require more personal protective equipment (PPE)
Rooms need to be ventilated for 30 minutes or longer prior to occupation
QUATs provide NO extended protection (Xtreme keeps killing for 4 days!)
QUATs are not safe for people, school age children, animals or the environment.
While on-site, I performed a couple of ATP tests and was able to show the school that what they were using was not the most effective product, and certainly not the healthiest solution for all concerned.
The district made an order the very next day.
Story 3 (Hospital):
I recently was in a hospital for a couple of days for a minor surgery. I thought that if anybody would have their act together, it would be a hospital, right? Wrong!
In one scenario, I witnessed a nurse perform a disinfection process on a vinyl treatment chair that looks like a recliner after a known ill person was sitting in it laying on it for over 30 minutes. The main source of disinfectant used there was a wipe made with... you guessed it, QUATS.
I watched the nurse pull out a wipe and wipe about 40% of the vinyl surface and none of the other surfaces, such as side tables and adjustment knobs. According to the instructions on the container, surfaces are supposed to remain wet for 10 minutes. With the quick wipe process that I witnessed, not only did 80% of the potentially infected surfaces go untreated, the instructions were not followed, and guess what... no one cared.
Just as I was thinking, at least she was wearing gloves, she took off her gloves and threw them away. Then she returned to the chair to clean and change the pillowcase, except now she was not wearing ang cloves.
Unfortunately, I was also seated in a chair just like this for several hours, but that time allowed me the opportunity to watch innocent people come and go, who like me probably have faith that the hospital is doing everything right, unknowingly expose themselves to who knows how many germs and viruses.
In conclusion, I can honestly say that many, if not most people have let their guard down. Cleaning and disinfecting was an everyday and every occasion staple just a few weeks ago and really should be a high priority in every business going forward.
Which business below would you feel more comfortable shopping at?
Like everything health and safety, this is a great time to assess risk and switch to a more efficient, effective and healthier product.
Choosing something different isn't a bad thing. You are not being disloyal to your vendor, you are being loyal to and protective of your employees, customers, guest and students.
You also know more today than a year ago about the spread of viruses and the hazards that are inherent in most chemicals. It's time to rethink what you use and how you use it, because whatever you use, people, pets, fish and the environment will be exposed to any number of negative side effects.