Workplace illness affects virtually every employee. Each year, 98 percent of U.S. workers are affected by minor illness. The good news is: The right knowledge and some simple but effective measures can reduce the probability of infection from colds and flus in your workplace by about 80 percent.
Be in the Know
Knowledge is power when it comes to keeping your workforce healthy. Most communicable illnesses are transmitted when a person touches a contaminated surface and then subsequently touches their own face; particularly their nose, eyes or mouth. While many infectious agents survive just 24 hours or less, some can live for weeks. And they generally survive better on hard surfaces like desks or tabletops.
- Frequent handwashing is your first line of defense. Many individuals rinse their hands when needed – but the type of washing needed to reduce germs involves rubbing the hands with soap, under running water, for at least 20 seconds. It also helps to avoid touching faucet handles after hand washing by using a paper towel to shut off the water. If your towel dispensers are hand operated, instruct employees to use their forearm or a closed fist.
- Teach people to sneeze or cough into the crook of their elbow versus their hand. And if someone feels ill, they should avoid shaking hands, using anyone else’s phone or computer, or sharing food.
- Make it policy that anyone who has even mild symptoms of illness should stay home – or at least distance themselves from others. If an employee has a fever or other more severe symptoms, they should stay home until 24 hours after the situation is relieved. For milder symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people keep a minimum of six feet’s distance from others; for instance, when attending a meeting or collaborating on a project.
More Tips for Good Hygiene
In addition to training and educating workers, you need to wash, wipe, sanitize, and break the chain of germ transmission in your workplace.
- Wipe down doorknobs, railings, and any common areas and equipment such as water cooler spaces, tables, elevator buttons and A/V remotes.
- Have hand sanitizer available. Sanitizer must contain at least 60 percent alcohol in order to be effective. Good spots for sanitizer stations include entrances and exits, at copy stations, and near ATMs or other high-traffic areas.
- Post signs that instruct employees and visitors on proper steps to take. Provide information on the signs and symptoms of colds, flus and other common illnesses. For employees, give direction on reporting symptoms, using sick leave, returning to work, vaccination, and any related work processes.
- Encourage everyone to get a seasonal flu vaccine. Consider hosting an on-site vaccination clinic. You can partner with a local visiting nurse association or other healthcare agency to make it happen.
Do you need additional tips to keep your employees safe, healthy and on the job? Contact the workplace development experts at Pridestaff Modesto. We’ll help your company to get through cold and flu season with minimal hardship or disruption – and keep you team strong all year round.