The seasonal flu is a highly infectious disease that can spread easily indoors. The disease can lead to severe complications in individuals with preexisting conditions. It can also decrease productivity by forcing workers to take time off work. Businesses of all sizes need to take precautions to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses in the workplace, so their workers can do their jobs without risking their health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put together a list of tips employers can use to minimize the spread of the flu within the workplace.
Encourage Flu Vaccinations
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent serious illness during flu season. Flu shots are available for free at doctor’s offices, hospitals, and pharmacies during the fall and winter months to reduce infection rates. The CDC recommends that everyone ages six months and older get vaccinated for the flu. Vaccinated workers may still catch the disease but are much less likely to show symptoms, take time off work, and pass the virus to their colleagues.
Some workers may have trouble scheduling a vaccination appointment outside their regular hours. Businesses can host a flu vaccination clinic at their workplace or direct their workers to a local vaccination center in their community.
Provide Sick Leave
It’s important to encourage workers to stay home if they aren’t feeling well or are showing symptoms related to the seasonal flu. Some workers may feel pressured to go to work when they are sick if they feel they will lose pay or face retaliation. Employers should create a fair sick leave policy that gives workers time to recuperate at home without reducing their pay or docking their hours, so they don’t feel the urge to continue working while sick. Individuals with the flu should stay home until at least 24 hours after their fever drops below 100 degrees Fahrenheit without using fever-reducing medications.
If someone arrives at work exhibiting flu-like symptoms, including a runny nose, headaches, and body aches, they should be asked to go home. Some workers may be able to telecommute while they recover from the illness.
Set Up Sanitation Systems
The flu can spread easily through respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces. Employers can reduce the rate of infection by installing touch-free garbage cans, soap dispensers, and automatic doors. Workers should also have access to sanitation stands with alcohol-based hand rubs, tissues, face masks, and other health supplies. Everyone should also get into the habit of covering their nose and mouth when they sneeze or cough and washing their hands frequently throughout the day to reduce infection. Teams can also regularly disinfect surfaces with sanitation wipes to reduce the spread of bacteria and germs. If vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP) is used to disinfect workspaces, consider installing a hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) gas detector, as H2O2 is considered harmful to humans if the VHP is not fully removed from the area either by being vented to the outside air or recaptured.
Use the Proper Personal Protection Equipment
Employers should also purchase and maintain personal protection equipment when workers are in close proximity. Individuals can wear face masks and face shields and coverings to limit the spread of respiratory droplets that spread the disease, especially when talking to customers or working closely with colleagues. The N95 respirator is the most effective at protecting workers from infection. These masks can help block the spread of respiratory droplets containing influenza, but transmission is still possible. The mask should fit comfortably on the worker’s face while creating a perfect seal. There shouldn’t be any gaps or openings between the material and their face. Most masks come with an adjustable strap or ear loops that make it easy to tighten or loosen the mask as needed.
Small to medium-sized businesses can also use the Honeywell Transmission Risk Air Monitor to monitor the chances of infection in close gatherings. The device will issue an alarm when it detects conditions that could lead to exposure to viral airborne transmissions. It considers several factors, including the size of the room, the number of occupants, breathing rates, and duration. The traffic rating changes from green, yellow, or red to signify the estimated level of risk. The device is ideal for rooms ranging from 800 to 1,000 square feet, including classrooms, offices, restaurants, and other indoor settings.
The seasonal flu can wreak havoc on businesses, large and small. An outbreak can delay important tasks and expose workers to symptoms that can have a dramatic impact on their health. Every employer is responsible for minimizing the spread of the flu in the workplace. Companies can use these tips to ensure everyone can do their job without worrying about getting sick and missing work.