While it is not always possible to avoid contact with ill people, you can reduce the risk of contagious respiratory viruses in your workplace. Taking precautions will not only benefit the health and well-being of the workforce by preventing the flu and other illnesses, it will also mean the organization does not have to incur sick days, absent employees and the cost that the organization would have to bear.
Here are some proactive steps you can take to use the best hygiene in your facilities and prevent illness:
- Clean surfaces and high traffic areas frequently. This requires cleaning exposed surfaces that are frequently touched by personnel. Cleaning with appropriate cleaning agents will promptly remove germs before they affect personnel. It is important to clean regularly and often as research shows that the flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for up to 48 hours after being deposited on a surface.
- Try to match your cleaning efforts with proper disinfectants and cleaning agents to remove the germs you want to remove or kill. There are a variety of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered and labeled anti-microbial products suitable for use on non-porous surfaces. Users should carefully follow the disinfection directions on the labels to handle and safely use the products and to obtain the best results.
- Use disinfecting wipes on electronic items handled often. Ensure first, however, that it's safe to wipe the electronics and follow label directions on the wipes. It may be necessary to wipe several times for them to be effective.
In addition to a robust cleaning program, ensure all personnel are trained and educated in best practices of hygiene to prevent the spread of illness and protect themselves from infections, viruses and disease. This includes the following:
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve. Throw tissues into a "no-touch" wastebasket.
- Assure proper hand washing. Hand-washing techniques should involve a continual scrubbing motion between hands for an extended time period and used on dirty hands. Regular soap will often suffice, but an antimicrobial soap is better. Such proper hand washing will act to remove the dirt and debris. Some suggest hand washing time should be long enough to sing a "happy birthday" song.
- Encourage or incentivize vaccination. Getting the annual flu vaccine is a very effective and important way to prevent the spread of the virus.
Each year influenza and illness is a threat to workers everywhere. An ounce of prevention in a clean and sanitary workspace combined with best practices of personal and industrial hygiene is worth much more than a pound of benefit.
This article originally appeared here on Grainger's The Safety Record.