Employers encouraged to protect workers against flu
Flu season is officially here, and with it are tips to help prevent the spread of it in the workplace. While the peak of flu season typically is January and February, it can begin as early as October and last through May, say experts.
OSHA has developed the following recommendations to keep flu at a minimum in workplaces:
- Encourage workers to get vaccinated. Employers may want to consider hosting a flu vaccination clinic in the workplace.
- Encourage sick workers to stay home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends workers with a fever and respiratory symptoms stay home until 24 hours after the fever ends without the use of medication. Flexible leave policies should encourage sick workers to stay home without penalty.
- Develop a policy for workers and clients who become ill in the workplace. It should designate one person as the go-to individual if someone becomes sick at work. If possible, separate ill workers from others or provide them with a surgical mask to wear until they can go home.
- Promote hand hygiene and cough etiquette. Signs should be posted that tell workers, visitors, and others to wash their hands after blowing their noses, coughing, sneezing, or coming into contact with contaminated objects and surfaces. They should also be instructed to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or cough and sneeze into the upper sleeve. There should be easy access to supplies such as no touch wastebaskets for used tissues, soap and water, alcohol-based hand rubs, disposable towels, and cleaning and sanitation materials.
- Keep the workplace clean. All commonly touched work surfaces, work areas, and equipment -- such as telephones, doorknobs, lunch areas, countertops, and copiers -- should be frequently disinfected. Disinfectants and disposable towels should be provided for workers to use to clean their work spaces and surfaces.
- Educate workers. Employees should understand the flu and conditions that place them at higher risk for flu complications such as being pregnant or having asthma. They should be trained about how flu can be transmitted in the workplace and the precations they can use. Information provided should include the signs, symptoms, and complications of the flu; policies and procedures for reporting flu symptoms, using sick leave and returning to work; vaccination; and any required work practices.
- Address sickness while on travel. Employers might want to reconsider sending employees to areas with high illness rates. The CDC recommends that workers who become ill while traveling notify their supervisors and promptly call a health care provider. They should check themselves for fever and any other signs of flu-like illness before traveling and notify their supervisors and stay home if they feel ill.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
November 12, 2012
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