Are employees passing colds and the flu around your workplace? This seems to be a perpetual problem during this time of year. In response to this, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) offers the following tips for employees to follow that will help minimize their exposure to these types of illnesses.
- Get vaccinated. Vaccination is the most important way to prevent the spread of the flu.
- Stay at home if you are sick. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that workers who have a fever and respiratory symptoms stay at home until 24 hours after their fever ends (100 degrees Fahrenheit [37.8 degrees Celsius] or lower), without the use of medication. Not everyone who has the flu will have a fever. Other symptoms could include a runny nose, body aches, headache, tiredness, diarrhea, or vomiting.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds; use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve(s). Throw tissues into a "no-touch" wastebasket.
- Clean your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
- When using soap and water, rub soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds, rinse hands with water, and dry completely.
- If soap and water are not available, use of an alcohol-based hand rub is a helpful interim measure until hand washing is possible. When using an alcohol-based hand rub, apply liquid to palm of hand, cover all surfaces of the hands with the liquid, and rub hands together until dry.
- Keep frequently touched common surfaces (e.g., telephones, computer equipment, etc.) clean.
- Try not to use a coworker's phone, desk, office, computer, or other work tools and equipment. If you must use a coworker’s equipment, consider cleaning it first with a disinfectant.
- Avoid shaking hands or coming in close contact with coworkers and others who may be ill.
- Stay in shape. Eat a healthy diet. Get plenty of rest, exercise, and relaxation.
- Speak with your doctor and find out if you are in a high risk category for seasonal flu (e.g., pregnant women, persons with asthma, etc.).
- Participate in any training offered by your employer. Make sure that you understand how to stay healthy at work.
Contributed by Christine Crews, SPHR, is Vice President of Human Resource Services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc. (EAF). EAF is a non-profit corporate membership-based association dedicated to serving the business and HR communities with world-class HR tools, hotlines & legal compliance, news & trends, surveys & economic data, benefits & insurance, risk management, training & consulting, and leadership & organizational development. www.eafinc.org or [email protected].
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