As I have been watching the news daily I hear reports of yet another death caused by the flu. It seems to have a very detrimental effect on students. However, even when it doesn’t cause a death, it can be debilitating to a workplace, especially a small business, where staffing is sparse and absolutely every person is needed. The news reports indicate the flu is still going strong and will continue to near the end of March. What can you do to protect yourself, your employees, their children, and your business?
OSHA is often who employers turn to for advice on safety, and flu in the workplace is indeed a safety issue. Here is the advice that OSHA has published.
Vaccination is the most important way to prevent the spread of the flu. For additional information about seasonal flu vaccine priorities, see Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine.
Stay at home if you are sick.
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. Note that CDC has special instructions for workers returning to work in areas with patients whose immune systems are severely weakened.
Cleanliness is important
- 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.
Stay in shape.
Eat a healthy diet. Get plenty of rest, exercise, and relaxation.
Talk about alternative work arrangements
- If you are in a high-risk category for flu complications (e.g., pregnant women, persons with asthma, etc.) talk with your employer about alternative work assignments.
- Participate in all training offered by your employer. Make sure that you understand your exposure risk, your facility’s policies and procedures for isolation precautions, use of workplace controls, work practices, and PPE protection during aerosol-generating procedures, and potential complications of the flu.
My additional advice
Employers, you may want to consider providing some additional paid sick time for people who are genuinely ill with the flu. Keep them home! The cost savings from avoiding them infecting other workers will more than offset the amount you are paying to keep them out of the workplace. You need to reinforce the prohibition of them coming to work sick. Having multiple workers out sick at one time can set back work and delay projects and customer satisfaction.