As the temperature drops, the number of colds and cases of the flu begin to rise. This isn't because low temperatures weaken people's immune systems. It's mostly because people are inside for longer periods of time and working in close quarters with one another.
The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) states that 62 million cases of the common cold occur each year, and according to its most recent survey, 22 million days of work are lost annually. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that estimated annual direct costs of influenza are $4.6 billion. In addition, up to 111 million workdays are lost and an estimated $7 billion per year in sick days and lost productivity are lost because of the flu. Employers can help keep their employees safe from colds and the flu by instituting effective programs, educating workers, and supplying the right tools to keep them healthy and productive.
Receiving a flu vaccine doesn't guarantee that a person won't catch the flu or miss days from work, but it is a helpful precaution. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two strategies when it comes to encouraging vaccinations. Employers can either host an event or encourage employees to attend one nearby. Hosting a vaccination clinic can help an employer ensure that the largest number of workers have access to the vaccine. If your company is not hosting an onsite clinic, keep workers informed about where they can get flu vaccinations outside of the workplace. Partnering with an offsite health provider, pharmacy, or clinic is a good way to promote vaccinations in the community.
Stopping the spread
Flu vaccinations only protect against the most common strains of the virus, and colds can't usually be prevented, even with good hygiene and a strong immune system. Encouraging workers to stay home when they are sick is an easy way to help prevent employees from spreading illnesses.
The CDC recommends that workers stay home for at least 24 hours after their fevers have broken. Persistent respiratory issues such as coughing, sneezing, and runny noses should prevent workers from returning because they will likely spread the virus.
Colds and the flu are transmitted by viruses, so it isn't difficult to help prevent spreading with a little bit of vigilance. Hand hygiene is key - encourage employees to wash their hands frequently and ensure that they know how to wash them properly. Using soap and water, washing for at least 20 seconds, and thoroughly rinsing and drying when finished is recommended. Post signs that tell workers, visitors, and clients the steps for proper hand hygiene and cough etiquette.
Alcohol-based cleansers are effective when hand washing isn't convenient. Supply moist wipes and hand sanitizers that contain alcohol to help prevent the spread of illness.
Coughing and sneezing are the most common ways that colds and the flu are transmitted. Promote cough and sneeze etiquette and provide tissues for all of your workers. It is also important to properly dispose of used tissues. Designate a no-touch wastebasket that's only cleaned by employees with gloves who immediately wash up after emptying it.
No employee wants to get sick, so there is always a strong incentive for workers to prevent the spread of colds and the flu. A lot of the preventative work needed to do this is in their hands. To help your employees stay healthy and productive this winter:
• Educate employees about vaccinations and flu symptoms
• Provide soap, water, and tissues
• Provide disinfectant and towelettes so workers can clean their tools and workstations
• Implement a flexible sick leave policy and include alternate resources, a pay policy, procedures for reporting flu symptoms, and returning to work
Microflex® Diamond Grip Plus™ 6 Mil Powder-Free 9" latex exam gloves give employees comfortable hand protection that ensures a secure grip, while the 6.3 mil construction provides durability.
The disposable, latex gloves provide workers the dexterity needed to complete jobs safely. Microflex® Diamond Grip Plus™ 6 Mil Powder-Free 9" Latex Exam Gloves are not only tear-resistant, but also feature an extended beaded cuff for increased wrist protection and added strength.
What sets these work gloves apart from other brands is the advanced glove strength and wrist protection. The contoured design of these work gloves provides all day comfort workers will appreciate. Exam gloves are powder-free and specially formulated to reduce the risk of a painful reaction to latex.
Improve workplace safety and reduce health and injury risks with the Microflex® Diamond Grip Plus™ 6 Mil Powder-Free 9" Latex Exam Gloves.
Protect employees’ eyes from splashes by providing convenient goggles that fit over most prescription eyeglasses. Designed to deliver outstanding eye protection without impairing workers’ vision, these goggles are a great choice for most workplaces.
Made from soft PVC for exceptional comfort, N-Specs® Anti-Fog Liquid Splash Protection Safety Goggles feature indirect venting that safeguards eyes against liquid and chemical splash. A fog-free polycarbonate lens ensures the goggles stay clear and won’t interfere with work. A wider elastic headband provides a comfortable fit and helps keep them in place. They meet ANSI requirements and are manufactured in an ISO 9002 Registered facility.
This versatile eye protection works well for employees with or without prescription glasses and is great for almost any type of work environment. Stock up on N-Specs® anti-fog safety goggles and keep the workplace safe and visible when employees work with hazardous liquids.
When companies deal with health and safety issues, they often consider the cost of safety supplies and equipment. Medical expenses and traditional health benefits often appear to be the most essential financial needs for safety departments and EHS professionals. Curiously enough, many employers overlook one of the simplest solutions of all - employee wellness.
Wellness refers to general strategies to make employees healthier. It offers a number of benefits, including reducing the cost of health insurance, reducing the severity of workplace injuries, and giving workers more energy and flexibility to do their jobs. In addition to personal protective equipment and comprehensive medical coverage, wellness can go a long way toward making workers safer.
It can be difficult to add up the savings that a wellness program will provide, but the Vermont Department of Health estimates that a workforce in poor health can indirectly cost a company two to three times what the direct medical costs would have been.
The level of effort that workers put into their jobs can also be greatly affected by wellness. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Preventing Chronic Disease published a study of an Austin, Texas, company that started a wellness program in 2009. Besides increases in general health and fitness, the program was responsible for significant reductions in expenses caused by employee healthcare and absenteeism.
Absenteeism is when employees don't come to work for various health-related reasons. Seasonal illness, workplace injuries, and other causes of ill health are at the heart of absenteeism. Another important pitfall that workplaces must avoid is presenteeism, which is when staff members come to work when they're sick and transmit their illnesses to co-workers, leading to even greater absenteeism, reduced productivity, and higher costs.
Types of wellness programs
Quite a few of these programs are meant to reduce obesity and reduce the risk of heart disease among personnel. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Some organizations choose to include gym memberships and nutritionist consultations in employee benefits packages and encourage workers to use them. Others hold exercise clinics and sessions after work, either on company property or offsite.
Wellness programs can also be used to address another severe risk to employee health - tobacco use. Many workers who smoke have elevated risks for heart disease and high blood pressure. One way to address this issue is to ban smoking on premises. Companies could also choose to offer literature explaining the benefits of quitting or even provide medical discounts to workers who quit.
Safe and healthy workplaces
Wellness programs can be a good way for companies to provide additional compensation to their workers and can significantly reduce costs that are associated with medical insurance, absenteeism, and disability. Healthy work environments will also be much more productive and will promote a strong ethic of fitness and safety to all workers.
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