Here's important information from OSHA and the CDC on how to protect workers whose jobs involve contact with coworkers and the general public. This information provides a baseline for infection control during a seasonal flu outbreak, but it may not be enough to protect workers during a pandemic.(There are different specific recommendations for Healthcare workers.)
Basic Flu Precautions for Most WorkplacesEncourage workers to get the seasonal flu vaccine when it is available. Consider hosting a flu vaccination clinic in your workplace. Vaccination is the most effective means of preventing flu. Vaccines take time to become effective, so early vaccination is important. Don't wait until people are sick to hold a vaccination clinic.
Encourage Sick Workers to Stay HomeEncourage sick workers to stay home. The CDC recommends that workers who have a fever and respiratory symptoms stay at home until 24 hours after their fever ends (100 F 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.
Develop flexible leave policies that encourage workers to stay home, without penalty, if they are sick. Discuss other human resource policies with staff, including administrative leave transfer between employees, pay policy for sick leave, childcare options, and what to do when ill during travel.
Develop a Policy for Workers and Clients Who Become Ill in the WorkplaceDevelop a policy on how to deal with workers and clients who may be ill with the flu and communicate it to your workers. Determine who will be responsible for assisting ill individuals in the workplace and make sure that at least one person can serve as the "go to" person if someone becomes sick in the workplace. Consider how to separate ill workers from others, or give them a surgical mask to wear until they can go home.
Promote Hand Hygiene and Cough EtiquettePost handwashing signs that tell workers, visitors, and clients the steps for proper hand hygiene and cough etiquette. Workers, visitors, and clients should have easy access to supplies such as:
- "No touch" wastebaskets for used tissues;
- Soap and water;
- Alcohol-based hand rubs;
- Disposable towels;
- Cleaning and sanitation materials.
Keep the Workplace CleanFrequently clean all commonly touched work surfaces, work areas, and equipment (e.g., telephones, doorknobs, lunch areas, countertops, copiers, etc.). Use your standard cleaning agents and follow the label directions. No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended by CDC. Provide disinfectants and disposable towels for workers to use to clean their work spaces and surfaces and to keep work areas clean.
Educate Workers About the FluTrain workers about how flu can be transmitted in the workplace and what precautions they can use to prevent transmission. Provide information about the following:
- Signs, symptoms, and complications of the flu
- Policies and procedures for reporting flu symptoms, using sick leave, and returning to work
- Any required work practices
Address Travel and Sickness While on TravelReconsider business travel to areas with high illness rates. The CDC recommends the following measures for workers who becomes ill while on travel:
- Advise workers who become ill while traveling or on temporary assignment to notify their supervisors.
- Workers who become ill while traveling and are at increased risk of flu complications and others concerned about their illness should promptly call a healthcare provider.
- Advise workers to check themselves for fever and any other signs of flu-like illness before starting travel and to notify their supervisors and stay home if they feel ill.
Following these precautions can help protect your workers - and your business - from the flu this year.
Seasonal Flu Resources for the Workplace:
- Visit the OSHA Seasonal Flu page.
- Download the CDC 2017-18 flu factsheet (pdf).
- Visit the CDC 2017-18 Flu Season page.
- Flu information for businesses and employers.
- Download a seasonal flu infographic poster from CCOHS.
- Browse Hand Washing Signs at ComplianceSigns.com.