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How to prevent catching the flu in the workplace?

Jan 15, 2018

This winter is seeing the devastating consequences of flu with tens of thousands of visits to GPs, over 500 people hospitalised since the start of flu season, over 80 deaths and more than a  hundred sufferers reported to be fighting for their lives in intensive care at present. The so called Australian Flu has been spreading through Britain at an unprecedented rate with major consequences. Flu spreads easily, with many people ‘catching’ it from exposure to those infected at work. Don’t risk catching it, take precautions to avoid it!

Firstly, this article is not claiming to be the complete one stop solution for flu. If you are suffering with poor health you must always seek expert medical advice. One of the best ways to seek initial assistance is by telephone, to help reduce spreading the infection further. There is the free NHS ‘111’ helpline service,  you can call your GP or even your local hospital for guidance. If they feel they need to see you, arrangements will be made.

Aussie flu symptoms are nasty. They include headaches, fevers, sore throats and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, you may have contracted the virus.

Prevent Flue in the Workplace - health & safety

Five Ways to Lower Your Risk of Catching the Flu Virus:

  1. Good Basic Hygiene
    Make sure that you look after your basic hygiene requirements. Flu passes easily from one person to another. Make sure you wash your hands frequently, avoid putting your fingers in your mouth and take extra care when you are out and about. If you are using public spaces and public transport, make sure to carry sanitiser for your hands and apply it frequently. This is one of the best ways of preventing coming into contact with the highly unpleasant and dangerous virus. If you are sharing kitchen facilities at work ensure everything is washed properly. Ideally, use a dishwasher as these ensure a good standard of sterilisation takes place. If you are in an office which shares cups and glasses, consider using your own and washing them thoroughly before each use. Remember dish clothes and drying towels spread germs if they are not washed frequently. Also, make sure drying-up towels are not used as hand towels. Try to encourage the use of disposable towels for handwashing. If you have a communal fridge and microwave, check these are clean. The better standard of housekeeping, the less risk of catching infections. Check with cleaners to ensure that handrails and door handles are being properly cleaned as these are a common places to find germs.
  2. Flu Jab
    Seek medical advice to find out if the Flu jab is suitable for you. The flu jab could protect against the Aussie flu virus which is a mutated HSN2 influenza A virus. Flu jabs are available via GP surgeries as well as from pharmacies. If you haven’t had yours, find out if it is recommended for you. See your GP or pharmacist for more information.
  3. Avoid Crowded Areas
    Infections and superbugs can be transmitted through unsanitised hands. Handrails, escalators, door handles and surfaces harbour infections. Remember, when you are using crowded, public areas it is a good idea to carry hand sanitiser with you and to use it frequently. Definitely prior to eating. Try and avoid close contact with people on buses and trains. The best way to avoid catching the virus is to keep away from it. We see people coughing and sneezing around us all the time. Always remember if you have a cough, cold or flu virus to cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, to ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ and to wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading it around.
  4. Do you need to go into the office?
    Many organisations offer flexible working. Although it is important to not panic regarding flu it is sensible to take precautions. If you think you may be coming down with an infection speak to your employer and ask if you could work from home if it is feasible. If you are ill, stay at home. Soldiering on just passes the infection around and keeps it circulating in your work place much longer. We all have a responsibility to not pass infections around. The best way to stop infections spreading can be to isolate them, as much is as feasible.
  5. Look After Yourself
    Good health is our personal responsibility. Remember a good immune system is something we can work towards. Taking regular exercise, eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep and rest all help the immune system to function effectively. If you become ill, a good immune system can help to fight the infection off faster and help to prevent certain infections taking hold. It has been claimed that certain food supplements, such as Omega-3, can help boost the immune system. Speak to your pharmacist to find out more about this.

Employers, remember that you have a duty to look after your employees health and wellbeing. It is a good idea to put sanitiser dispensers around your premises, particularly in busy circulation areas, in reception, by toilets and particularly in the kitchen and rest areas. Encourage your staff to wash their hands frequently. If you are able to offer flexible working this might be worth considering also. An office full of sick people is never good for business!

JCH Safety are chartered occupational safety and health consultants and fire safety practitioners. If you would like further assistance with any of these matters please get in touch.