Friday, November 19, 2010

Protecting yourself from flu, infectious diseases at work

Has a coworker recently called in sick? Have others at work come down with the sniffles? If so, your workplace is not alone. Each year, 15 million U.S. workers get the flu, and with cold and flu season upon us, more illness may be on its way.

How can you protect yourself and others from getting sick at work? APHA’s Get Ready campaign has some tips:

• Wash your hands often, especially after touching workplace objects like copy machines, phones, keyboards and cash registers. Don’t forget to wash after handling other shared things like books, magazines or information binders. (Ever seen anyone lick their fingers to turn pages? Could have happened right before you got there.) If you work in a health care setting, frequent hand-washing is especially important.

• Avoid touching frequently used objects with your hands, if possible. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases suggests using a tissue or your sleeve when touching door handles in offices, restrooms, cafeterias and other public places. Carry around your own pen or tools, and don’t lend them to others.

• Ask your employer to sponsor a workplace flu-vaccination campaign. Employer-sponsored flu vaccinations not only help protect employee health, but save businesses money. And getting vaccinated is your best protection from getting the flu.

• Stay home when sick. Rather than tough it out and go to work when you’re not feeling well, stay home. While many people feel pressured to go to work when sick, you may end up both annoying and infecting your coworkers — or your customers, if you work in a retail environment. Check with your manager or human resources department to find out what sick leave policies are now, before you get sick.

Play it safe and help keep your workplace healthy — and running smoothly — this flu season.

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