Flu safety in the workplace

Flu and Workplace

Flu Safety in the Workplace

Prevention of colds and flu

Viruses that cause flu and colds thrive in a less humid atmosphere, meaning that they are more active during the colder months. Thus, more people get sick with the flu in the winter season – in Australia, more people contract the virus between May and September than any other period.

This means that during this period, you will have a higher chance of acquiring flu at work, as the virus spreads throughout the workplace when colleagues become sick. In the same vein, there is an increase in work hours lost and a risk that deadlines may not be met.

Spreading of colds and flu

You may be wondering, 'how does flu in the workplace spread?' The answer is that an individual becomes highly contagious as soon as they are infected; however, in the early stages of the illness, symptoms may not appear, and the individual may unknowingly pass the virus on to others. Flu is usually most infectious from the day your symptoms start and for a further 3 to 7 days.

Employees going work while sick with the cold or flu are likely to infect their colleagues when they sneeze or cough. Once symptoms appear, they will usually have to take time off, which leads to lost work hours and productivity. Employees often go to work even when they're sick with the flu, but certain measures can be taken to minimise the risk of the virus spreading around the workplace.

How to stop cold and flu viruses from spreading in the workplace

Avoiding exposure is key to stopping the flu virus from spreading in workplace environments, which means that it's important to minimize contact with infected employees as much as you can. Following a sneeze or cough, the virus can remain active in the atmosphere for up to an hour. If another person passes by and inhales the air containing the virus, he or she will become infected.

Droplets that contain the virus may land on commonly used surfaces. Those who touch them can then pick up the flu virus and infect themselves when they touch their nose, eyes or mouth with their hands. It is also possible to transfer the influenza virus by directly making contact with other people, e.g. by shaking their hands. One way to prevent all this from happening is by making sure infected individuals stay at home until they become well and can no longer infect others.

Transmission of the flu virus can be avoided if sick people don't come to work. However, it is difficult to detect those infected with the virus, especially if the infected person doesn't yet exhibit symptoms of cold or flu. Good hygiene practice in the workplace, such as washing hands frequently, can help to minimize the spread of the virus.

There are also instances where an employee is constantly exposed to the flu virus as part of their work, e.g. in healthcare settings. In these situations, it is best to implement sound hygiene practices and flu vaccinations to minimize the spread of the virus.

Workplace flu vaccination

Flu vaccination is one of the best ways to prevent flu infection. Unfortunately, there is still no vaccination to prevent colds. It is recommended that children and family members receive flu vaccinations every year.

Furthermore, employees who constantly work with, or are in contact with, young children aged five and below should receive annual flu shots.

It is highly recommended that individuals who have a high risk of developing complications from the flu should also receive an annual influenza vaccine. These include the following:

· Those aged 65 and above
· Pregnant women
· Individuals aged over six months who could develop severe symptoms and infection from existing medical conditions, including:
o Nervous system disorders
o Kidney conditions
o Lung illness
o Heart problems
o Severe asthma
o Chronic illnesses
o Diabetes
o Auto-immune conditions
· People who are constantly exposed to infected patients

Providing corporate flu vaccinations is one way to promote flu safety in the workplace. This wellbeing program can reduce the chances of employees acquiring the flu virus. It is important to offer employees flu shots each year to ensure they are protected against the most recent strains.

It is recommended that individuals are vaccinated during the autumn to allow the immune system to generate antibodies against the virus before the onset of flu season. In Australia, workplace flu vaccines are mandatory and paid for by employers in certain industries, e.g. healthcare.

In other workplaces, vaccination is voluntary but is appealing to businesses who wish to minimize downtime and lost productivity due to sickness. These companies can make access to flu shots easier, for example, by arranging for on-site vaccination or providing transport to clinics.

We're always happy to help companies be safe from the flu. Call us at 1300 79 74 10 to schedule your annual flu vaccination with a healthcare professional. You can also book your nationwide program online in a few clicks.

How to stop cold and flu viruses from spreading in the workplace

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