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Cold and flu prevention in the workplace

How to keep your facility healthy and productive this cold and flu season
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
By Zandile Chiwanza

Cold and flu season can begin as early as October and last until February. According to Bunzl’s Cold and Flu Prevention Guide, Canadian businesses lose approximately $1 billion in healthcare costs in lost productivity – 1.5 million workdays alone are lost – because of cold and flu.

“Between 2000 to 8000 Canadians die from the flu or associated complications each year,” said Barley Chironda, infection control specialist with Clorox Canada during the 20-Minute Cure for Cold and Flu Webinar presented by Bunzl Canada in November. “Preventing an outbreak is better than trying to contain one.”

So how can you keep the flu out of your workplace in order to keep facilities healthy and productive?

Environmental hygiene and barriers
Cleaning the workplace thoroughly involves a careful look at hotspots for hidden germs. Several high-touch areas are prone to germs and because these germs linger in the environment, it becomes critical to know exactly where to find them.  (Chironda identified about seven germ hot spots – bathrooms, telephones, elevator buttons, door handles, computer keyboards, staff kitchens, and meeting rooms.)

“The key step is amping up facility cleaning and disinfecting [during the flu season],” said David Smith cleaning and hygiene sanitation expert with Bunzl, Canada during the webinar.

  • Staff should receive ongoing training and education on cleaning procedures;
  • Always refer back to the manufacturer’s recommendations by reading the labels;
  • Use trusted (registered) cleaning and disinfecting products that are designed to kill or sanitize 99.9 per cent of the viruses that you’re going to find in your workplace;
  • Management should provide barriers that prevent the spread of transmission to the cleaning team, such as gloves, masks, and personal protective equipment.  Some larger spills may require other materials including gowns and booties to avoid putting maintenance staff and others at risk.

“You also want to make disinfectant supplies readily available to all your staff,” Smith explained, so that non-custodial workers can clean their personal spaces as well.

Promoting personal hygiene
Educate staff and visitors on how they can avoid getting sick and encourage them to follow coughing and sneezing etiquette –  covering your mouth and nose with a tissue, sneezing into your upper sleeves when you don’t have tissue and always wash your hands afterwards. In addition, seeing a healthcare professional if you’re sick and staying home if you’re not feeling well. One of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of illness is regular handwashing –  it’s also the most cost-effective way. “More than 95 per cent of people wash their hands incorrectly. Some of the common mistakes people make are, believe it or not, they might not be using soap when they should or they are not washing for long enough. And last but not least, they might not even wash at all,” Chironda said.

“Have hand sanitizer in close proximity because when you’re dealing with colds and flu, and there’s no visible soil on your hands, then it becomes beneficial to actually have a hand sanitizer as well.”

According to Health Canada, the flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu.  Employers and property managers can offer a flu clinic as an extra preventative measure for their facility’s health.

Chironda said some of the best ways to communicate to staff about cold prevention are webinars and/or a huddle to bring people together in a room and talk about the advantages of the flu vaccine and respiratory etiquette.

Download Bunzl’s guide to learn more about proven infection control techniques, best practices in sanitation and more surface-specific cleaning procedures to ensure your facility is properly cleaned and disinfected and protected from cold and flu outbreaks.

Zandile Chiwanza is the online editor of Facility Cleaning and Maintenance and Canadian Property Management. 

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