Person standing behind a window wearing a clinical face mask

Controlling the spread of illness at work

13 March 2020
Whilst illness can strike at any time of the year, there are certain times of the year that are more likely to affect your employees, potentially leading to sickness based absences.

Illnesses tend to be more common in the winter months due to the cold, damp and other poor weather conditions aggravating existing conditions and making the body more susceptible to viruses that can be easily spread.

Take a look at some of the ways that you can try to control the spread of illness to help keep both staff and visitors safe whilst at your business.

Viruses like the common cold and influenza are easily spread around a workplace through coughs, sneezes and contact with infected surfaces, so how can you stop the spread?

Wash your hands

The simplest way to keep germs at bay in your workplace is to regularly wash your hands with hot soapy water or use hand sanitiser to remove germs from your hands.

When washing your hands, first wet them with water and apply enough soap to cover your hands. Rub your hands thoroughly, including the palms, back of the hand, in between fingers and your thumbs before using a disposable towel to dry your hands. You should also use the towel to turn off the tap to reduce the risk of touching an infected surface. The whole process should take around 20 seconds, with the NHS recommending that you sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice to allocate the most appropriate amount of time to this activity.

Cover coughs and sneezes

Keep a supply of tissues with you and if you feel the need to sneeze, quickly grab a tissue to sneeze into. The NHS recommends that you don’t reuse a tissue; instead, you should dispose of the tissue as soon as possible to stop germs from spreading.

It is also recommended that you cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow instead of your hands, thus you are less likely to spread germs by touching other objects and surfaces.

Clean regularly touched objects

Objects such as computer mice, keyboards, stationery, hand tools, work surfaces and cutlery are all objects that we frequently come into contact with, which means that germs can easily spread on these objects.

If some of these objects or surfaces are shared, make sure that they are regularly cleaned to stop the spread of germs. If you are feeling unwell, don’t use colleagues’ equipment, stationery or tools.

Avoid close contact and handshakes

When greeting co-workers or customers, avoid shaking hands, as this can help spread germs. Instead, offer a friendly greeting and explain that you are taking hygiene precautions.

When speaking face to face with someone, try and stand at least 2 metres away if practical.

Limit meetings and visitors

If illness has become a serious concern in your business, rearrange meetings if possible using video conference facilities or even just a phone call. Visitors should be informed in advance of their visit that there are measures in place to control illnesses and that their appointment may need to be postponed.

If the meeting is essential, make sure that the room is well ventilated and stocked with tissues and hand sanitisers to ensure that airborne germs can’t linger in the air and hands and surfaces can be cleaned.

Keeping up to date

If there is news of serious health conditions going around, regularly visit the Department of Health & Social Care’s website for up to date information about how to look after health and safety, both in your personal life and at work.

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