Influenza (flu) and the common cold are both contagious. The symptoms can be the same, but the flu is much worse. Both cause headache and coughing. Flu symptoms are body aches, fatigue, and weakness. New strains of the flu evolve every few years. The flu virus can affect many people, especially when in close contact. This includes workplaces, daycare facilities, schools, offices, nursing homes, and similar places. Flu outbreaks mostly happen in spring or winter time. Infants, pregnant women, and people with heat problems, lung diseases, diabetes, and HIV are at high risk for the flu. Health care employees are at higher risk for contracting the flu, especially when dealing with patients who may have the flu. OSHA recommends employers implement a combination of controls to protect workers and reduce the transmission of the flu virus. This includes getting vaccinated, washing hands frequently, keeping the workplace clean, staying home when sick, and using gloves and other required PPE for health care employees. OSHA provides guidance for employers under the general duty clause to provide a workplace free of hazards for their employees. The workplace should develop a policy for dealing with the flu.
- Flu Prevention Practices:
- Promote hand hygiene and frequent hand washing with soap and water.
- Provide alcohol based hand rubs for visitors, workers, and clients.
- Provide sanitation materials in restrooms.
- Cough or sneeze into tissues and immediately dispose of them.
- Clean any surface you touch (phones, equipment, door handles, etc.).
- Check for fever or other signs of the flu before coming into work.
- If experiencing flu symptoms, call in sick to your workplace.
- If affected, either stay home or wear a surgical mask at the workplace in order to prevent the spread of the flu.
- Avoid sick employees at the workplace.
- The company may provide free vaccinations or help with the cost of vaccinations.
Train and educate employees at the workplace about the flu, including symptoms, vaccinations, sick leave, and other required safety practices.