It’s nearly fall, which means cold and flu season is right around the corner. So do you know where you stand on the germaphobe scale and how the germ personalities—and hygiene habits—of co-workers and others can impact your health? If not, take this quiz from Kimberly-Clark Professional.
Even if you’re a fanatic about washing your hands, getting flu shots, etc., co-workers who don’t have the best hygiene habits can spread germs to others via commonly touched surfaces. And these germ “hot spots” are breeding grounds for illness-causing bacteria, including cold, flu and stomach bugs.
For example, Kimberly-Clark Professional says that, at work, the break room topped the list of germ hot spots and the average desk—where many workers eat their lunch—was found to have 20,951 germs per square inch.
Sink and microwave door handles were the dirtiest surfaces touched by office workers on a daily basis and high levels of contamination were also found on computer keyboards and the buttons on water fountains and vending machines.
The good news is that practicing good hand and surface hygiene can reduce average hot spot germ counts by 59%.
So to protect yourself and your co-workers:
- Speak up. Tell management that you care about staying healthy and ask them to stock up on supplies that can help break the chain of germ transmission, such as instant hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap, paper towels and facial tissue. Also encourage them to hold an in-house flu shot clinic to make it easy for workers to get vaccinated.
- Lead by example. Wash your hands often. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or do so into your elbow. Use disinfecting wipes to clean common surfaces, especially if they’ve been touched by someone who’s sick. And if you’re sick—stay home!
- Wash, wipe, sanitize. The wash, wipe, sanitize protocol reduces the probability of infection from colds and flu in the workplace by about 80%. The use of disinfecting wipes can reduce the number of surfaces contaminated by viruses by 62%. And research has shown that if 50% of people follow this protocol, the exposure to and probability of infection from common viruses is significantly reduced.
The OHS Insider’s Pandemic & Flu Planning Compliance Centre has lots of information on your duty under the OHS laws to protect workers from the flu and tools to help you do so, including this infographic you can hang in your workplace to educate workers on the flu and flu prevention tips.