Preventing the spread of illness within your facility should always be a top priority. It is especially true this time of year as colds and the flu can severely disrupt workplace productivity.
A common concern in workplace wellness is “presenteeism” – working while sick –which leads to productivity loss, poor health and exhaustion. Poor worker health and related productivity losses cost U.S. employers hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Much of this is attributable to germs being spread within the workplace.
Below are some areas to focus on to help keep the spread of illness at bay within your facility:
Educate building occupants on the importance of personal hygiene.
Clean hands save lives and hand washing can be a “do-it-yourself” vaccine. Frequent hand washing, especially before certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others.
The CDC has a series of videos explaining how to properly wash your hands to help fight and avoid the spread of germs. Sending out an email communication to all building occupants with the link to these videos can help educate and remind everyone about the importance of washing their hands.
You can also include the below image on proper hand washing techniques in your email with the link to the videos. Printing this image (or one similar) and posting it in appropriate areas throughout your building can also help inform everyone on proper handwashing techniques.
It is also critical to remind all building occupants to please cover their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing. The below graphic can be downloaded from the CDC website and shared with building occupants as well.
Get a flu vaccination!
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that “the flu causes U.S. workers to lose up to 111 million workdays at an estimated $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity.”
Every flu season is different and influenza infections affect people differently regardless of health. An annual flu vaccine is the best way to reduce the risk of getting the seasonal flu and spreading it to others. In 2017, the CDC recommends using injectable vaccines. Nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used this year.
Here is the link to the CDC website with some relevant facts, the availability of flu vaccines, and several other commonly asked questions people may have with the vaccines.
Install touchless hand towel dispensers and hands-free soap dispensers.
Restrooms and kitchens are two popular areas employees visit throughout the day. These are also areas in which germs are spread, especially on commonly touched items such as soap dispensers and hand towel dispensers. Installing touchless hand towel dispensers and hands-free soap dispensers is an excellent way to reduce employee’s exposure to high-touch items in your restrooms and kitchens.
Place hand sanitizing stations in common areas throughout your building.
Offering hand sanitizing stations, in addition to proper handwashing stations, can help increase usage and prevent the spread of infection and illness. It is important to have alcohol-based hand sanitizers where your building occupants can easily access them. Such areas can include:
- Elevator banks
- Work areas
- Reception desk
- Fitness facility/locker rooms
- Break rooms and cafeterias
- Conference rooms and meeting rooms
- Shared workspaces
Do you clean or disinfect or sanitize?
Many building occupants may commonly mistake cleaning as disinfecting or vice versa. Clarifying the difference can help greatly educate your building tenants on the importance of each, and inform them of when they are appropriate to use.
Below is a brief explanation for your building occupants clarifying the difference of cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing:
Clean – Cleaning involves using soap (or a detergent) and water to remove germs. Cleaning doesn’t necessarily kill germs, but it can lower the risk of spreading an infection by attempting to remove them from the cleaning process.
Disinfect – Disinfecting uses chemicals to kills germs on surfaces. Using a disinfectant is not the same as cleaning (just like cleaning is not the same as disinfecting). If a product is labeled as “disinfectant only” then federal law requires surfaces to be cleaned first before applying a disinfectant. Also, when using a disinfectant make sure to read the label carefully to determine how long the solution needs to be on the surface before removing.
Note: When using bleach as a disinfectant, make sure to dilute the solution and comply with state or local regulations. A recommended dilution is 1 part bleach to 10 parts of water (or 1 oz. of bleach and 9 oz. of water).
Sanitize – Here is a link to a CleanLink article that provides a good explanation of sanitization. From the article:
“Sanitizing should only be applied to food contact surfaces, which is required as part of the food code… Since sanitizing does not make anti-viral claims, sanitizing offers no confidence of killing the flu or other viruses commonly found on surfaces.
…Sanitizing a surface makes that surface sanitary or free of visible dirt contaminants that could affect your health. Sanitizing is meant to reduce, not kill, the occurrence and growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi…When you sanitize, you are killing/reducing the number of bacteria present by 99.9 percent (3 log10) but doing nothing about viruses and fungus. Sanitizing is better than cleaning alone but the reduction of pathogen populations on environmental surfaces is exponentially better when you disinfect.”
If you are sick, do not come to work!
This is by far the most important communication to send your building occupants. While an employee may not want to miss work for an array of reasons, it is best to have that employee stay home, rest, and telework until fully recovered. One person who comes in sick, forgets to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and touches several items throughout the building, can cause an outbreak.
Below is a short Mister Kleen video of what you don’t want to happen with a sick employee in your office. It is best to send the employee home ASAP and disinfect contaminated areas immediately.
The winter season can lead to the spread of illness-causing germs within your facility as more people spend their time indoors. Focusing on the areas above can significantly help improve your chances of preventing the spread of illness within your facility, and keep your building occupants healthy in 2017.
We hope you find these tips helpful. Should you have questions or need to consult on products (e.g. dispensers and hand sanitizers) for your building, feel free to contact us.
Mister Kleen is a leading provider of contract cleaning services to Commercial and High Security facilities since 1976. Our primary service area is the DC Metro region. We also provide a variety of interior and exterior specialty services.