With the cold and flu season normally running from November to April, now is the time for employers to prepare their staff members and minimize the risk to their health.

With the cold and flu season normally running from November to April, now is the time for employers to prepare their staff members and minimize the risk to their health.

As employers found out during the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009, it’s crucial to get ready for the greater risk of illness. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that pandemic was mild, but some employers struggled to safeguard their workforce and saw big jumps in absenteeism.

Readily propagated indoors, cold and flu viruses tend to be passed from person to surfaces and other people in the workplace. According to the CDC, people are most contagious two to three days after contracting a cold. Those who contract the flu are contagious immediately, even before symptoms appear, for about five days thereafter.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps employers can take to stop the spread of cold and flu viruses. Consider the following suggestions.

Encourage vaccinations

According to the CDC, the most effective approach to prevent the flu is to get inoculated against it. OSHA does not mandate flu shots for workers; however, the federal agency suggests that employers encourage their workers to get a flu shot.

Think about hosting a flu vaccination clinic in your workplace.

The CDC advises against waiting to get inoculated, because antibodies take around two weeks to develop and offer protection. While the flu vaccine offers protection throughout the entire flu season, it does not offer protection beyond that.

Encourage good hygiene

According to the CDC, up to 80 percent of flu cases are contracted by touching contaminated surfaces and by direct contact. Therefore, companies should post signs that encourage proper hygiene.

Employees should wash their hands often with soap and water, for about 20 seconds. Staff members should also be taught how to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing to help prevent the spread of germs. Staff members should be told about the possible exposure that comes with shaking hands or coming in close contact with those who may be sick.

Maintain a clean routine

As cold and flu season gets into full swing, telephones, computer keyboards, faucets and door handles all become magnets for viruses. Cleaning these common surfaces is a very effective approach to reducing the amount of cold and flu germs that are spread from person to person. Make disinfectants and paper towels available to encourage the cleaning of work spaces and surfaces.

Hygiene-friendly items, like touch-free wastebaskets, hand sanitizers, paper towels and cleaning materials can help keep viruses from being passed around.

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