Do you have a plan to contain infection at work? Flu season is around the corner, and Covid-19 is making businesses more aware than ever of the importance of disease prevention. So where should you start?

If you are an employer, the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires you to take all the steps possible to reduce and remove risk to your employee’s health. It is your responsibility to protect your workers from workplace hazards, including infectious diseases. Find out more at WorkSafe NZ.

However complex the plans you want to put in place to protect your business, disease prevention starts with 5 simple steps. Let’s take a look at what you can do to minimise the risk of infection in your workplace.

Keep infection out of your office

How many times have your employees come to work while they are sick? If never taking a sick day comes with a badge of honour in your office then now’s the time to take a look at your company culture. Bringing infection into your business could quickly cost your company more time and money than a well-justified day at home in bed.

Tell your employees you do not want them to come to work sick. Pay particular attention to the preliminary symptoms of the illnesses you definitely don’t want in your workplace. Make sure your team members know not to be a hero.

Immunise your team where possible

Not every illness can be immunised against. Where immunisation is available the Ministry of Health recommends investing in it. This is particularly true of illnesses like the flu which can both remove employees from your workplace for weeks and spread easily across your team once present in your working environment.

Know how and where to sneeze and cough

There is a right way and a wrong way to sneeze and cough. Making sure your employees understand the difference could have a huge impact on the spread of infection in your workplace.

The right way to cough or sneeze:

  • Turn away from the people you are closest to
  • Do it into your elbow or if possible use a disposable tissue
  • Dispose of your tissue
  • Wash your hands immediately or use a hand sanitizer.

Keep your hands clean at all times

Everyone could do much better when it comes to hygiene. The best way to contain the spread of disease is to keep your hands clean at all times.

In a work environment this means reminding people to wash their hands wherever they may come into contact with germs – and making sure they do it properly. You can also provide a hand sanitizer for quick hand cleaning. This is ideal in areas like communal kitchens, around copiers and printers, and for use in shared workspaces particularly where there are shared phones and keyboards.

Keep your office clean

A focus on cleaning your office space is important at all times, and particularly during a time of high risk. Ask your team to keep their workspaces clear so they can be fully wiped down regularly.

Keeping your workplace clean can reduce the risk of infection and help to keep your employees safe. If your air conditioning unit has not been serviced recently then now’s a good time to give it attention. Air conditioning units need to be cleaned and maintained regularly to ensure they do not help in the transmission of illness or infections.

Give particular focus to your cleaning schedule, and whether you need to increase the frequency with which your workplace is cleaned. Now’s a great time to have a conversation with your cleaning company and make sure their processes meet your expectations. Ensure your cleaning company disposes of cloths regularly or has good hygiene practices if they are reused. Are the right cleaning products being used and will they reduce the chance of infection spreading?

As an employer, you are responsible for protecting your employees from workplace hazards. Keeping them safe from infectious diseases and illness is an important part of the responsibility. Contact WorkAble today or visit our website to find out more about the flu vaccination, drug testing and the occupational health services that we offer. We’re mobile and come to you, helping businesses across Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay take care of their teams.

Download our free poster and display it in your office to help your team reduce the risk of infection.