17 December 2012

Preventing an outbreak of Norovirus at work

You may have heard reports of increasing numbers of people contracting Norovirus in the news. Also known as ‘Winter vomiting’, more than 750,000 people in the UK could be affected the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said.
The highly contagious bug is known to spread very quickly between those living or working in close proximity. 
The Health Protection Agency figures estimate that some 68,000 people have caught it in the last week for which data is currently available, ending Sunday December 2. It means that, at this stage in the season, this winter’s outbreak is 72 per cent bigger than last winter’s. 
That makes it the biggest early winter outbreak for at least five years and the “bulk” of cases usually came after Christmas. 
The symptoms
Symptoms include a sudden onset of vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Some people may have a temperature, headache and stomach cramps.The illness usually resolves in one or two days and there are no long-term effects. However, if it were to spread across a workforce it could cause substantial disruption. 
What steps can you take to best inform your staff and protect against an outbreak spreading at work?
Norovirus is highly contagious and can be transmitted by contact with an infected person, by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, or by consuming contaminated food or water.
Reducing the chances of contracting norovirus is, like other infections, largely down to good hygiene. Regular washing of hands, especially after toileting and being careful around food are always a common sense approach and particularly important now.
This helpful NHS link contains an explanation about the causes, symptoms and tips on how to minimise the risk of contracting norovirus.
Please contact Taylor-Mohrs Occupational Health Services on 0117 906 4227 if you need any more information.

14 December 2012

Tips for preventing workplace flu

Illnesses such as colds and flu are the main causes of winter absence. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 95% of staff give this as a cause of their sick leave.

This often leaves businesses under resourced, staff over stretched and increases the risks of mistakes, accidents and loss of productivity.

Although the threat of flu cannot be completely eliminated, by following some simple steps it is possible to reduce the risk and minimise the spread of germs in the workplace.

We hope these workplace flu prevention tips will help:
  • Offer a flu vaccination to those members of staff not entitled to it on the NHS
  • Raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of flu, e.g. cough, sore throat, headache, runny nose, limb or joint pain, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhoea
  • Promote an environment where employees who feel unwell with flu type symptoms can go home and stay at home until recovered
  • Consider home working if this is practical for certain staff and consider alternatives to meetings e.g. tele conferences/video conferences/Skype etc
  • Within the workplace promote a habit of ‘respiratory etiquette’ - i.e. not sneezing or coughing without using a tissue then dispose of tissues immediately and wash hands
  • Provide a good supply of clean hand washing facilities, soap and clean disposable towels or hand dryers
  • Offer waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizers to use regularly when hand washing is not possible, and especially to those who spend time on the road
  • Workstation cleaning; encourage employees to clean their desk areas by using disinfectant wipes regularly, particularly on phones and when hot desking
  • Social distancing measures (such as not shaking hands) can also reduce the risk of cross infection - as can as minimising contact e.g. 1 metre minimum between employees and visitors
  • Clean surfaces and door handles regularly with antibacterial cleaning materials
  • Avoid large group meetings (e.g. canteens) by staggering lunch breaks
The NHS website also has a helpful section on seasonal flu, its prevention and flu vaccination at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Flu/Pages/Introduction.aspx

We are finding that many employers now recognise the impact of seasonal flu on their business and are providing flu vaccination to their employees.

To meet this need, Taylor-Mohrs offers seasonal flu vaccination to those not entitled to it through the NHS. This only takes minutes and often takes place at their place of work. For employers, the cost is minimal compared to the real cost of absence.

Please contact Taylor-Mohrs Occupational Health Services on 0117 906 4227 for more details.