Written by Charles Watson of Workforce Guardian.
Nationally, the 2017 influenza season was the worst since the 2009 pandemic year. The high number of cases in the community resulted in a lot of people taking time off work and was a significant burden on hospitals, with more than twice the number of people with influenza being admitted than is typical. Further, it is reported that last year more than 650 people died just in NSW alone from influenza-related complications.
Workplaces are terrific locations for trading the influenza virus with co-workers and or customers and it comes with a high cost on employers. This is particularly the case where there are high levels of customer turnover such as convenience stores. Each year it is estimated that the dreaded lurgy costs the economy over $100m in lost labour productivity.
Unless you can hermetically isolate yourself from society for the entire influenza season this year, getting a flu shot is one of the best protections available. Simple steps should be promoted in every workplace to minimise exposure and transferral of the virus. Employers should consider offering to organise the influenza shot to employees or promoting the idea of employees going to their GP or pharmacist to get the flu shot.
This year’s influenza vaccines have been updated to provide the best possible protection that clever people in laboratories can create, and no you cannot catch influenza from the flu shot, it doesn’t contain a live virus. You either already contracted the flu or you’ve only got a cold.
Besides inoculation there are some other simple ways employees can help stop spreading the flu, particularly if they are working in the retail sector:
1) Sneeze into your elbow and spit phlegm into a disposable tissue (should go without saying, but….).
2) Clean your hands frequently. Traditional soap and warm water is fine and the overuse of hand sanitisers is not recommended as overuse kills the naturally occurring bacteria on your hands that are trying to keep the rest of you germ free.
3) Stay at home if you are sick (that’s what personal leave is for) or at least until you are no longer contagious.
All of these steps will help maintain healthy and productive workplaces throughout the year. Remember, the duty of care towards employees is to provide a healthy as well as a safe workplace, doing so will improve your bottom line.