Cold & Flu Prevention Tips for the Workplace

Topics: Workers' Compensation

Summary: Last year’s flu season numbers were relatively low compared to previous flu seasons, partly due to COVID-19 health mandates and higher flu vaccination rates. What will this year’s cold and flu season look like? How can you help prevent the spread of the flu in your workplace via wellness programs? Find out how in this article.

Cold & Flu Prevention Tips for  the Workplace

Flu season is nearly upon us. This year’s flu season, which started in October-earlier than usual-and lasts through April, will be hitting as the U.S. continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic. There is already an uptick in the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), a common respiratory virus that can be very serious for infants and older adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that flu activity was still relatively low for the 2021-2022 season with 9 million flu illnesses, 100,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 5,000 flu deaths. Experts believe that due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts such as wearing masks, remote work and school, physical distancing and a record number of flu vaccinations helped to limit the number of flu cases in 2020 and 2021. However, for this flu season, due to a lower population immunity to the flu, the CDC predicts there could be a larger return and spread of the flu. 

The CDC explains that the flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory ilnesses, but are caused by different viruses. But, because the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are similar, it could be hard to tell the difference between the two based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to confirm the correct diagnosis.

In a regular year, the flu, on its own, can have a significant impact on organizations in both direct costs and lost productivity. Add in COVID-19, and the cost can be detrimental to a small business. On top of the safety precautions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, companies need to be prepared for the flu season and minimize the risk of employee illnesses by practicing flu prevention procedures.

Workplace Flu Shot Programs

This year, getting a flu vaccine will be even more critical than ever. It will not protect against COVID-19, but it has shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death and having one will help conserve health care resources. Many people are getting the new COVID-19 boosters at the same time they are geting their flu shots. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot by the end of October, but you can still get one throughout the flu season, which usually ends in April. 

Many organizations are hosting on-site flu vaccinations as part of their workplace wellness programs to encourage employees to get their shots. Plus, flu shots are covered under most company healthcare plans.

If an employee is not available for the on-site flu shot event, then it is important for employers to make it easy for them to get their vaccination out of work. Employers can aid in this by letting them know of flu shot clinics in the area and giving them time to get the vaccine during work hours.

Benefits of Having a Workplace Flu Shot Program

According to Health Advocate, the cost of lost productivity due to the flu averages to be $1,000 per employee. This number does not include doctor’s visits, medication and other costs due to illnesses. Alternatively, the flu shot costs $32 per person.

There are many employer and employee benefits to having flu vaccinations in the workplace. For the employers, a flu shot program can decrease costs by reducing absences due to illnesses, as well as improve productivity and morale.

Cold and Flu Prevention Tips for the Workplace

Employees need to be informed about the contagious nature of colds and flu in the workplace and the proper way to prevent spreading these illnesses. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created basic hygiene guidelines for workers to help prevent the spread of the flu in the workplace. Getting a flu shot is the best method, but additional cold and flu prevention tips for the workplace include:
  • Staying at home: If employees have symptoms of the flu, The CDC recommends that they stay at home. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, body aches, headache or vomiting. The CDC recommends that workers who have a fever and respiratory symptoms stay at home until 24 hours after their fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit) ends. Employees should be encouraged to use their sick days or work from home to help prevent the spread of the flu.
  • Washing your hands: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub as an interim until hand washing is possible.
  • Avoid touching your face: Avoid touching the nose, mouth and eyes to prevent the spread of the germs. Also, do not shake hands or come in close contact with co-workers who might be ill.
  • Cover your mouth: Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper sleeve. Throw the used tissue away immediately.
  • Clean surfaces: Keep frequently touched common surfaces, counters, copiers, telephones, computers, etc., clean. Wipe them down with a disinfectant.
  • Be healthy: Eat a healthy diet and get plenty of rest and exercise.

Be Prepared with Safety Resources from AmTrust

Healthy employees affect a company in every aspect of a business from productivity to morale. Following the above flu and COVID-19 prevention tips and offering on-site flu vaccinations will not only promote a healthier workforce, but it will also positively impact your bottom line.

AmTrust knows that safety training and employee well-being are key to a proactive approach to minimalizing injuries, incidents and controlling costs. Contact AmTrust’s Loss Control Department for information on safety resources and commercial property safeguards to ensure their ongoing success.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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