Prevention of winter viruses in the workplace

Published on: 28/01/2020

Companies can adopt simple and efficient measures to prevent the propagation of these virus in its work centres, some measures that also allow maintaining the most healthy workplace.

Promotion of vaccination

Vaccination is the most effective measure against flu. Despite many , it remains a measure that the health administration updates and promotes annually.

It is recommended for all workers and especially for companies with higher exposure, such as those active in healthcare and education, or for those that regularly deal with the public or have contact with animals.

Vaccination should be promoted through awareness campaigns by companies' prevention services. 

Which workers should be vaccinated?

Vaccination is recommended for the entire population, but it is especially recommended for those workers who may suffer complications in the event of illness, workers who may transmit any illness at work to groups or families at high risk of complications, or those workers with exposure to animals that can transmit other types of influenza viruses and potentially create co-infection or viral mutation.

Vaccination is recommended for workers:

  • Over 60 years old.
  • Pregnant women.
  • With a high risk of complications from the flu including people with chronic illnesses, immunodeficiency disorders or other underlying pathologies.
  • At health centres, geriatric centres, home care or pharmacies.
  • At schools and nurseries.
  • At poultry, pig and other farms, slaughterhouses or other sites where contact with animals may expose workers to co-infections of human and avian or porcine viruses.

Prevention of the contagion for contact

Hands play an integral part as vehicle transmitter of microorganisms. According to some studies until 80% of germs are transmitted by hands.

People infected with the flu virus can infect other people one day before symptoms appear and up to 5 or 7 days after they get sick. This means we can pass on the flu before we know we are sick.

Viruses have a great capacity to survive in the environment. The flu virus survives for 8 to 12 hours in clothes or paper tissues and between 24 and 48 hours on surfaces such as door handles, door knockers and telephones. Rotavirus, a virus that causes gastroenteritis, can last up to 60 days on inert surfaces.

  • During the flu season, measures should be taken to minimise close and prolonged between employees: Hold teleconferences or meetings of shorter duration, use new technologies in working groups, avoid personal and close greetings, etc.
  • Plan and provide frequent cleaning of surfaces and objects habitually used by staff, such as elevator buttons, doors, counter surfaces and work tables. Frequency of cleaning must be increased in flu seasons. In work centres such as schools, nurseries or health centres, this measure must be a priority.
  • Promote hand washing. This practice must be carried out frequently and in an appropriate way to avoid contaminating everything we touch. Surveys and studies show that people tend to wash their hands infrequently and poorly. We need to increase the frequency of washing and do it properly. Work centres are an environment conducive to raising awareness and promoting correct hand washing.
  • To provide and offer workers suitable materials for washing hands such as paper towels, hand soap, rubbish bins, etc.

Protecting the air we breathe

Air is the main route of spreading viruses. Through sneezing, viruses can reach almost 2 metres and infect colleagues and surfaces in the environment, such as keyboards, tables, phones, etc. 

  • To guarantee the renewal and ventilation of air in work spaces. Air conditioning systems must provide adequate humidity and temperature in the indoor environment.
  • During the flu season, promote measures that minimise close and prolonged contact among employees: Hold teleconferences or meetings of shorter duration, use new technologies in working groups, avoid personal and close greetings, etc.
  • Promote protocols for respiratory hygiene and management of coughs, such as hygienic sneezing and coughing.
  • To provide and offer workers suitable materials for the respiratory hygiene protocol: soap, disposable tissues, rubbish bins, etc.