Each year during the flu season, the virus infects millions of people across the country.
In Colorado alone, more than 3,500 were hospitalized during the 2019-20 flu season.
While flu season peaks in February, Colorado tends to experience high rates of hospitalizations between late December and the beginning of March.
The flu attacks the respiratory system and is highly contagious. When just one person in a workplace contracts the virus, everyone is at risk.
Flu season workplace safety tips
How can you protect your employees from the flu? Use these tips from Pinnacol experts to keep promote employee health during the flu season months.
1. Get a flu shot
The flu shot reduces the likelihood of developing the disease. If someone contracts the virus, they will likely experience milder symptoms. When should you get a flu shot? As soon as you can but also whenever you can. You can help employees research where they can get a flu shot.
2. Know the flu symptoms
Support employee health by sharing the most common signs of flu on posters or in emails.
Flu symptoms include:
- sore throat
- runny nose
- Fever (Note: Not everyone with the flu spikes a fever.)
3. Recognize at-risk employees
Certain groups are more likely to develop the flu, including people with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and rheumatic conditions, or those undergoing immunosuppressive therapy.
“It's especially important for them to take preventive measures and minimize their exposure," Denberg says.
4. Tell sick workers to stay home
People can be infectious for up to four days as the flu develops. A person is contagious that entire time, so encourage employees to head home as soon as symptoms appear.
Employees may not want to miss work because they worry about falling behind. Hearing their employer say it's alright to take sick days reassures them during their recovery and helps increase workplace safety.
5. Advise everyone to wash their hands
Employees should wash their hands with soap frequently during flu season. A person can get the flu by touching virus-infected surfaces, including phones and keyboards, and then touching their mucous membranes.
6. Track flu outbreaks
Know when flu might strike and prepare for it. Follow the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's flu report page to view statewide flu season trends.
Is an outbreak creeping closer? Warn your employees, and disinfect shared devices such as doorknobs, coffee pots, and copy machines more frequently.
7. Promote preventive actions
Small actions can make a big difference for employee health and workplace safety.
Provide tissues for people to cover their mouths when they sneeze, and supply hand sanitizer to workers for use at job sites where they can't wash their hands immediately. Invest in no-touch trash cans, too.