Occupational hygiene; battling workplace sickness


Occupational hygiene is at the forefront of many debates surrounding office illness. With presenteeism at an all time high, hygiene is the only way to battle the further spread of Winter bugs and general illness. Managing health risks and discussing them over hygiene within the office space is the only way to battle mass absenteeism within your business. How can you achieve a clean working station and hygiene conscious staff?

What does Occupational Health say?

Occupational Health state; “Occupational hygiene describes the prevention of ill-health in the workplace by managing health risks.” This ranges from ventilation through to immunology which helps you to analyse and assess the various ranges of harmful substances from bacteria through to fungus within the office building. Exposure to all harmful substances and bacteria can cause long term health effect, but ultimately will have a long term affect your company productivity and profit. Although Occupational Health provide a service in which they assess the current situation within the working environment, there is also much to be done by the employer to promote a healthy environment.

What to do within the office

Occupational hygiene problems within the office can range from water health to general health and air pollution. We are here to discuss the key areas in which occupational hygiene should be top priority to ensure absenteeism is not in any way work related.

Water supply

Being an employer and having a large body of staff to take care of, it is your responsibility to ensure your staff are protected from unsafe water. Under Health and Safety in the workplace acts you have duties to ensure that your staff are not at risk of legionella bacteria within drinking water. It is your responsibility to ensure risks are reduced and precautions are in place to keep staff drinking water healthy.
Many offices now supply fresh drinking water filtered through either a pump or simply provided via bottles. You are safest having your building checked for any possibility of legionella bacteria to ensure you staff are not going to be put in harm. Legionella can lead to flu-like symptoms and stomach upsets, incidentally affecting the productivity of your business.

Clean Air

The most major concern when we cover air pollution within the office is of course cardiovascular issues and long-term health effects. Although these issues are extremely important to consider, we must focus on the air pollution within the office environment linked to staff health.
With presenteeism becoming a very real cause for concern you must focus on the bacteria and airborne viruses which may be spread through your office ventilation system. We shift our focus to clean air ventilation to reduce the transmission of diseases within the workplace.
More often than not offices use circulated air through the summer months and often do not open windows during the colder seasons, this promotes the spread of airborne viruses and bacteria leading to recurring sick days and absenteeism.
Consider the use of a clean air filter and regularly opening the window to let fresh air circle and avoid the spread of illness within the office.

General hygiene

In the UK 11% of people work within an office environment with office hygiene being the worst of many occupations within the UK. General hygiene contributes to a healthy workforce and is covered under the occupational hygiene guidelines. Ultimately a healthier, hygienic workforce means workers take less sick leave and presenteeism isn’t as predominant within this environment.
A workplace hygiene policy will ensure workers take hygiene within the office seriously even if they do not directly handle substances such as personal products, food and hazardous materials.
Each employee may require different hygiene requirements, but the policy can be followed by all.
Communicate to staff that you take hygiene in the workplace very seriously, attending work while unwell and battling a bug will not be tolerated for instance. Provide your employees with a clean bathroom and kitchen area to maintain a hygienic workspace. Providing staff with hand sanitisers and antibacterial wipes will maintain good infection control. Make sure staff are aware of the four basic hygiene principles; personal hygiene, work area cleanliness, clean bathroom facilities and a clean kitchen. Following these rules will stamp out shared office illnesses.

The end result

We have discussed a brief overview of occupational hygiene and how this will help your business work productively and even potentially increase company profits. By implementing the three basic steps discussed you could see a healthier workforce and a pleasant working environment.

How do you maintain a healthy workforce and is presenteeism something that affects your productivity? Comment below to discuss how presenteeism is affecting you and see if alldayDr can help you!

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