With winter approaching, the prevalence of viruses such as common colds, flu and coronavirus will increase. Poorly ventilated workplaces can be a hotspot for the spread of germs, leading to staff illness and sickness absence. In 2020 according to the Office of National Statistics Sickness Absence Report, 118.6 million working days were lost in the UK due to sickness or injury. With many of us returning to work this year, the spread of germs in the workplace could cause a headache for many employers and employees.
How do germs spread?
In order for germs to spread, there needs to be three factors:
- A source of infection
- A susceptible person to be infected
- Transmission from the source to the susceptible person
By removing just one of these factors, germs will be prevented from spreading and infection can be kept under control.
What conditions encourage the spread of germs?
Transmission of germs depends on the type of virus. Here, we will concentrate on airborne diseases that are most commonly transmitted from one person to another via small droplets. These infected droplets are expelled when someone who is infected coughs, sneezes, talks or laughs. The infectious droplets can travel through the air and can attach themselves to surfaces.
Stale air that is not well ventilated can encourage diseases to spread. By opening a door or window, fresh air can replace stale air that contains the virus droplets.
What are the common sources of infection?
Common sources of infection in the workplace include surfaces that are regularly touched by anyone using your building. For example, door handles, push plates and light switches are common areas for transmission.
What infection control measures can I introduce to improve ventilation and prevent the spread of germs?
There are a number of easy infection control solutions that can be implemented to reduce the risk of germs spreading. Some of the best tips to incorporate into your germ control procedures are:
- Encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly. Install ‘wash your hands’ signs to help remind employees and members of the public to maintain good hand hygiene.
- Encourage everyone to cough or sneeze into a handkerchief or into their elbow.
- Regularly clean contact surfaces within the workplace.
- Minimise the number of contact surfaces in the workplace.
- Open windows and doors where possible to improve ventilation.
How can I improve ventilation in a building with fire doors?
Fire doors, whilst a necessary part of the fire safety infrastructure in most workplaces, can be problematic when it comes to infection control. The UK Government guidance on ventilation outlines that ‘Any actions to improve ventilation should not compromise other aspects of safety and security (for example, avoid propping open fire doors)’. Using a fire door retainer such as Dorgard allows fire doors to be held open safely, improving ventilation without compromising fire safety. When the fire alarms sounds, a Dorgard Fire Door Retainer will release the fire door so that it closes, preventing the spread of fire.
What can I do to reduce the number of contact surfaces?
Door handles and door push plates are likely to be common sources of infection in most workplaces. Keeping doors open means that nobody needs to touch the push plate or door handle to gain access. This eliminates the contact surface and therefore the source of infection. Always ensure that fire doors are held open legally and safely using a fire door retainer such as Dorgard.
Foot operated door openers can also be a useful way of minimising contact surfaces. These are particularly useful for toilet doors that usually need to remain shut. Foot door openers are cheap and easy to install and allow staff to open the door using their foot rather than touching a handle or push plate.
Act now to protect your workforce this winter
Limiting the spread of germs in the workplace throughout the winter is more important than ever following the return to work for many employees in 2021. Making these small changes in your workplace as part of your infection control policy could go a long way to reducing sickness amongst the workforce. Contact Safelincs on 0800 612 6537 or email email@example.com for further help and advice on controlling infection in the workplace.