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How can I promote workplace safety and prevent the flu?

Flu season is approaching -- are you ready? Did you know that one of the key elements of workplace safety in Pennsylvania is the prevention of communicable disease? Employers have a duty to protect their workers from safety hazards of all sorts, and injuries do not have to be caused by on the job accidents. Occupational illnesses are not just a hazard that you should have to accept! This is particularly true when it comes to pandemic flu situations.

So, what can employers do to help workers protect themselves throughout flu season? If you work in health care, your employer has a duty to take very specific precautions to protect you from contracting and spreading influenza to other patients and employees.Those special requirements are not addressed in this article. In general industry, especially those requiring interaction with the public, there are specific measures that will lower your risk of illness. One of the most important: getting your flu shot. Vaccination is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of the flu, and more employers are offering this service at no cost to their employees as an investment in their health.

How can I protect myself? Make sure that you are frequently washing your hands with soap and water. Using an alcohol-based sanitary rub is an acceptable solution if soap and water are not available. Although it may not seem polite to avoid shaking hands at a business event, you should try to avoid physical contact with others in your workplace. This also holds true for touching their workspace and computer equipment -- try to sanitize anything that belongs to someone else before you use it.

Am I protected from the flu in the workplace by formal regulations? OSHA does not have formal rules for most workers outside of the healthcare industry, but that does not mean that your employer should not invest in workplace safety. A sickened worker population is a liability for any company. You do have the right to a safe, healthful workplace, even during flu season.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Worker Guidance Precautions for All Workers during Flu Season," accessed Oct. 27, 2015

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