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Staying Safe During Flu Season

Photos showing a woman taking a tissue from a tissue box, a medical provider preparing a flu shot and a person washing his hands.

One in 10 people in the United States will get the flu in a given season, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while viruses can live all year round, flu activity tends to rise in October and then peak between December and February. With COVID-19 a factor this year, it's even more important to take precautions to prevent the flu from spreading. Here are 10 ways to keep workers safe:

  1. Recommend all workers get vaccinated. Vaccination is the most important way to prevent the spread of the flu. It takes about two weeks for flu antibodies to develop, so the time to get a shot is before peak flu season.
  2. Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that workers who have a fever and respiratory symptoms stay at home until 24 hours after their fever ends (100 degrees Fahrenheit or lower) without the use of medication. Not everyone who has the flu will have a fever. Other symptoms can include a runny nose, body aches, headache, fatigue, diarrhea or vomiting.
  3. Wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds; use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available. When using soap and water, rub soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds, rinse with water, and dry completely. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub until you can wash your hands.
  4. Continue practicing social distancing. Staying at least 6 feet apart from co-workers, whenever possible, can help prevent the spread of the flu.
  5. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or upper sleeve. Tissues should go into a "no-touch" wastebasket and wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Avoid touching your face.
  6. Keep frequently touched surfaces clean. Commonly used surfaces such as counters, door handles, phones, computer keyboards and touchpads should be cleaned after each use.
  7. Limit shared equipment or clean equipment before others use it. Avoid using a co-worker's phone, desk, office, computer or other equipment unless they are cleaned with an EPA-approved disinfectant.
  8. Training is knowledge. Make sure all workers understand how to stay healthy at work during flu season, including new and temporary workers.
  9. Wear a face covering. These can help limit the flu's spread.
  10. Consider alternate work arrangements. If feasible, offer options such as telework or staggered shifts for workers considered high risk for seasonal flu (such as older workers, pregnant women, and those with asthma).

Learn more about workplace safety and the flu on OSHA's website. You can find additional resources and learn more about OSHA's response to the coronavirus at osha.gov/coronavirus.

Workers and employers who have questions or concerns about workplace safety can contact OSHA online or by phone at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA).

 

Loren Sweatt is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Follow OSHA on Twitter at @OSHA_DOL.

 

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