A study by the National Sanitation Foundation International, finds that more than 26 percent of American workers “always go to work sick,” and an additional one-third (34 percent) “wait until they experience the full effect of their symptoms before deciding to stay home.”
These workers give a variety of reasons as to why they go to work sick. Among them include the following:
They have deadlines to meet
Missing a day or two at work will set them behind too much, making it harder to keep up with their workload
Their boss expects them to come to work, sick or not.
Whatever the reason, here is what Facility Managers need to know:
When people in their properties are sick with a cold, the flu, or some other contagious disease, they are potentially passing their illness to everyone they encounter, directly or indirectly.
Here is an all too common scenario of the “life of germs,” and how illness can spread:
On Tuesday at 8 am, just as Bill is about to drive to work, he sneezes. He has a cold and his cold germs become airborne. Looking for a nearby landing spot, they gather on a door handle.
Bill grasps the door handle, now allowing those germs to be transferred to his hand.
By 9 am, he is at his office and opens the door to his office building. Some of those germs “jump ship,” and now attach to the office building door handle. Other germs are hanging on, looking for a warmer landing spot. They find it when Bill touches the elevator call button.
As soon as Bill walks into his office, his boss introduces him to a new co-worker. Bill shakes hands with the co-worker, passing on remaining germs from his hands.
The three talk for a few minutes and then Bill sneezes again. While he politely covers his nose, many germs are still released into the air, landing on nearby surfaces including Bill’s hands. They are also likely inhaled by Bill’s boss and the new co-worker.
Bill decides to wash his hands before going to his desk. He pulls the restroom door open, touches the sink faucet – spreading more germs – and then washes his hands.
Throughout the day, this same scenario is repeated. Every time Bill sneezes, germs land on his hands become airborne, land on nearby surfaces, or are inhaled by other building users.
At 5 pm, Bill leaves the office.
At every point in this scenario, cold germs from Bill, who is technically referred to as the “host,” can and do spread to others. While some germs, such as the germs that cause the flu, are only active for about 24 hours, cold germs can last for several days. Some germs, for instance, those that cause norovirus, can live for as long as two weeks.
So, how can Facility Managers stop this scenario from playing out?
The following are the steps we need to take:
Stay home. Encourage building users to stay home if they are sick. This, unfortunately, is only moderately good advice. Many people start spreading germs before they become sick, but at least if they know they are ill, stay home.
Effective hand washing. Encourage frequent hand washing with soap and water. It is also preferable to use paper towels to dry hands. In some cases, electric hand dryers can blow germs from hands on to other surfaces.
Cleaning. Proper and effective cleaning is one of the best defenses Facility Managers have. Make sure your cleaning crew pays special attention to cleaning and disinfecting “high touch” areas. These include areas such as door handles, and at least in this case, this entire chain of events began with our host touching one door handle.