The risk of ill-health and illness in the workplace is one that all businesses must take seriously.
Not only can it affect productivity, but there’s also a legal requirement for everyone to be kept safe when doing their job. Trip hazards, falls from height and spillages are some of those risks we may think of first. But it’s also essential to ensure good hygiene practices are followed.
According to the British Standards Institution (BSI), “good workplace health, safety, wellbeing and hygiene practices reduce the risk of injury and ill-health”. These practices can have major impact on cutting the transmission of colds and other illnesses, for example. And, by ensuring the health of employees, it means that absences through ill-health can be kept to a minimum.
But what do these practices include and how best can you implement them?
Reminding employees of their responsibilities
It’s important to remember that it’s not all down to the business to ensure proper hygiene and cleanliness. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 also sets out the responsibilities that employees have to one another. And one way to ensure that all your staff members are aware of their duties is to provide effective training.
Training can include the basic principles of hygiene – including the importance of washing your hands. It can also cover the procedures that employees need to follow if they feel unwell. After all, no-one wants a colleague to be at work if they could spread an illness.
Providing the necessary equipment or supplies
Across the workplace, there are numerous touchpoints where employees will come into contact with one another. It’s important, therefore, to make sure these locations are clean and stocked with the necessary sanitary equipment. From bathrooms to kitchen spaces and even communal workspaces, this can be as simple as providing a well-stocked supply of paper towels or soap.
Some areas, of course, can pose a greater hygiene risk than others. The proper equipment and supplies can reduce this risk. It can also be well worth considering a cleaning rota to make sure that shared surfaces are properly wiped down so that any harmful germs are removed.
Creating defined “areas” around the workplace
With all the hustle and bustle of a busy workplace, it can be easy for hygiene standards to slip. One example is eating lunch at the desk. It can save time, maybe. But it can also increase the risk of illness and ill-health. The average desk is said to contain 400 times more germs than a toilet seat and that’s what employees can expose themselves to.
So, ensuring that staff have a designated eating and drinking area such as a kitchen or dining room is essential. The same principal applies to installing clear waste disposal stations. It’s an effective solution for maintaining good hygiene practices – particularly for businesses that use potentially hazardous materials.
Illness and ill-heath can have a severe impact on business performance. Public Health England estimates that 131 million working days are lost to sickness absence each year – 34.3 million of which are for minor illnesses. While good hygiene practices can’t prevent all of these, they can help to reduce some of the risks in your workplace – which is surely better for all concerned.