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Flu warning for Queensland workplaces

Queensland employers have been reminded to promote the control and spread of influenza in the workplace, or suffer the consequences of lost productivity from a sick workforce.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Executive Director Dr Simon Blackwood said an increase in influenza notifications compared with this time last year highlighted that many workplaces are suffering staff shortages as workers succumbed to flu.

“It is estimated more than one million working days are lost in Australia each year to the flu, with up to 10 per cent of staff becoming ill,” Dr Blackwood said.

“Influenza is a debilitating viral illness and is contagious even before symptoms appear. And this year, so far, the figures are not encouraging, with more than five times the number of cases being reported this year than last year, including swine flu.

“People with serious colds and the flu should consider their fellow workers and stay away from work until they are cleared by a doctor in an effort to avoid the spread of germs in the workplace.”

Dr Blackwood said if employees were ill, employers should encourage them to stay at home until the infection subsides.

“Alternatively, employees should consider cancelling face-to-face meetings and encourage non-contact methods of communicating such as teleconferences until they are no longer contagious,” Dr Blackwood said.

“It makes good business sense to ensure employees are in good health in the workplace especially when it comes to highly contagious forms of the flu.

“Productivity losses can be multiplied if staff pass on the flu virus and infect large numbers of employees instead of taking time to recover at home.”

Dr Blackwood advised employers to consider fast-tracking a flu vaccination program for employees to reduce sick-leave and absenteeism.

“It is the most effective way to prevent flu infection,” he said.

Dr Blackwood said personal hygiene prevention measures include:

  • using tissues if blowing your nose, rather than handkerchiefs, and dispose of them in a plastic lined bin;
  • washing your hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, after coming in contact with someone who has the flu, and before eating and drinking or before touching your eyes, nose and mouth—if running water and soap are not convenient, use a waterless alcohol-based hand cleaner;
  • keeping your distance from others (at least one metre) if you are coughing or sneezing;
  • cleaning surfaces that have been contaminated by sneezing, coughing or touching with contaminated hands - use an alcohol based cleaner, then wash your hands.

For more information on workplace health and safety issues, visit www.worksafe.qld.gov.au or call 1300 369 915.

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Last reviewed
29 July 2011
Last updated
5 November 2015

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