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Take Seasonal Flu Seriously: Don't Work Through It, Get Rest

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. According to the CDC, most experts believe that the flu is spread when people who already have the virus cough, sneeze or talk near others. The flu can also sometimes be spread by touching a surface that has the flu virus on it, and then touching your face. Someone can be contagious 1 day before they develop flu symptoms and up to 5 to 5 days after becoming sick.

OSHA Standard 1926.21(b)(2) The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.

Flu season starts around October and lasts until May, but most flu activity occurs in the months of December, January and February every year.

The flu usually comes on suddenly with these symptoms:

  • Fever (but not everyone with the flu will have a fever)
  • Chills
  • Runny nose and/or Stuffy nose
  • Headache and Muscle Aches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Sore Throat and Cough

The flu can make anyone sick, even those people that usually seem strong and healthy. Employees should get their flu shot annually to help protect themselves against this illness and also to prevent unexpected lost time from work.

Most people who get the flu will recover in a few days and almost always within two weeks, but some people may develop complications like pneumonia, that can end up being life-threatening, which is why it is important to take the flu seriously and not continue to 'work through it'.

OSHA General Duty Clause 5(a)(1) Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.

Most people with the flu do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.

If you have the flu, stay home and recover. Do not go to work and risk infecting your co-workers.

If flu symptoms do not subside, seek medical attention if any of these symptoms occur: difficulty breathing, severe vomiting, confusion or chest pain.

Is Seasonal Flu a good subject for a safety meeting topic in the workplace? You bet! The more employees and managers are educated on the best ways to prevent the flu and stay healthy during the winter months, the more productive everyone will be on the job. This is a safety meeting topic that every company in every industry, and every organization should be discussing at least once year.

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