Keeping Your WorkForce Healthy (and Parasite Free!)

This year, there has been an outbreak of an aggressive parasite that has put workers into the hospital in at least 21 separate instances. Called Cyclospora, the parasite has cut down some large swaths of workers, especially in the Midwest in states like Texas, Iowa, and Nebraska. While the CDC hasn’t yet identified the cause of this outbreak, past outbreaks have been associated with produce such as lettuce, raspberries, and other fruits and vegetables.

So what can you do to protect your workforce?

Encouraging good hygiene is essential to stopping things like this from spreading through your employees. Of course, the number one way to do this is make sure that employees are always washing their hands. The parasite is often spread through human fecal matter, so a thorough hand wash after using the bathroom is necessary. One of the problems that you’ll run into is that there are a lot of tough guys and gals in the physical labor industry and hand washing/personal hygiene doesn’t always take first priority on the job. It is important to remind them that these actions are a part of safety (use a sign that says, Wash Hands after using Restroom),  just like wearing protection equipment or being smart on the job, and that safety is number one. By extension, staying clean and healthy is right up at the top of the list as well.

In addition to after using the restroom, people need to wash their hands before and after a number of things such as…

  • Anytime before, during, and after preparing food for a meal (especially when using raw ingredients, your hands need to be washed before touching other food items).
  • Every time they go to eat, employees should wash their hands first. Anything they’ve touched since the last time they washed or sanitized their hands is going straight into their bodies along with the food they eat, so, even if it hasn’t been too long, they’d better wash up first.
  • Before or after caring for someone who is sick, even if it isn’t a severe illness, they need to wash their hands to avoid catching the illness themselves. This applies to taking care of sick children and spouses at home, etc.
  • Before or after cleaning a wound: In most cases, people know to sterilize a wound, but if you don’t wash your hands before doing so your efforts might be futile as you run the risk of spreading germs and bacteria from your own fingers to the wound.
  • After changing diapers or helping a child use the bathroom: Like washing after yourself use the rest room, this should be a no-brainer, but a reminder never hurts!
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing: Yikes! How many times have you seen someone cough into their hand instead of their arms or sleeves and then proceed to touch everything around them? Employees should clean their hands right away to avoid spreading germs this way.
  • After touching garbage: Trash is a fertile breeding ground for parasites and disease carrying insects, not to mention what might actually make up the garbage itself.

In a nutshell, it’s all about hand washing. The CDC consistently states that hand washing has the biggest impact of any single action on preventing disease from spreading. Plus it’s easy.

In fact, the CDC has a recommended method for washing up:

First, you need to wet their hands with running water before applying soap; this helps activate it. Next, rub your hands together and scrub them well, reaching the palms, the back of your hands, between your fingers, and especially the finger tips themselves – do this for a minimum of twenty seconds. Next, rinse your hands with running water until all of the soap and any debris have been rinsed away. Finally, dry your hands with a towel or air dryer (paper towels and air dryers are preferred as they are the most sanitary and don’t require you touching something another person has who might not have washed their hands as thoroughly, if at all.

Finally, avoid door knobs on the way out, if you have to use one, touch it with the paper towel you used to dry your hands, or part of your shirt, to avoid re-dirtying your hands.

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