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Take action against norovirus this season


New predictions from the Health Protection Agency say that a rise in norovirus is just around the corner. The vomiting bug wreaked havoc in offices at the end of last year with total estimated cases surpassing 1 million in the UK alone. Unfortunately, we may not be safe from this winter bug as Health Protection Agency experts believe cases are on the rise again.

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This ‘winter vomiting bug’, can be transmitted through direct contact with people who have the bug, or with contaminated surfaces or objects. As the infectious dose is very low, it can spread quickly affecting a large number of people. This is particularly true in office premises with open-plan seating or staff who ‘hot desk’, which make it much more difficult to prevent cross-contamination.

In 2012, research from the Centre for Economics and Business research found that employee absenteeism costs the UK £6.5bn a year.

It is vital that businesses and their staff are aware of the steps they and the practical advice on offer to improve hygiene standards in the work place and reduce the risk of staff contracting the disease. Simple changes to personal hygiene habits, or office layout could maximise chances of staying healthy and bug-free this season.

Peter Barratt from Initial Washroom Hygiene has provided advice for businesses on how to improve hygiene standards.

Advice for businesses

  • Promote good hand hygiene standards – Staff should be washing their hands regularly and hand sanitizers should always be available.
  • Cleaning regimes - Ensure regular, thorough cleaning takes place in communal areas like the shared kitchen and washroom facilities. It is recommended that companies that seat their staff in open-plan offices with only basic workday cleaning in place undertake a professional deep clean at least twice a year to prevent the build-up of hidden embedded dirt and contamination, and the associated micro-organisms
  • Desk cleaning – Encourage staff to clean their desk areas by providing anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitising gels
  • Prevention of spread – Ensure staff who contract the virus to stay away from the office for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have disappeared to avoid wider contamination in the workforce
  • Deep Clean – In the event of an outbreak at work (where a number of individuals have contracted the illness), call in professionals to conduct a deep clean of the office environment.

Advice for employees

  • Practice good hygiene – thorough hand washing after going to the washroom and before preparing food is extremely important. It is recommended that you should wash your hands with soap for the same length of time it takes to sing happy birthday twice (approximately 30 seconds). Cleaning your desk regularly also reduces the level of germs in the office
  • Stop sharing - Try not to share items such as tea towels when using communal areas. These items can be home to high levels of bacteria and are often not cleaned regularly. Good alternatives include using tissues or paper towel dispensers.
  • Prevention of spread - If you suspect you have norovirus, notify your work and do not return until 48 hours after the last symptoms have disappeared.