By Sue Davis (“Safety Sue”), Director, BWC Employee Safety & Health Administration
In 1847, a Hungarian obstetrician by the name of Ignaz P. Semmelweiss showed that hand washing greatly reduced infections in newborns. Dr. Semmelweiss attempted to promote hand washing and cleanliness among his colleagues, who were so offended that they committed him to an insane asylum.
Today, it is a well-known fact that hand washing greatly reduces the spread of disease.
Yet studies show that only 67 percent of people practice any sort of hand hygiene. Researchers believe this number is low because most people have a vague idea that hand washing is important, but many don’t have a grasp on the facts.
Communicable diseases are serious business. At the very least, diseases – like a cold or the flu – impact your day-to-day life in a negative way. More serious diseases can be very dangerous to your health and to others.
Although the flu season lasts from October until May, the peak months are usually between December and March. In addition to the flu, varieties of other communicable diseases spread more easily in winter months.
As an employer, it’s important to do your part in preventing diseases from spreading in your workplace this flu season. In 2016, your employees won’t question your mental health for encouraging hand washing; in fact, December is National Hand Washing Month. So now is the time to remind your employees to wash their hands often, keep their workspaces clean and eat healthy. And if they are ill, encourage them to stay home.
Here are a few other facts to share with your employees:
- Eighty percent of communicable diseases are transferred by touch.
- Touch refers primarily to the touching of food, or the touching of one’s own mouth, eyes, and nose. It is not simply person-to-person contact.
- Touching the face with contaminated hands spreads illnesses such as pneumonia, the common cold and the flu.
- Hand washing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16 percent.
- More than 50 percent of healthy persons have Staphylococcus aureus (bacteria causing staph infections) living in or on their nasal passages, throats, hair or skin.
- Less than 75 percent of women and less than 50 percent of men wash their hands after going to the bathroom.
- The recommended washing time is 15 seconds. The ideal washing time is 30 seconds.
- Only 20 percent of people dry their hands after washing. Damp hands are 1,000 times more likely to spread bacteria than dry hands.
- Hand washing and hand hygiene initiatives greatly reduce the number of absences, sick leaves and lost productivity.
For more information:
By Michelle Francisco, Ohio Safety Council Program Manager
Just over a year ago, BWC challenged Ohio’s 83 safety councils to incorporate health and wellness topics into their otherwise traditional subject matter scope of safety, accident prevention and risk management. How they responded, the interest it raised and the energy it ignited may surprise you.
Safety councils host monthly employer meetings in their local communities and are a trusted resource for high quality safety education and information. So, given BWC’s emphasis on health and wellness and the proven association between a person’s general health and how quickly they can return to work after an occupational injury, it made perfect sense to combine the two.
Safety councils quickly went into action to identify health and wellness topics of interest to their members, tap into local health and wellness resources and outline a plan for investing the $350,000 in statewide funding associated with the initiative.
Since that time, over 350 meetings, seminars and special events have featured health and wellness topics and have been attended by thousands of Ohio employers. Just a few of those topics included:
- Wellness programs – Where to Start
- Sleep Disorders and the Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
- Nutrition: Choose Wisely – It Could Save Your Life
- Eating Health for a Healthy Life
- Dealing with Stress
- Keys to Maximizing Your Energy
- Steps to a Healthier Lifestyle
- How to Have a Healthier Heart
- Smoking Cessation
Beyond presenting health and wellness topics in their monthly meeting forum, many safety councils created unique wellness initiatives themselves. For example,
- In Northwest Ohio, a six-seminar Health & Wellness Seminar Series was developed that included wellness at work consultations, screenings, assessments and take-away resources.
- In Sandusky County, annual Health and Wellness Awards were presented to recognize employers who promoted and engaged employees in healthy options and health education.
- The Grand Lake and Van Wert communities combined their resources to bring a nationally recognized wellness speaker to their region – Sara Martin Rauch – Director of Strategy & Planning for the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA).
- In Portage County, as a result of a coalition among many local resources, a 24-page ‘Engaging Your Workforce in Wellness!’ publication was created to make a case for implementing health and wellness programs.
- In Summit County, these engaged safety council attendees below were hearing a presentation on reducing stress from “America’s Nutrition Leader” Zonya Foco after visiting an on-site blood pressure station.
Choosing to live a healthier life can result in significant change. It’s not just about being better prepared to bounce back from an occupational injury. It can mean losing 11 pounds, as it did for one person giving up pop in a 30-Day ‘Water Challenge’ or several attendees participating in a skin cancer screening who were identified as having pre-cancerous spots who were advised to seek immediate treatment.
The safety council health and wellness initiative has raised awareness, improved the culture of health across the state and equipped people to fulfill their highest potential in work and life.