Unfortunately, the winter brings congestion and sneezes along with icicles and snow. Cases of the flu peak between December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates that between 5 percent and 20 percent of Americans catch the flu each year, with more than 200,000 people on average ending up hospitalized for flu-related conditions.
Don't let your building become a breeding ground for bacteria. While you can't give every germ the boot, you can take actionable steps that will help defend your building and occupants against the flu.
So, this year, don't just deck your halls with boughs of holly - deck them with effective flu-fighting measures.
Encourage healthy habits
While you can't peer over people's shoulders to make sure they sing two full "Happy Birthdays" while washing their hands (and would you really want to?), you can make good germ-battling habits as visible and easy as possible. Post signs in restrooms outlining the CDC-recommended hand-washing procedure as a reminder to occupants to thoroughly suds up. Install antibacterial gel dispensers near high-traffic and entrance and exit areas of your building, and consider giving each occupant or office manager sanitizing spray and towels so they can quickly and easily wipe down their desks, doorknobs, phones and other germ magnets. Evergreen Maintenance recommended installing hands-free appliances to further cut down on germs, like automatic soap dispensers, hand dryers, toilet flushers and antibacterial gel dispensers. Buildings.com also noted that the CDC recommends that businesses encourage their employees to get their flu vaccines. Creating some simple posters urging occupants to get their shot and to be mindful of a heightened flu risk can also work well to encourage occupants to pay extra attention to spreading germs this season. Post these prevention tips and flu stats in a document on the CMMS to ensure all occupants and staff can easily reference them.
Fight the good fight
It's important to know the right kind of product to use to gain victory over the flu virus. The CDC reminded building managers and staff that cleaners and disinfectants differ in their uses. Cleaners physically remove germs with soap and water or detergent, but don't necessarily kill germs. Disinfectants kill top-layer germs, but don't necessarily clean the area. A combination of both - clean first then disinfect - is the best method for reducing the risk of the infection spreading. According to Buildings.com, the CDC say that chlorine bleach, quaternary ammonium-based cleaners and hydrogen peroxide are effective flu fighters. Check the label to make sure the product is EPA-certified to kill the influenza A virus, the source advised. And don't mix formulas - the combination of chlorine bleach and ammonium cleaners is deadly. It's essential that regular cleaning and disinfecting takes place for the most effective protection from the flu, since the CDC says the virus can live and remain infectious for 2 to 8 hours. The flu virus isn't very hardy, though, so regular cleaning and disinfecting will help keep the flu on its toes.
Check hidden flu factors
There are sneaky ways that the flu virus can spread around your building. Evergreen Maintenance advised that building managers and staff frequently check ventilation and HVAC systems to make sure they are clean and free of debris. They also recommend vacuuming with HEPA filters to help keep air clean. Buildings.com reminded staff to check the outside areas outside around cooling towers and drains and on the roof for pools of water, which can collect pathogens that can then travel into your building through ventilation systems. Another hidden area they recommend checking is bathroom exhaust fans. Make sure that the fans are working correctly and are pushing containments and polluted air out, and not propelling them further into the restroom.
A healthy building is a happy building. Keep these tips in mind to help prevent the spread of the flu in your facility.