Are your staff protected? How illness and disease can quickly spread

How can you reduce the chance of illness or diseases spreading among your workforce? Here, we find out.

The impact of employees being off sick can cost UK businesses billions of pounds a year, affecting productivity and adding up to a huge loss of working days. According to the Office for National Statistics, around 131 million working days were lost through absences caused by sickness or injury in 2013. For employees who work closely together, such as in an office, factory or industrial workplace illness can spread quickly. So how can you reduce the chance of illness or diseases spreading among your workforce?

Maintain good hygiene

Illnesses such as coughs and colds and sickness bugs like gastroenteritis can spread very easily. This vomiting and diarrhoea bug can be extremely contagious and is particularly unpleasant. The NHS advises that people affected by gastroenteritis should stay off work for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have cleared to reduce the risk of passing it on.
To prevent the spread of germs in the workplace it’s important to wash hands after handling food or going to the bathroom. Germs can easily be passed from person to person by touching equipment or surfaces that are unclean. In the office, it is a good idea to wipe down your computer keyboards and telephones with antibacterial wipes, particularly if sharing a desk. It’s also worth providing anti-bacterial gels around the workplace to ensure staff clean their hands well to reduce the risk of infection or cross-contamination.

Wear protective equipment

If dealing with substances that could cause harm it’s important that your staff wear protective clothing. Where necessary they may be required to wear gloves or face masks. There are a range of these available from Some tasks may require employees to wear goggles to protect their eyes. Your risk assessment should tell you when this is required, along with instructions from the manufacturers of the materials or machinery that is being used. Put signs up around the workplace reminding staff when they need to wear equipment and ensure that safety equipment is always worn, even when a job only takes a few minutes.

First aid

To prevent cross-contamination and other members of staff getting poorly when giving first aid, ensure disposable gloves are included in the first aid kit and are worn. They must also be disposed of afterwards. In case of accident or injury ensure all staff know where the first aid kit is located, along with a leaflet giving advice on dealing with first aid incidents. Ensure only clean, sterile equipment is used and provided to prevent the spread of illness or disease. An incident book should be kept so that any accidents or illnesses can be recorded to identify any trends in the workplace. Steps can then be put in place to reduce risks.


This comes under illnesses in the workplace. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2014/2015 a total 444,000 people reported work-related stress at a level they believed was making them ill. This accounted for 40 per cent of all work-related illness. Be conscious of your staff and ensure you are looking after their well-being at work. Make sure they are taking enough breaks and getting up and walking around if they are desk-based.

Think about promoting the benefits of healthy eating and exercise to your staff. Let your staff know that they can speak to their manager or someone within the organisation they feel comfortable talking to, or where to go to get outside help.

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