Employer’s Duty of Care, Infectious Diseases

The aim of Infection control in the workplace is to prevent illness causing pathogens or micro-organisms from coming into contact with the workforce. The basis of good infection control in the workplace is to assume that everyone is potentially infectious.

The following guidance is aimed to provide basic information to help employers, and employees fulfil their duties under the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991. Under this Act, employers are required to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risk to health.
Take a Microscopic Look into your Keyboard

It's recommended that a detailed clean of all your IT equipment and workstations be undertaken every 3 months by a professional cleaning company. The Service should include the sanitation of your phones, keyboards, mice, fax machines, photocopiers and desktops.

To reduce the spread of illnesses in between services and to keep your computer clean, regularly wipe all workstation equipment using disposable Isopropyl wipes.

Salmonella Typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells

Understanding Infectious Diseases 

Infection is caused by micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa or fungi getting into or onto our bodies. It may take some time before these microbes multiply enough to trigger symptoms of illness. This can result in a person unknowingly spreading the infection during this incubation period. 

Infectious contaminants can be transmitted in a variety of ways, including: 

Airborne or Droplet Infection
Frequently, workplace illnesses, such as colds and flu are spread in this manner. Sharing telephones is a key workplace infection risk, where possible, users should have personal headsets, and telephones should be regularly cleaned, and sanitised. 

Food Hygiene 

Ensuring proper food hygiene is important as many infections are food-borne. Harmful bacteria can be transmitted through poorly cleaned eating utensils and unwashed dishcloths. When preparing food, it is important to, wash hands before and after handling food. Be sure to keep hot food, hot, and cold food, cold. 
Old food in the work fridge not only smells it can introduce bacteria into the main food storage area. It is good practice to employ a system for checking that unwanted food is thrown out at the end of each working week. 
Always use separate storage containers, utensils, and preparation surfaces for cooked and uncooked foods. Wash all utensils and preparation surfaces thoroughly with hot water and detergent.
Contaminated Objects 

Illness causing bacteria can easily spread by sharing common office items such as phones, keyboards, mice, fax machines and photocopiers. Experts warn that the potentially harmful micro-organisms that thrive in your phone and keyboard, can hitchhike their way via your hands, and directly into your body through your mouth, eyes and ears. This cross contamination problem is further exacerbated in shared computing environments, such as in, call centres, schools, universities, warehouses and libraries. It is of particular concern in medical centres and hospitals, where the strains of bacteria and viruses can be atypical and more resilient. 

Promoting Good Hand Hygiene

Keeping our hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs. It is best to wash your hands with soap and clean running water for 20 seconds, however, if soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based product to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs are fast acting and significantly reduce the number of germs on your skin. 

According to studies conducted by internationally renowned Environmental Microbiologist, Professor Charles P. Gerba, 95 percent of people say they wash their hands after using a public bathroom, but only 67 percent actually wash their hands. Only 33 percent of those who do wash their hands use soap. And only 16 percent really wash their hands long enough.

Of particular concern are studies conducted by Professor Gerba, showing how some viruses affect the brain and could possibly be a contributing factor to mental illness. Other studies show that viruses could be responsible for obesity and common illnesses. Ulcers used to be attributed to stress and lifestyle, but now it's known that at least 95 percent of ulcers are attributed to bacteria. 

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