Germs in the Workplace

March 5, 2004
Why should we be worried about germs and disinfection in the workplace?

DuPont recently introduced a line of antiseptic and disinfectant products, along with a fact sheet about germs in the workplace.

Did you know that absence due to colds represent 22 million days lost from work and more than 7.9 million doctor visits a year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics? The average per-employee cost of absenteeism hit an all-time high of $789 per year in 2002. The common cold could have cost small companies as much as $60,000 per year, with some of the country's largest employees shelling out as much as $3.6 million for costs due to colds.

Presenteeism, coming to work when sick, is happening more often, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, due to the growing demands of the workplace. Viruses, which are transmitted through the air or person-to-person contact, can also be transmitted on objects. People can become infected simply by touching a contaminated surface. Advance PCS, a health-services company based in Irving, TX, estimates that "presenteeism" is responsible for two-thirds of the $250 billion lost in health-related costs in the US every year.

Experts suggest employers encourage employees to utilize sick time, rather than risk infecting coworkers with flu viruses or colds. They also suggest employees be encouraged to wash their hands regularly or use hand antiseptics. Employers are also told to provide employees with an effective, convenient means of disinfecting surfaces in the workplace to reduce the spread of germs.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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