Monday, August 10, 2009

Wash Your Hands!

As the ancient proverb goes...
"Cleanliness is next to Godliness"
The proverb has found its way into the employment policy arena in recent months due to the outbreak of the H1N1 Virus (aka "the Swine Flu").

For example, numerous Universities have sent out letters to their communities, including a Letter from Howard President Ribeau. These letters generally include language like the following from the Howard letter:
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. While alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective, they should not replace hand washing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
I will also note that my alma mater, George Mason University School of Law, had hand-sanitizing stations placed throughout the school when I visited a few weeks ago.

I just finished a cruise last week on which Royal Caribbean issued a daily notice asking the same things from their passengers (and I assume their employees). A couple I met in Juneau said Celebrity was also making a huge deal of H1N1 and ensuring that everyone washed their hands.

The EEOC has likewise weighed in by issuing guidance for ADA-Compliant Employer Preparedness for the H1N1 Flu Virus. And guess what advice they have for employers?
"During a pandemic, may an employer require its employees to adopt infection control practices?

Yes. Requiring infection control practices, such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and tissue usage and disposal, does not implicate the ADA."
Universities, cruise lines, and the EEOC agree... washing your hands helps stop the H1N1 virus. The question I have is, "Why does it take the threat of a pandemic to get people to wash their hands!?"

This just in: employees are much more likely to catch something other than H1N1. I don't know about you but I don't want any illness, swine or otherwise. I hope this new hand-washing, no-eye-rubbing, covering-your-nose-and-mouth-when-you-sneeze craze catches on for the rest of time! Workplace health should always be a concern and not a special pandemic precaution.

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