Experts have warned Queenslanders that a nasty cold and flu season is ahead and expected to peak in August. This is an important reminder for accreditation holders to be prepared for a surge in cold/flu and COVID-19 infections among staff. These illnesses can severely impact the workforce and disrupt essential food supply chains.
Unlike the common cold, the flu can lead to severe illness. It is crucial that businesses reinstate the additional personal hygiene controls that were shown to be effective during the COVID-19 pandemic. By prioritising good personal hygiene practices, businesses can significantly lessen the impact of these illnesses on their workforce and operations.
With the current shortage of workers and reliance on labour-hire schemes in certain industry sectors, it is essential to acknowledge the high turnover of staff. Refresher training is imperative to ensure that all employees, including new hires, are trained in and adhere to proper personal hygiene practices. Refreshing their knowledge will ensure that personal hygiene remains a top priority in their daily work activities and reinforce the importance of staying home if feeling unwell.
Empowering workers to protect their health and the well-being of their colleagues is paramount. Businesses are encouraged to increase hygiene monitoring activities and ensure all toilets and amenities, including hand wash stations, are working and stocked with soap and hand sanitiser.
Personal hygiene control signage should also be displayed at strategic points, such as site entry points, production areas, and handwash basins, reminding workers of the importance of hand hygiene, appropriate use of PPE, and reporting any illness to their supervisors.
It is also highly recommended that businesses have open discussions with their workers about the importance of vaccination. Vaccinations are powerful tools for safeguarding individual health, reducing the spread of diseases, and ensuring uninterrupted business operations. Businesses should encourage and provide opportunities for employees to receive both the 2023 COVID-19 booster and flu vaccination.
As a general reminder:
- Staff should wash and dry their hands frequently, especially after sneezing, coughing, using a tissue, picking up dropped items, visiting the toilet, and after scheduled breaks.
- Staff should not come to work if they are sick or displaying flu-like symptoms.
- Staff should see a doctor if symptoms do not improve.
- Staff should wear appropriate PPE when working in food production areas.
Resources to help
Safe Food recently launched a new training course on Good Hygiene Practices. Though it is targeted at dairy manufacturers, the following videos contain relevant information to all food producers. You may like to use them in your staff training:
- Personal Hygiene Practices – Hazards
- Personal Hygiene Practices – Expectations
- Personal Hygiene Practices – Common Auditor Observations
- Handwashing poster and demo video (developed by the Queensland Government)
Being prepared and proactive now can help minimise the impact of this year’s flu season on your business.