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The most important way to reduce the spread of infections is hand washing - frequently wash hands with soap and water, if unavailable use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol). Also important is to get a vaccine for those infections and viruses that have one, when available.
See the OSH Answers Hand Washing - Reducing the Risk of Common Infections for more details.
This OSH Answers document will discuss other methods beyond hand washing that can also help to slow or stop the spread of infections.
Ways you can reduce or slow the spread of infections include:
Workplaces can help by having an infection control plan which includes:
Additional measures may be required to minimize transmission of germs by touch points (sinks, door and cupboard handles, railings, objects, counters, etc.).Viruses, for example, can remain viable on hard surfaces for several hours, depending on environmental conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States indicates that "Most studies have shown that the flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for up to 48 hours after being deposited on a surface."
In most workplaces and homes, cleaning floors, walls, doorknobs, etc. with disinfectants or bleach solution (5 millilitres (mL) of (5%) bleach per 250 mL of water is recommended. Use a disinfectant with a drug identification number (DIN). This number means that it has been approved for use in Canada.
Follow the directions on the cleaning or disinfecting products. Wear personal protective clothing, such as gloves and eye protection, where required. Know the appropriate procedures for general sanitation and infection control, and how to work safely with hazardous products, including bleach.
If using gloves when cleaning, always wear the appropriate type of glove for the product you are using. No one glove material is resistant to all chemicals. Some products dissolve certain glove materials and therefore will offer no protection by allowing the product to contact your skin. This permeation can take place in a few seconds, while other products may take days or weeks.
Refer to the product’s safety data sheet (SDS) for information on which glove material will provide the best protection (e.g., glove material will be listed, such as neoprene, butyl rubber, natural rubber, etc.). If this information is missing, contact the supplier or manufacturer of the product. Manufacturers of chemical protective gloves and clothing may also assist their customers in making the appropriate choices.
For more information about wearing protective gloves, please see the OSH Answers document on Chemical Protective Clothing – Glove Selection.
Physical distancing is a strategy where you try to avoid crowded places, large gatherings of people or close contact with a group of people. For example, viruses can spread from person to person. In general, a distance of two metres (6 feet) will slow the spread of a virus, but more distance is more effective.
When physical distancing is recommended, steps to follow include:
Generally, employees should be allowed and encouraged to stay at home if they are not feeling well. However, in the event of a pandemic, use of screening tools or a list of symptoms as determined by your local public health authority as a checklist may be appropriate. If employees are showing any symptoms, allow them to go or remain at home. If there is doubt if a person is sick, they should stay home until they feel well and are able to resume their regular activities. Your local public health authority may have specific guidance on return to work after illness.
For example, if a person becomes ill at work and COVID-19 is suspected, they should report to first aid or ask for medical attention. If the worker is acutely and severely ill (such as difficulty breath or chest pain) call 911 immediately and provide first aid. Otherwise, they should:
Clean and disinfect any surface or item that the ill worker was in contact with.