Before implementing a workplace hygiene and illness prevention program, you need to ensure all your preparation and planning has been completed. Consider developing a comprehensive checklist to ensure all program components are included.
Core program elements should include:
Your workplace hygiene and illness prevention program's success rely on your ability to effectively communicate your policies and expectations to your employees. It is best to communicate the policies and expectations in writing or using email. Your employee handbook should contain a copy of the policies for reference at any time. OSHA requires all training presentations, including policy expectations, to be presented in a language each employee understands. Regardless of how you decide to share the policies with your employees, it is important to document each employee's receipt and understanding of the policies. You also need to consider how you will communicate your policies to all appropriate groups, such as contractors, staffing agencies, temporary workers, suppliers, vendors, and visitors.
During an outbreak of an infectious disease, such as the flu or the more recent COVID-19, be prepared to adjust your sick leave policies to allow sick employees to stay home. Similarly, if employees have a sick family member, they may need to stay home to take care of their loved one. Public health recommendations may also influence your policies. Remember, your employee handbook and the policies within, are a living document that can be adjusted to meet the demands of the current situation.
Education and training provide the knowledge and skills needed to keep employees safe and healthy. Additionally, education and training provide employees with a greater understanding of your hygiene and illness prevention program, encouraging participation, and contributing to its development and implementation.
Schedule time to provide employees awareness-level training on your hygiene and illness prevention program. Make sure they understand why the program is important, how it will improve employee health, and what their responsibilities are. Make sure employees understand that adhering to your hygiene and illness policies is part of their job and will factor into their performance evaluations. Remember, OSHA requires training presentations to be provided in a language each employee understands. If an employee does not understand the language used, OSHA will view the employee as not having received the training.
Written documentation should be provided to each employee who satisfactorily completes a training course.
The documentation should include:
Providing employees with a training certificate encourages participation and reinforces management's commitment.
Organizations should maintain training records which include:
The trainer and supervising manager should sign and date the training records.
Training records should be maintained for a minimum of five years. These records should be available and provided upon the student's request or as mandated by law.
Although management leadership holds the responsibility to ensure the hygiene and illness prevention program is administered effectively, without employee participation, the program will not succeed. Employees must be encouraged to participate, have the necessary information, and be allowed to participate in the program.
By encouraging employees to participate in the hygiene and illness prevention program, management is demonstrating their commitment and dedication to the program.
You can encourage employees by:
Employees are often best positioned to spot concerns and program weaknesses. By encouraging employees to report issues and provide suggestions, management can promptly address issues before someone becomes ill.
You can encourage employees by:
Sharing relevant health and wellness information with employees builds trust and helps organizations make more informed decisions. Management should readily provide employees access to information and resources pertinent to workplace health and wellness.
Examples of information and resources include:
Including employee input during program design and implementation improves the quality of the overall program while also creating a sense of ownership among employees.
You should involve employees in each of the following:
To participate meaningfully in the program, employees need to feel their input is welcome, and their voices are heard. Participation will be stifled if barriers inhibiting their involvement are not removed.
You can remove these barriers by:
Once you have your hygiene and illness prevention program established, you should perform an initial evaluation to verify all the program components have been implemented successfully. Once the program is fully implemented, annual program evaluations should be conducted to make sure the program goals are being achieved. If program issues arise, adjustments to the program can be made to fix the problem and get back on track. Be sure to communicate the results of the program evaluation, improvements made, and goal achievements.
The first step in monitoring your hygiene and illness prevention program is to establish indicators that help you track performance and progress over time. Once indicators are defined, you can develop the procedures to collect, analyze, and review the performance data.
Both lagging and leading indicators should be used to evaluate your program performance. Lagging indicators generally track what has already occurred. Leading indicators track how well different aspects of your program have been implemented, such as preventing illnesses before they have a chance to occur.
Potential lagging indicators:
Potential leading indicators:
You can analyze and track performance indicators over time to evaluate your program progress. Share the results at meetings, through company newsletters, or on display boards.
You should conduct an annual evaluation or audit of your hygiene and illness prevention program to ensure it is operating as intended. You should use an audit checklist or form as you conduct your evaluation process and document your results.
Considerations when verifying your program:
Engineering controls you could use in your policy include:
Here is a sample OSHA audit checklist you can adapt to your needs.
When a problem is identified in your hygiene and illness prevention program, you should take prompt action to correct the problem and prevent it from recurring.
Steps you can take if a program weakness is discovered:
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