Any number of factors can negatively impact your productivity: poor training, equipment maintenance issues, or low employee morale are just a few. Still, little can put as big a drag on a factory worker’s productivity as getting sick with a cold or the flu.
Employers in the United States sacrifice $25 billion annually due to worker illness. As might be expected, much of that loss is due to worker absenteeism, some $8 billion worth. The negative impacts extend beyond lost productivity, too, as 61% of workers say the absenteeism of co-workers adds to their own stress, while 49% say it reduces overall employee morale.
Worse yet is “presenteeism,” or coming to work sick, working at less than optimal levels and infecting co-workers. It accounts for nearly $17 billion of the total loss. Unfortunately, workers are not sufficiently protecting themselves against the bacteria and viruses that cause colds and the flu; only 28% get an annual flu shot. Employers must step up to take prevention as seriously as they take production – and that means infection control.
Your worker’s hands are their best tools – and their worst enemies
Eighty percent of infections are spread by touch, making everything (and everyone) your workers touch into a danger zone. Fortunately, that also makes finding a solution a bit simpler: improve your hand hygiene. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) both point to hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers as the most effective way to combat infections.
Unfortunately, your workers don’t like to wash their hands. In fact, 15% of men and 7% of women don’t wash their hands at all after using the bathroom. And of those who do wash their hands, almost none – only 5% – wash them well enough to remove germs along with the dirt.
The upshot? Employers must take hand hygiene into their own hands, and teach workers how to do it properly. While the instruction is simple (for instance, hands should be washed for 20 seconds with soap and water), converting knowledge into action, and action into a habit, is considerably more difficult.
A good workplace hand hygiene program should involve multiple learning opportunities and types, ranging from in-person instruction, to videos on workplace closed-circuit TVs, to reminder emails and in-bathroom posters, right next to the sinks. And it should include ample supplies from quality sources, as studies show that poorly designed soap dispensers may encourage the microbial growth they’re intended to help prevent, while cheaply formulated soaps may not provide the desired cleansing effect.
Are hand hygiene programs an expense or an investment?
Reducing infections that cause workplace illnesses obviously helps boost productivity – and that, in turn, helps your bottom line. A Harvard study found that for every $1.00 spent on wellness program, absenteeism costs fell by $2.37. Other studies have shown significant reductions in workers compensation and disability claims.
In short, effective hand hygiene programs can deliver significant ROI for manufacturers by keeping workers healthy and production lines rolling. Do you have hygiene well in hand?
JOEM: Impact of a Comprehensive Workplace Hand Hygiene Program
OSHA: Infection Protection: The Role of Proper Hand Hygiene
NIH: Productivity Losses Related to the Common Cold
CDC: How infections spread