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Worker Institute Blog

Worker with a mask in a restaurant
The Worker Institute brings together researchers, educators and students with practitioners in labor, business and policymaking to address issues related to confronting systemic inequality and building a fair economy, robust democracy and just society. We will share opinion, analysis, research, data, insights and training from our faculty and staff.

Fighting Germs


This year’s flu season, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports causing more than 125,000 illnesses, shows no sign of abating.

Workplaces are hotbeds of possible contagion. Nellie Brown, certified industrial hygienist and director of ILR’s Workplace Health & Safety Programs, annually leads more than 100 trainings about workplace health and safety around New York state.

Part of The Worker Institute at Cornell, Brown offers tips on how to minimize the potential for spreading the virus in the office:

Think about what you touch in and out of the office. Did you use an ATM? Did you put gas in your car? If you were in a conference room, did you touch the table and chairs at the meeting?”

“Did you borrow a stapler? Did you go to the water cooler and touch the handle? We touch a lot of things in common and that’s how diseases are spread.”

Clean with germicide. In order to prevent the spread of germs, clean surfaces with an EPA-registered germicide that kills influenza. Do a thorough hand-washing with regular soap and wash your hands more often.”

“If you use a tissue, throw it away. If you are headachy and stuffy, watch your sneezing etiquette. When you cough or sneeze, the droplets can easily spread six feet.”

Stay home. People with the flu should be instructed to not report to work. With the virus being contagious, it’s best to have employees with the flu stay home.”

“If you are achy below the neck, exhausted or feverish, your body is saying you need to rest – so listen to it.”

Tell employees to stay home. Employers should have non-punitive medical leave policies. Otherwise, people come to work sick and that doesn’t help anybody.”

“Flu can make some people seriously ill and, in addition to human suffering, the employer also pays a price for that. There’s an advantage to the employer in not having people who are contagious come to work.”

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