Though Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season, it also brings potential respiratory health challenges for workers. Many viruses spread more rapidly during the holiday season, for a number of reasons.
Large gatherings, crowded travel, and more time indoors can mean more viruses spreading around this season.
For instance, recently, cases of influenza have started picking up in many parts of the country, particularly the South and the West, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].
With the respiratory health challenges these viruses can cause, it’s important for workers to get all recommended vaccines– including flu, COVID-19 and RSV, as soon as possible.
This will give them the best protection against these respiratory diseases while traveling and gathering with family and friends, while keeping your worksite safe from the spread of disease.
To put the seriousness in perspective, the ‘tripledemic’ of 2022 infected millions, overwhelmed many medical facilities, and led to the death of more than 100,000 people in the U.S. over the 4-month peak span of these viruses.
Here, we’ll discuss 10 vital respiratory health tips for you and your team during the winter season.
Let’s take a look.
Related Article: How to Prepare For Cold Weather Work
Related Article: Key Steps for Seasonal Flu Prevention In the Workplace
Overcoming Respiratory Health Challenges during the Winter Season
As winter approaches, ensuring optimal respiratory health for workers becomes paramount. Utilize these essential tips to safeguard your workforce’s well-being in the chilly season.
1. Mindful Navigation through Seasonal Allergens
As the holiday season approaches, workers must be aware of potential respiratory irritants like increased dust and mold spores. Because cold weather generally leads to few open windows, doors, and fans, indoor air can become stagnant & musty, especially without the right ventilation equipment.
Offer guidance on navigating these allergens by using appropriate protective measures such as masks and avoiding areas with high concentrations of irritants.
2. Optimizing Indoor Air Quality can Prevent Respiratory Health Challenges
Overcoming respiratory health challenges often comes down to the quality of the air your team breathes.
Educate your team on the importance of maintaining good indoor air quality during the holidays. Ensure proper ventilation systems are in place and advise employees to keep workspaces well-ventilated.
3. Proper Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) Usage
Emphasize the correct usage of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) in workplaces where exposure to airborne contaminants is common. Discuss the different types of masks and respirators, their proper fit, and the significance of regular replacements.
4. Regular Cleaning and Disinfection
Highlight the importance of a clean workspace in promoting respiratory health. For instance, regular cleaning and disinfection of work surfaces can minimize the risk of exposure to allergens and viruses.
5. Awareness of Office Decorations
While festive and fun, holiday decorations can create respiratory health challenges of their own. When you consider that they tend to live in dark corners of basements, attics, and other out-of-the-way locations, it’s no surprise that they can begin collecting dust, mold spores, and even rodent waste over the years.
So, advise workers to be cautious about holiday decorations that may contribute to respiratory health challenges.
Certain decorations, such as dusty artificial trees or moldy ornaments stored in damp conditions, can pose risks. Encourage the use of hypoallergenic decorations and proper storage practices.
6. Healthy Habits for Respiratory Wellness
Promote healthy habits that contribute to respiratory wellness.
Remind workers to stay hydrated, as proper hydration supports respiratory function. Encourage regular breaks, stretching exercises, and mindful breathing techniques to reduce stress and improve lung capacity.
7. Balancing Indoor and Outdoor Activities
It’s only natural that during cold winter months, people spend far more time indoors than during warm, sunny summers. However, that’s also a large reason that respiratory health challenges tend to crop up during the winter. So, if possible, suggest a balance between indoor and outdoor activities during the holiday season.
While indoor celebrations are common, encourage workers to take breaks outside to breathe fresh air (as long as weather permits, of course!) Outdoor activities can help clear the respiratory system and improve overall well-being.
8. Educational Workshops on Respiratory Health
Advocate for educational workshops on respiratory health in the workplace.
These workshops can cover topics such as recognizing respiratory symptoms, the importance of early detection, and preventive measures to maintain a healthy respiratory system.
See OSHA’s Article on Keeping Workers Safe This Holiday Season
See OSHA’s training video on 9 Tips to Protect Workers During the Holidays
9. Implementation of Workplace Policies
Highlight the necessity of workplace policies that prioritize respiratory health. You should establish clear guidelines on indoor air quality, proper cleaning practices, and the use of respiratory protective equipment.
Ensure your employees are well-informed and compliant with these policies.
10. Encouraging Regular Health Check-ups and Vaccinations
Emphasize the importance of regular health check-ups, especially during the holiday season.
Encourage workers to schedule appointments with healthcare professionals for respiratory assessments. Early detection of respiratory issues can lead to timely intervention and better outcomes.
Note that for the first time, your team can now get flu, COVID-19, and RSV vaccines during the same visit. This is the first year that there are vaccines to protect against all three of these viruses.
These vaccines have been shown to prevent severe disease and can be lifesaving.
Bringing it Together
Prioritizing respiratory health during the holiday season is crucial for maintaining a safe and productive work environment. By following these ten tips, you and your team can navigate potential respiratory health challenges and enjoy a healthy holiday season.
Remember: you play a pivotal role in creating a workplace culture that values and promotes respiratory wellness. Make sure you do your part to keep your team happy, healthy, and festive this holiday season!
About Worksite Medical
In most cases, OSHA requires medical surveillance testing, and at no cost to employees.
Worksite Medical makes that program easier with mobile medical testing.
We conduct on-site respirator fit tests, as well as audiometric exams, pulmonary function tests and heavy metal lab work, right on your job site. We also keep accurate, easy-to-access medical records for your convenience. You’ll keep your employees at work, and stay ahead of OSHA inspections.