Flu Season: No Big Deal?

young male man doctor stethoscope flu

It is For Employers!

Flu season. The thought of it is tucked back in the recesses of our mind like other common givens; 1+1=2 and the sky is blue. We take it for granted that flu season will come around again and that the elderly and children should have vaccinations. For the rest of us? “No big deal.”

And yet most of us consider it, “no big deal”.

It’s estimated that 10 to 12 percent of all employee absences are due to this thing we call “no big deal” and that it is one of the leading causes of employee absenteeism. No, the flu doesn’t get the attention of other big-name illnesses or diseases.We don’t talk about it in the workplace like we do material handling safety, but is has big-time impact.

Why is it that the workplace is so hard hit?

Consider the following:

  • Between part-time and full-time positions, employees average 38.6 hours per week at work (Bureau of Labor Statistics – 2015) which represents a lot of employee-to-employee contact time. Even though we don’t often think of it in this way, that’s more time than children spend at school where we know the flu is passed easily from one child to another.
  • Old habits die hard, and even with an awareness campaign regarding the need for employees to wash their hands or practice other hygiene considerations, such as cough etiquette, it is hard to change employee habits.
  • Employees will often come in sick during the most contagious period of the flu (while running a fever), citing they do not want to lose vacation days or pay.

The best defense is a good offense.

It’s almost a given that getting an annual flu shot dramatically lessens the chances of contracting the flu. But it is not enough to encourage employees to get a flu shot. Less than 50% will do this on their own. Between busy schedules and having to think about this after work hours, it simply doesn’t get done.

But having an in-house flu clinic, such as those Washington Occupational Health Associates provides, changes the numbers completely. The Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine showed that over 90% of employees will take part in an in-house, employer-sponsored flu shot campaign. Eighty-four percent do it because it is free, eighty percent because it’s convenient and eighty-two percent to avoid lost work. Furthermore, employees who are vaccinated tend to encourage other family members to do the same, further breaking the cycle of the contagion.

The benefit according to the numbers.

  • Do your own math for your own organization.If you have just 100 employees and consider that on average 15% of your employees will contract the flu this season, with an average absence of 4 days, at an employer cost of $200/day, even when subtracting the cost of the in-house flu clinic the employer will save $8,500 to $9,000, or enjoy an return on investment of approximately 3:1.
  • At the Veterans Affairs Center of Minneapolis, immunizations for 849 workers produced a net savings of $47 per person by reducing days lost from work while increasing employee engagement.
  • Do your own math for your own organization. If you have just 100 employees and consider that on average 15% of your employees will contract the flu this season, with an average absence of 4 days, at an employer cost of $200/day, even when subtracting the cost of the in-house flu clinic the employer will save $8,500 to $9,000, or enjoy an return on investment of approximately 3:1.

And, if you want your company to be viewed as up-to-date and caring about your employees while attracting new talent, hosting flu clinics sends a signal to millennials that you are all those things. With their desire to carry over their personal values into the workplace, hosting flu clinics is a viewed as a positive, in line with their mindset.

Making it happen: Tips for employers

To make an employer-sponsored flu shot clinic as beneficial as possible, and to literally get the most bang for your buck, here are a few tips:

  • First. Schedule your flu shot clinic early. It can take up to two weeks for the vaccine to reach its full potential. With the growing popularity of contracted in-house clinics you may be looking several weeks out to schedule your clinic. The calendar won’t be on your side if you wait too late in the flu season.
  • Second. Communicate like crazy. Get the word out in every resource you have at your disposal; payroll stuffers, posters, newsletters – whatever you use. Don’t just talk about the date, place and time. Educate employees as to the effectiveness of the vaccine and how they don’t want to take a workplace-born contagion home to their families.
  • Last. Keep in mind that you can’t make this mandatory. There may be a few who will not wish to take part due to religious or contra-indicated health reasons. But you can require those that opt out to attend a health and awareness class – which, for some, becomes an incentive to just get the shot.

Flu season is a big deal. It’s costly for employers and one of the leading causes of employee absences. Employers have the opportunity, however, to easily side-step many of the costs and problems associated with the flu by simply scheduling a clinic at their place of work. If you’d like to know more, or would like to schedule your own clinic, simply click here

Travel Immunizations—An Essential Piece of Trip Planning

Stethescope

Traveling internationally is an exciting adventure—but before you go, make sure you’re completely prepared, which means researching your destination and acquiring any recommended vaccines. Depending on the location you’re traveling to, you may be exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases that have become rare in the United States. In some locations, you may be required to obtain a specific vaccination before entry.

It’s essential to make sure you get all vaccines needed for the countries you’re visiting, and be aware of any health issues that may be prevalent in those locations. After all, acquiring a disease while traveling won’t just ruin your trip, it could have serious long-term health consequences. Luckily, there are many resources available for international travelers if you’d like to prepare for optimal health conditions on your trip.

First, you can search by destination to identify any health risks as well as recommended corresponding vaccines on the CDC website. The CDC also offers an app, TravWell, with destination-specific vaccine recommendations, a checklist for travel preparation, and a customizable packing list.

Second, make sure you’re up to date on the recommended vaccines, ideally 4-6 weeks prior to your departure. Washington Occupational Health Associates (WOHA) offers vaccinations as well as pre-travel consultations in our DC metro clinic.

 In addition to obtaining the recommended travel vaccinations, there are a few things you should do to make sure your health is a priority.

1. Check frequently for travel health notices

 The CDC maintains a comprehensive list of updated notices for international destinations—make sure to check yours before you travel.

2. Get reputable travelers’ health insurance

Check your insurance plan at home to see what benefits extend to traveling internationally, and if needed, obtain an additional policy. Ideally, travel health insurance should cover both medical and flight expenses.

3. Be careful with what you eat and drink

Once you arrive at your destination, it’s important to be extremely careful about what you ingest. Only drink bottled water (not opened and refilled, make sure the seal is intact) in sealed containers if you’re traveling to an undeveloped country, and ask for any other drinks with no ice. Food should be steaming hot and well cooked, and try to avoid fruit that’s already been peeled as well as raw, leafy vegetables and salads.

4. Protect yourself against mosquito-borne diseases

Bring or purchase an insect repellent containing DEET and use it frequently. If you’re visiting a country with a high risk of malaria, your doctor may prescribe a medication before your visit.

5. If you become sick, know where to go

 Do some research before you leave on what your plan will be if you become ill. Look for reputable physicians offices and clinics in the area you’ll be traveling to, and make sure you keep the information with you. While abroad, if you need to purchase medication, locate a legitimate pharmacy and look for major brands that you’re familiar with. Check the seals for any damage or tampering.

Are you an employer with employees traveling abroad? It’s just as important to ensure your team is protected—keeping them safe and healthy while on the job is one of your top priorities. Ensuring that travel immunizations are available and easily accessible to your employees is an essential part of your benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked. Regardless of your destination, it’s important to arrive prepared. In our DC metro area clinic, WOHA provides vaccinations and International Certificate of Vaccinations, as well as up-to-date recommendations, pre-travel medications, and health guidelines according to your travel plans. For more information or to schedule an appointment, fill out our form or give us a call.

How Your Company Can Keep Up with DOT Physical Exams, And Why You Should!

Doctor using digital tablet, modern technology in medicine and healthcare concept

We have entered a time where there are faster electronic checks and quicker enforcement of Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations for DOT physical exams. And while drivers are ultimately responsible for keeping up with DOT and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements for their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), for their own good carriers and transportation service owners should play a big role in its facilitation. Not only can the newly increased fines for both the driver and company be substantial, but a driver in today’s electronically interconnected world without an up-to-date DOT physical is basically…instantly…a driver without a CDL.
That means if he or she should enter a weigh station or be stopped for any reason a DOT officer can issue an Out-of-Service violation preventing your vehicle from moving any further. That leaves your vehicle, freight or passengers sitting along side the road with unhappy customers and an ensuing PR nightmare. It’s not wise for freight carriers and bus companies to take a gamble and hope the driver is fulfilling the obligations. It’s important to be pro-active in ensuring drivers meet the physical exam regulations.

In Case You Wondered What Went On in a DOT Physical…

A DOT physical exam is not arduous or overly time-consuming. It does, however, need to be carried out by a FMCSA-certified medical examiner. These examiners are trained, educated and certified in DOT requirements, what to look for during an exam and how to report exam results.
The actual DOT physical is fairly quick.

1. There is a health history checklist, not unlike what everyone fills out when going to a doctor’s office.

2. Hearing and vision tests are required. There is also a urinalysis test to look for proteins, blood or sugars in the urine that could indicate a yet-to-be discovered underlying health problem, or conditions that may not be well managed.

3. Finally, there are the medical examiner’s general impressions of a driver’s fitness. These include the general appearance of the skin, eyes, back/spine, gait, cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, and many more.
Upon a complete review of the driver and tests, the Medical Examiner has three options on the form they are required to fill out. They can select a checkbox that:

• States the driver does not meet FMCSA standards, and why.
• Approves the driver’s physical and certifies that they meet FMCSA standards for the maximum period of 24 months.
• Requires the driver to have periodic monitoring of a possible problem or condition. Therefore, the examiner will qualify the driver for work for only 3, 6 or 12 months while monitoring continues. In these cases, the driver will oftentimes have to also follow-up with their personal physician.
• Determine that the driver does not meet FMCSA standards to receive their medical examiner’s certificate.

Of course, in the ideal world all drivers would immediately pass a physical with flying colors and be re-certified for two years. But just so you know, periodic monitoring, and therefore limited-length certifications, is becoming very common. Routine physical problems that are under control, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, have often become a trigger for shorter certification periods.

How to Maintain DOT Physical Exam Requirements

To find FMCSA-certified medical examiners, and for the easiest and least expensive compliance option, it’s best to connect with a service whose specialty is DOT physicals, such as Washington Occupational Health Associates (WOHA). A good service will provide enhanced conveniences tailored to an understanding of the transportation, trucking and passenger bus industries. WOHA, for example, offers:

• Scheduling of DOT physicals
• A Designated Project Manager
• Secure Web Portal Reporting
• A Large Provider Network.

And because DOT physicals are their specialty with systems and structures in place to get the job done efficiently, a service such as WOHA will typically be less costly than a doctors’ group that offers DOT physicals.
While drivers must ultimately maintain their DOT physical, the company they drive for has a lot at stake if they don’t. Don’t wait for an upcoming Out-of-Service violation, fine or both. Get your drivers on a schedule and give yourself some peace of mind. Contact WOHA today for a consultation regarding their DOT physical exam services.

Healthy Workforce: Executive Physicals

Executives at meeting

Most employers recognize that healthy employees lead to a healthier bottom line. They are more productive, use fewer sick days, and are more satisfied in their work. Your executive team is no exception. Unfortunately, the lifestyle of an executive is not always conducive to healthy living. High expectations, long work days, extensive travel, and high levels of stress can make it difficult to prioritize health over the demands of the job. That’s why it’s crucial to encourage your executive team to take care of themselves. When your leaders focus on making health a priority, they’ll ensure they’re prepared to do their jobs, and they’ll be setting a healthy example for the entire organization.

Tips for staying healthy at work

Making health and wellness a priority in a fast-paced workplace can be tough, but these five simple steps can make it easier.

1. Get enough sleep

 Most experts suggest a minimum of 6-8 hours of sleep per night. If that sounds like a lot, consider that even moderate sleep deprivation can lead to impairment similar to that of blood alcohol level of .1%. If you have difficulty sleeping, try to create a healthy sleep routine. Go to bed and wake at the same time each day, leave your laptop and smartphone in another room, and limit screen time for an hour or two before going to bed. These habits promote restful sleep, so you’re more likely to wake feeling rested and ready for the day.

2. Manage Your Stress

 Executive positions are inherently stressful, so learning to manage that stress is critical. Take breaks throughout the day to give yourself time to decompress. Find activities that help you relieve tension: try yoga or meditation, go for a daily run, read a book. The key is to find what works for you and make time for it regularly.

3. Eat well

 Eating well and incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables into your diet will help you feel energized, alert, and focused throughout the day. In addition, smart food choices will help you maintain a healthy weight and decrease your risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Bringing your lunch and keeping healthy snacks, like nuts and fruit, in your office can help keep you on track when your calendar is packed and you’re tempted to grab a doughnut from the break room.

4.  Exercise

 Regular exercise can help you relieve stress, manage your weight, and get your creative juices flowing. And if you don’t think you have time, remember that small bursts of activity throughout the day can be just as effective as hour-long sessions on the treadmill. Take the stairs to your office instead of the elevator. Park farther away from your building so you have a longer walk. Go for a midday walk to get moving and refresh yourself for the rest of your day.

5. Stay hydrated

 Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, and difficulty concentrating, so even on your most hectic days, it’s important to remember to stay hydrated. Minimize your intake of caffeinated drinks, like coffee and soda, and focus on drinking water throughout the day. Setting a reminder on your phone and carrying a water bottle with you throughout the day can help you get the water you need.  

WOHA’s Executive Physicals

 A healthy workforce starts at the top, but it’s not always easy for busy executives to make their health a priority. That’s why so many organizations are now offering executive physicals to their top talent. These convenient, preventive visits enable busy executives to undergo a comprehensive health exam, diagnostic screenings, and laboratory testing all in one place on the day of the exam.

 At Washington Health Associates (WOHA), our executive physicals are designed to help busy executives and managers like you get the healthcare they need. We offer thorough personal consultations, which include medical history evaluations and physical exams, and follow up with a comprehensive report following your visit. Our services are affordable, efficient, and confidential. Contact us to schedule your executive physical with WOHA today.

The Value of a Healthy Workforce

Occupational health, otherwise known as workplace health, has become increasingly significant in recent years as more and more employers are realizing the importance of a healthy workforce. Learn about the benefits of promoting a healthy workforce, ways to create a healthy workforce within your organization, and how Washington Occupational Health Associates can help keep your employees happy and healthy. Continue reading

How Executive Physicals Can Increase Your ROI

doctor

Today’s companies are looking for innovative ways to become more productive and competitive. One the best ways companies can achieve this is by investing in the health of its employees. In a report by the CDC, workplace health programs, including executive physicals, can help to protect against negative productivity effects of illness and poor health. Having healthy leaders running your business can help to ensure the success of your company for several reasons.

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Travel Healthy: What You Need To Know About Travel Immunizations

Traveling abroad can be an exciting and eye-opening experience. However, international travelers can be exposed to serious health risks while out of the country. Being informed about travel immunizations helps you stay healthy so you can enjoy your next adventure. By creating a travel health plan, you help protect yourself from serious diseases, such as measles and typhoid. Here are some considerations when creating your travel health plan.

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