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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJanuary 16 - January 22, 2019

The Flu

man-flu-3-1513087278-herowidev4-0 61102By Brian J Riker

The flu is on my mind, having just recovered from a nasty head cold. We have a particularly resilient version of the flu virus this year making the flu vaccine only 30 percent effective, according to media reports. This strain of the virus is directly accountable for several deaths across the country. High levels of flu-like illness were reported in 42 states; cases were geographically widespread across every state but Oregon and Hawaii.

In comparison, the flu pandemic in 2009 was considered mild by CDC standards, yet it still created significant challenges for employers and changes in workplace behavior.

In our daily operations, we come into contact with many people in various levels of health. As public servants it is our duty to protect these people, our customers, from exposure to illness when practical. It is also our duty to provide a workplace safe from health risks for all of our employees. As much as it inconveniences us to be short an employee, it is a good idea to encourage sick workers to stay home.

• Some other precautions we can take as employers to promote a healthy workplace include:
• Promoting vaccination.
• Promoting good handwashing practices.
• Promoting proper cough etiquette.
• Keeping the workplace clean, including disinfecting trucks between shifts or at driver changes.
• Encouraging sick workers to stay home, or at least keep their activities isolated from other workers and the public.

Most pharmacies offer a flu shot program; many offer employer discounts. Consider sponsoring employee participation in the program as well as providing discounted coverage for their families. The savings in lost work time from sick employees will more than cover the cost of the program, and it shows your employees that you care about them and their family.

During the flu season, increased attention to hygiene is important. Employers should have readily available supplies of tissues, no-touch wastebaskets, soap, water and individual towels to encourage both employees and customers to keep their hands clean.

A flexible employee-leave policy—with paid sick leave if possible—will encourage ill employees to stay home. Avoid penalizing employees for being sick; otherwise they will feel compelled to come to work and possibly spread the illness to your entire staff.

Not everyone who has the flu will have a fever. Other symptoms could include a runny nose, body aches, headache, tiredness, diarrhea or vomiting. The CDC recommends that workers who have a fever and respiratory symptoms stay at home until 24 hours after their fever ends without the use of medication.

Excessive disinfection is not recommended by the CDC; just routine cleaning with over-the-counter cleaning agents, following the directions from the product manufacturer. Frequent cleaning of common surfaces such as phones, keyboards, door knobs and lunch counters is recommended.

In addition to spreading the flu virus, it is unsafe to allow ill workers to perform safety sensitive functions. In fact, 49 CFR Part 392.3 prohibits anyone from operating a commercial motor vehicle if they are ill or fatigued to a point where their abilities may be impaired.

With the rise in roadside fatalities, the last thing you need is a sick operator trying to work in the danger zone when their head is not fully in the game, so to speak.

Don't try to be the hero and end up a zero; stay home until you are fully recovered. A few days without you at work is much better than a lifetime without you!

Brian J. Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at
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