Industrial Safety

Manufacturers worry about workplace absenteeism

Source: Kimberly-Clark Professional

Nov 08, 2010

On the heels of last year's H1N1 scare, manufacturers are taking a closer look at how to avoid wide-spread workplace absenteeism and productivity declines if faced with another flu pandemic.

According to a recent survey conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional, 87% of manufacturing industry professionals polled said they are concerned about declines in productivity at their workplace due to absenteeism or presenteeism related to a flu pandemic.

"Small and large industrial companies alike are challenged to maintain high output even when workers are healthy and productive," says Marianne Santangelo, Senior Customer Marketing Manager, Kimberly-Clark Professional. "This can be difficult when large numbers of workers are out with colds or the flu. The need to keep workers productive is one of the reasons Kimberly-Clark Professional has launched the Healthy Workplace Project, to help employees in a variety of workplaces understand, eliminate and prevent the spread of cold and flu germs."

In fact, 46% of those polled in the survey said that their organization has been impacted in the last 18 months by employee absenteeism or productivity declines related to flu outbreaks or other contagious illnesses.

While concerned, manufacturing companies appear to be prepared for this year's cold and flu season. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of the industrial workers polled noted that their company or facility has a program or strategy in place to try to limit the transfer of germs in the workplace. The vast majority (97%) pointed to hand hygiene education as the primary tactic employed, while about 78% said employees are prompted to go home or stay home if sick.

Not leaving it up to chance, almost 43% of those polled said that supervisors are encouraged to recommend that sick employees go or stay home, while 37% said that the decision is left up to the individual employee.

"The message is getting through to companies that simple steps like frequent hand washing and staying home when ill are some of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs in the workplace," Santangelo adds.

Santangelo points out that close to 90% of the industrial workers polled thought that frequent hand washing was one of the most important things to do to prevent the spread of germs at work. Moreover, 82% thought it was one of the most important things to do in preventing the spread of germs from the worksite to employees' homes and families.