Leadership

Video: Protect yourself from colds and flu at work

There needn't be a global flu pandemic for IT pros to protect their health and safety. Workplace health risks are a constant threat, whether it's contagion, heavy lifting, repetitive motion, or plain old stress. Bill Detwiler shares common-sense tips IT pros should use every day to stay healthy at work.

There needn't be a global flu pandemic for IT pros to protect their health and safety. Workplace health risks are a constant threat, whether it's contagion, heavy lifting, repetitive motion, or plain old stress. In this IT Dojo video, I'll share common-sense tips IT pros should use every day to stay safe and healthy at work.

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window. For more tips on staying safe and healthy at work, check out the following articles:

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About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

31 comments
melanie.holl35
melanie.holl35

Having experienced this, blood clots are my greatest concern. Working hard on a project against time constraints and being "on a roll" (anyone identify?) can cause problems that are often overlooked until it's too late. I was working on a project last December and was at the computer for hours without a break. I was already a little dehydrated. I had spent 36 hours on planes or sitting in airports. I have a habit of sitting with my feet under the chair so my knees are bent more than 90 degrees. At first, I thought I just had a bad bruise in my calf. Within 24 hours, it became reddish-purple and I noticed it hurt when anything toughed it. It was also warm. I mentioned it to the nurse who looked and sat me down immediately and told me not to move. I had a blot clot and was fortunate to get treatment before a piece broke away and traveled to my heart or lungs. Watch hydration, regular movement and NEVER keep your legs bent if you can help it. I'm only 48, in pretty good health, and a non-smoker. I never thought it could happen to me.

hogan22201
hogan22201

Great video, but it left out one common but critical factor that is key to staying healthy at work. Always use a paper towel to grasp the door handle of the rest room AFTER you've washed your hands. if you pay just a little attention, you will note that hand-washing is not universally practiced. Enough said.

ashepard
ashepard

Here are some lessons learned from a very, very mild virus H1N1. Note H1N5 or Bird flu with 63% fatality rate continues to spread. Do prepare as hurricanes and other bad things happen. Source: http://healthyamericans.org/report/64/pandemic-flu-frontlines Investments in pandemic planning and stockpiling antiviral medications paid off; Public health departments did not have enough resources to carry out plans; Response plans must be adaptable and science-driven; Providing clear, straightforward information to the public was essential for allaying fears and building trust;

Techtoo
Techtoo

What a great piece. Good and useful tips. I think in addition to worrying about our own health, we should also take actions to prevent our co-workers from getting sick from us. If you are sick, pls stay home. If you have flu-like symptoms and must go to work, please at least wear a mask. Some said wearing a mask would induce fears -- what a myth. In where I live, we have about 30 confirmed cases of swine flu. All were imported. Over 90% of these cases were from that one big country in the North America where people seem to care less about this H1N1 pandemic. People visiting there came back with the flu. Students returning home for the summer bring the virus with them. Luckily help is near. Last I heard, vaccine could be available as early as July. Let's hope so. Cold and flu are not very deadly, but still, no one wants to get sick, right?

heitor.filho
heitor.filho

I think the best way to avoid flu is to workout to stay in shape and eat balanced and good quality food and vitamins. If you get one try: 1 - Garlic and lime tea, drunk hot; 2 - Tylenol; 3 - Lots of liquid and 4 - Rest

capewaydesign
capewaydesign

I am only a humble architect (yes a real 'Architect who designs buildings'). BTW..who said you guys could hijack this term in I.T??...is that now legal????........LOL :) Well done on this latest 'lesson'!!! It applies to everyone handling the necessary hardware and I will certainly be passing the info on (in a subtle way),to my colleagues. Keep up the good work Frank...Geelong, Australia

dbecker
dbecker

The Safety Committee met today and the word is... flu has a cycle of six to eight weeks active and 6 to 8 weeks dormant or not as prevalent. The current incarnation of H1N1 is highly contageous, but seems to be at a low level right now. Coming this Fall, we are having two sets of flu shots: One for the normal flu and the other for H1N1 because the H1N1 is expected to take off and be quite virelant in the Fall to Winter season. The recommendation is to use the antimicrobal hand soap once an hour at work. Fortunately, here we are provided free refills as needed. Be warned.

harveyt
harveyt

Great Video. The bloopers are good to. Thanks

nikki.algar
nikki.algar

Drink green tea - it has anti-viral properties and will keep nasties at bay

dbecker
dbecker

One of the worse sources of offal is the refrigerator at work. Our boss was so disgusted with it, he finally personally cleaned it out with help from another person and set up a schedule for each person in the division to clean it once a week. It is now pristine. I have my own fridge at work and I bring iced white tea I make at home. If you can have your own [not usually an option] it is a better way to go [without the usual worries of who stole your chicken for lunch] and just how old is that mayonaise? Bringing lunch saves a bunch as well. If you share a refrigerator with your coworkers, either make certain that it stays clean, get your own or don't use it at all.

bspreng
bspreng

What about those sick jerks who come to work and cough all over the place without covering their mouth? This broadcasts their sickness all over the place. When asked to stay home or cover their mouth they act as if I had just dumped my coffee on their lap!

dbecker
dbecker

Use qtips / swabs to clean your keyboard periodically. Some commercial swabs contain alcohol. Also turn the keyboard upside down and shake out the debris. It's surprising what collects there. The telephone, too, is an often overlooked implement of disease. Clean it. Especially the handset. There's nothing like getting an ear infection and the reinfecting yourself later. There are also aesthetics: Dirty keyboards and telephones are more discouraging than one might think. Speaking of keyboards, I got myself the Microsoft ergonometric keyboard [the older one from Amazon.com, although I have the newer one and it's OK]. It makes a tremendous difference in not just strain but I can type faster on it. Those flat keyboards [especially the ones that come standard with desktop systems] are productivity killers -- more so laptop keyboards [I got a full sized ergonmetric keyboard for my laptop when I travel by auto]. To paraphrase Dr. Ruth: "Keep it clean".

cmcwilliams
cmcwilliams

Please do an IT dojo on proper ergonomics (for mouse, keyboard and monitor) to reduce the risk of repetitive motion syndrome.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

In a recent IT Dojo video, I share common-sense tips IT pros should use every day to stay healthy at work. Original blog post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=683 But, the issues I discuss in the video aren't' the only health risks for IT workers -- after all, we frequently have to negotiate tight spaces, lift and carry heavy equipment, and work with electricity or other harmful materials. Which workplace health risks are you most concerned about? Take our quick poll and let us know. Poll: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=695

Niall Baird
Niall Baird

Having just been tested (negative) for H1N1(09) (swine flu) the doc told me that there is currently no vaccine for swine flu - not sure where you're getting your vaccine from!

dbecker
dbecker

Do you suppose if you really did dump hot coffee in their lap [iced tea works just as well] that eventually they would get the message? [Always make it look like a sincere accident!]

maclunatic
maclunatic

I've been having horrendous pain in both shoulders which I can pretty much guarantee is due to a crappy chair/desk setup. Doc never even asked about my workspace, just wrote a referral to physical therapy instead. I'd love to be able to go my employer & point out the miserable state of our workstations & how it's potentially costing them money.

ruoccolv
ruoccolv

There are a number of UV santizing wands and lights being marketed that claim to kill germs and bacteria on computer keyboards/mice electronically. Has anyone tried these or does anyone know if they really work? I haven't heard or read any data that supports they do.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

Laptops are worse. If your monitor is not at eye level and keyboard and mouse are not in a comfortable position, you will have serious back and neck issues (speaking from experience).

SiUk
SiUk

Office ergonomics would be a great article - perhaps stand out from previous guides by covering office workstations that have multiple monitors.

interested_amateur
interested_amateur

The best way to avoid the flu/colds is to wash your hands, frequently. Use a green soap like Irish Spring. Seems soap lye is naturally colored green so the manufacturer doesn't have to add it. If washing your hands isn't an option, then use an alcohol wash or carry a pack of alcohol wipes. This is from someone living in the Great White North where a winter cold is not an option, it's mandatory. LOL. Interested Amateur

arjanh
arjanh

The tips are good, although some of them are just applying common sense, but sometimes we need to be reminded to use our common sense. There's one I feel is missing: computer floors. I have to perform tests every now and then, and part of that is setting up and changing computer equipment. Whilst doing that, I go from the office, where it's a nice 20 degrees centigrade, to a computer floor where it's much, much colder, and where there are irregular airflow patterns from cold air being sucked in into the equipment, and hot air being blown out again at the other end. Fortunately, I only have to spend a few hours a week there, but I wouldn't be too happy if I had to spend a few hours a day there...

susana.c.fernandes
susana.c.fernandes

Well, I work in a basement with nothing but artificial lighting (no sun) so.. I'm concerned about my eyes and mental health hehehe... Besides, we've had a cockroach problem from day one. The bosses have tried to get rid of them, but it's been more than a month and we still find roaches walking around every day. It's disgusting. Do you think they can be damaging to our health?

MikeGall
MikeGall

The policy is if your sick stay home until you feel better. No point in getting someone else sick. Also we are fortunate that we get paid for our sick days. Cool thing about Germany, the health insurance reimburses your employer for your lost time, so everyone has paid sick days. I'm more worried about the sedate work environment. I probably spend 80% of my time sitting down in front of a computer. Not exactly helpful when it is time to burn off the previous night's beer.

dbecker
dbecker

But that is the way of the County: We have been assured that it will be here in the Fall [along with the recovery of the economy, Fall fashions and the beginning of the new school year -- we should have the best two out of three anyway!].

dbecker
dbecker

Yes, roaches carry diseases which affect humans. Large indoor cockroach populations are one of the leading causes of allergies, asthma and other bronchial disorders in humans. Additionally, cockroaches are capable of carrying disease organisms and bacteria on their bodies and in their fecal material. Ridding roaches is relatively simple: Use boric acid. Boric acid is a stomach poison that is picked up by cockroaches walking across dusted areas. The boric acid adheres to the cockroach cuticle so when the cockroach grooms itself it ingests the boric acid and soon dies. Using boric acid takes about a week for all the roaches to die. You can also use silica gel. The dust is applied with a squeeze-bulb duster into cracks and crevices under sinks, stoves, behind refrigerators, along baseboards, in electrical outlets, cabinets and wall voids. Silica gel is simply finely ground sand or glass that adheres to and absorbs the protective waxes on the cockroach cuticle resulting in cockroach death from dehydration. Now then, that we've covered that topic [and do be prepared for the ghastly smell after the roaches have died], let's discuss the company / agency for which you work. OK, it's so obvious we can just skip the discussion. Let's hope you can limit the damage to your long term health where you work so that you can narrow the number of years that it is taking off the end of your life.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

in the cracks and crevices and corners. It sticks to their legs, they take it with them back to their nesting zone. Controls them quite well in my experience. It'll need doing every six months or so. Which consists of living in an apartment complex in which every time someone moved, the roaches came to my place (and I'm sure other inhabited apartments) for food. Along with an old home in Hot Springs, AR in which the roaches had been happy for near 100 years. etu

ttraband
ttraband

Prior to my current gig as a college professor, I was the "Application Engineer" for a k-12 school district. I expected to get sick at at least a couple of times each year - after all, who knows what got spread on the keyboards and mice, in the little kid classrooms especially. We had suprisingly little illness in the department since our director provided us each with our own "cold and flu season survival kit" - our own box of tissues and a pocket-sized bottle of hand-sanitizer (with free refills of both available in our supply closet). I can tell you they worked wonders!

debposton
debposton

Check the internet for some exercises to do in your office/cubicle. I try to get up and walk around, do wall squats, wall push ups...etc to help or the rear may start to spread!!!