Infection is caused by an infectious organism or pathogen such as a virus, bacteria, fungus or protozoa that gets into the body. It normally takes some time before these micro-organism spread and trigger illnesses. But during this incubation period, the person may be unknowingly spreading the illness. The goal of infection control is to prevent the infective agent from coming into contact with other persons.
Disclaimer: this post on preventing disease transmission when providing first aid is for learning purposes only. To learn to effectively minimize and / or eliminate the chances for disease transmission enrol in standard first aid or emergency first aid programs.
Infectious agents are spread in many different ways that include:
- Airborne transmission – coughs, sneezes or breathing out sends the pathogen into the air or surface, which are then inhaled by others.
- Skin-to-skin contact transmission – touching an infected person or sharing infected items can transfer the pathogen to another person.
- Contaminated food or objects – handling contaminated items or eating contaminated foods can lead to infection.
- Contact with body fluid – pathogen may be transmitted to another person through body fluids such as urine, saliva, feces or blood.
An effective infection control program starts by assuming that everyone is potentially infected with the disease. By assuming everyone is infective, all workers follow proper procedures at all times. Measures are implemented to minimize cross-infection within the workplace. It is important for every workplace to have an appropriate first aid kit, with at least one worker trained in first aid. Personal protective equipment such as gowns, gloves, face shields and eye goggles must be provided, if necessary.
Personal hygiene is key
One critical aspect of disease prevention is proper personal hygiene practices that include:
- Hand washing – regular hand washing using regular hand soap significantly reduces the chances of spreading pathogens. Proper hand washing means thoroughly cleansing all parts of the hands with water and soap for at least 15 to 30 seconds. This should be done before preparing food, after using the toilet, and after touching equipment or other people. Disposable paper towels are recommended for drying the hands.
- Health and intact skin – the skin is the body’s first line of defence against pathogens, Abrasions, wounds or cuts should be covered with waterproof dressing to avoid being infected.
- Personal protective equipment – when caring for another person infected with a disease or when handling equipment or body fluids, make sure to use appropriate protective equipment such as gloves, mask, or gown. As much as possible, wash your hands and use new set of protective equipment when providing treatment to different people.
- Personal items – do not share toothbrushes, towels, razors, clothing, or other personal items that can transmit pathogens.
Finally, ensuring the cleanliness of the workplace is crucial in controlling disease transmission. Cleanliness should be a group effort of the entire workplace and should be a continuous process.
St Mark James Training offers a short workshop on prevention of disease transmission in workplace environments. This workshop often lasts for 1 to 2 hours thus would not take much of the time of workers. Usually, companies schedule these lectures during lunch break or free time of workers so it will not affect the operations. The workshop provides basic information about how each employee can help prevent disease transmission. The major benefit of conducting such workshop is reduced morbidity rate. To inquire about this course, you can contact your local workplace approved chapter.