An increase in Hepatitis A outbreaks have been reported in San Diego, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles counties in California. In a recent article, the State of California Department of Industrial Relations released the following guidelines to help reduce the spread of Hepatitis A in the workplace:
• Maintain a clean and sanitary environment. Employers must clean and sanitize work areas contaminated by decaying waste such as fecal matter.
• Clean toilet facilities. Employers must ensure that workplace restrooms are kept clean and sanitary. Additional cleaning may be needed if persons outside of the workplace who are at greatest risk for Hepatitis A infection (i.e., homeless persons) have used or have had access to workplace restrooms.
• Provide handwashing facilities. Employers must provide handwashing facilities at construction sites and at other worksites. Employees should wash their hands with soap and water after using the toilet, touching any object that may have been contaminated with fecal matter, and prior to eating, drinking, or smoking.
• Provide appropriate personal protective equipment. Employers must provide gloves and other necessary personal protective equipment to employees who clean up or otherwise come into contact with hazardous materials such as fecal matter. Employees should wash their hands after disposing of used gloves.
• Provide training. Employers must provide training to employees when a new hazard is presented in the workplace. For example, when a Hepatitis A outbreak occurs that could affect employees, the employer must provide information and training to the employees on how Hepatitis A is transmitted and how to prevent infection.
• Offer Hepatitis A vaccinations. Employees in outbreak locations who come into close contact with homeless persons or persons using illicit drugs or who handle materials or objects potentially contaminated with Hepatitis A virus have an increased risk of being infected.
As part of their duty to correct unsafe or unhealthy conditions in the workplace, employers should ask their local health departments whether Hepatitis A vaccinations should be offered to employees who are at increased risk and if so, whether the local health department is available to assist.
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