Making a Business Case for Infection Prevention and Control at the Workplace

The exposure or spread of germs at the workplace has far-reaching consequences ranging from absenteeism from work, loss of productivity, temporary closures, litigation, and damage of company’s reputation.

Such a compelling case on the impact of infection transmission at workplace provides a basis for organizations to make business decisions dedicated to employees’ health and wellness.

Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) refers to evidence-based practices that, when applied consistently, can prevent or reduce the risk of transmission of germs.

Cost-effective analysis for IPAC reveals significant cost-saving possibilities for businesses. In fact, the most important immediate economic return for any organization may lie in outcomes such as a healthy workforce, high productivity and organizational excellence.

Now, the obvious question is that, if IPAC is cost-effective, why are there not more dollars allocated to IPAC efforts at workplace? Perhaps business owners do not fully understand the potential impact or benefit; maybe, there is lack of expert guidance; or perhaps business owner place less priority on employee’s health and wellness. The latter is obvious, however, if we examine the following: how often do facilities conduct infection transmission risk assessment or surveillance? Are there exposure control plans for occupational exposures? Are cleaners trained in basic IPAC as it relates to environmental decontamination? Is there an effective facility IPAC program or is employee immunization (especially for the flu, or other communicable diseases like TB) taken seriously?

To make a good business case for IPAC, it is important to review the cost and benefit of such a program. Some of the direct and indirect cost may include cost for expert consultation, administrative cost, and cost due to IPAC supplies in the facility, but the benefits are enormous.

Some of the benefits include reduction of sick days (absenteeism), employees’ wellness, productivity gains, retention, reduction in morbidity, and prevention of litigation issues. There may also be intangible benefits arising from the protection of the company reputation and public image. This is particularly important as there have been several incidents in BC where hotels, restaurants, grocery shops, nursing homes, childcare, schools, and gyms have been temporarily closed because of disease outbreak. Also, any identifiable risk that clients may be exposed to infectious threats from a facility will say whether the clients or others will return for future business transactions. This is what is often referred to as failure costs that arises from customer dissatisfaction and defection.

Dissatisfied customers are much more likely to talk about their experience than are satisfied customers and that negative word of mouth is more often believed than positive comments. This experience may translate into real purchase or services decisions which is likely to be negative. If this occurs customer retention and loyalty may be greatly affected. Therefore, the time to reflect on your organization’s IPAC program and occupational exposure policy as part of employees’ health and wellness initiative is now.