Infected by sneezes in public

Photo credit: Anna G on Flickr

People who work with the public are exposed to everyone’s cold and flu. Couriers are at risk of infection when they touch letters and packages from sick people, as a bike courier posted on Facebook recently. She described the inconsiderate behaviour of a customer.

“You take your time to blow your nose between signing and printing, then hand me the waybill with the same hand that’s holding the snotty tissue. Wow. Now that’s class,” she wrote.

Yuck! How disgusting to think of touching the soggy, infected paperwork! I followed up with another bike courier to ask if this ever happened to him. He said it does.

“You get people sneezing all over the place – often on the package or right in your face,” he said. “The people in the elevator do the same thing, and the elevator buttons themselves are covered in every type of goo that people drag in. You’ve got to use your knuckle instead of the end of your fingers because the ends of your fingers invariably end up around your face. Your knuckle has a better chance of avoiding it.”

Photo credit: Ms. Tina on Flickr

What about hand-washing?

Frequent hand washing is known as the best way to avoid sickness from others, but the courier said there aren’t a lot of washrooms downtown that are unlocked and available to the public.

“As a courier, you get to know where the unlocked ones are but you can’t be taking time off between trips to wash your hands. You just don’t have the time for that,” he said.

“The job’s got its risks – besides driving around in traffic. There’s lots of chances of getting colds. Bike couriers are usually a healthy lot because they’re athletic and moving around a lot, but when they do get hit by a virus, they go down. Some of these guys work cheque to cheque and they need the money, so they work with a cold. It just adds to it.”

I understand the pressures people face when they can’t afford to miss work, but I wish everyone could stay home to get better and avoid infecting others. The tips on hand washing, below, are taken from the WorkSafeBC publication Controlling Exposure: Protecting Workers From Infectious Disease.


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