Friday, February 16, 2007

Help your workplace prepare for a flu pandemic

Businesses concerned about the possibility of a flu pandemic or other disaster have new resources available to help them plan and protect the health of employees.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has introduced new workplace safety and health guidelines to help companies prepare for a pandemic.

A flu pandemic is likely to have a serious impact on workplaces. Reports say that a pandemic could affect as many as 40 percent of workers during periods when a flu pandemic is at its peak. Sick employees could stay home because of their illnesses, while others may stay home to care for children or sick family members. That's why it's important to start planning now.

The new OSHA guidelines divide workplaces and work guidelines into four risk zones -- very high, high, medium and lower risk -- according to the likelihood that employees may be exposed to pandemic flu on the job. Groups with a very high risk of exposure to flu include doctors, nurses, dentists and others who interact regularly with the public.

To get ready for pandemic flu or other disasters, OSHA encourages businesses to plan for operations with a reduced work force; identify exposure and health risks to employees; and come up with ways to distance employees from each other, customers and the general public.

"I want to impress upon all private and public employers the importance of protecting their most valuable asset... their employees," said Edwin G. Foulke Jr., OSHA's assistant secretary. "Proper planning and preparation now can save lives in the future."

If your workplace hasn't gotten started yet on emergency planning or its been awhile since you've reviewed your emergency plans, why not pass this information along to your supervisor? After all, it's in your own best interest.

Is your office or workplace ready for the worst? What else should employers be doing? What's missing from the new guidelines? Leave your feedback by clicking on the comments link below.


Anonymous said...

My workplace is well prepared, but I still worry that we don't have fresh bottled water stockpiled in case we are trapped in the building for an extended period of time.

APHA Flu Team said...

Please share with us some of the ways in which your workplace is well prepared.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see that the new guidelines emphasize protecting staff and the public. Sadly, some businesses will just be worried about their profit margins and big fat CEO bonuses.